Ever dreamt you had it all? Beautiful partner, sweet crib, stylish clothes, good-looking friends, a garage full of fast cars, and more money than you knew what to do with. That life appears to be yours at the start of Eden Games' Test Drive Unlimited 2. Sadly, after a short cruise around Ibiza in a shiny new Ferrari, reality hits home and you're just a daydreaming valet - that is until you drive a moody TV presenter to an appointment, as if she's incapable of driving herself, and are then given a place in a massive televised racing competition for your efforts. It makes little to no sense, but get used to it, as you're going to have to suffer a lot of nonsense in order to see all Test Drive Unlimited 2 has to offer.
Putting TDU2's problems aside for a moment, the idea is that you get to live the life of an up-and-coming racing celebrity and all it entails. So you're driving lots of flash cars, but also buying new clothes, getting cosmetic surgery and expanding your property portfolio. You'll start off on the gorgeous island of Ibiza before eventually being able to cruise around Oahu, Hawaii, with the goal being to compete in events and reach the distant level 60 - a rank determined by in-game accomplishments across four areas: Collection, Social, Competition, and Discovery.
The wonderful open environment is the star of the show. Whereas the recent Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit was open for exploration, it was essentially a series of connected freeways without any normal streets. In TDU2 you get a complex road network complete with everything you'd expect, from dull but essential motorways to tight streets that snake between old town residential buildings.
When free-roaming you can earn money with a fairly clever risk/reward system called F.R.I.M. (Free Ride Instant Money) that sees you building cash before banking it - slip up before banking and the counter will return to zero. You are also rewarded for exploration and finding hidden items (encapsulated within the Discovery section of your overall rank), but the real meat of the experience lies within the racing championships. These are groups of races, time trials, speed runs and more, with a tiered points system for placement eventually resulting in a final leaderboard. You earn more money the better you perform, alongside points which go towards your overall rank.
It's not just racing slick sports cars on tarmac, either, with plenty of off-road racing also available. Racing on city streets can take some getting used to, as the racification (thanks PGR4) of the courses is minor, leaving you to rely on the GPS rather than massive great signs with arrows on. Dirt racing, on the other hand, feels more natural, with a far gentler learning curve. Things do eventually become easier on tarmac, but you'll always need to have your wits about you, as corners aren't nearly as obvious as in other genre titles.