Test Drive 5 (PSX) Review
Presentation/Graphics : 85
The tracks are rich and engaging, reflecting characteristics of their settings (although not always the terrain itself: Edinburgh, which is filled with slopes and hills, looks awfully flat in the game). However, their 2D construction sometimes becomes painfully apparent. Players too busy to notice what they are passing by during a race can use a full race replay feature to take a second look. Do so.
Presentation/Audio : 75
Interface/Options : 80
The controllers incorporate analog as well as digital versions, and you can combine stick steering with button brakes and acceleration (my preference). You can adjust the stick's responsiveness. The game also uses force feedback to good effect, and the result really adds to the player's experience. Memory card management menus are straightforward.
The camera views offer the typical array of selections, from behind and above to in-the-car perspectives, complete with various information arrays. Lacking, however, is a rear-view mirror, leaving drivers to hit a button to look behind.
Gameplay : 70
Those players hoping to win out of the box may be in for a disappointment. There's a lot to learn about the tracks, the cars, and your driving style and manipulation of the game controller. With practice the cars handle fairly well, although they are prone to drift, and you will have to learn how to handle oversteer and understeer. You can choose arcade or simulation handling dynamics in an effort to dampen some of the results of less-than-sure handling. The car setup routine is easy to understand. Various controller layout options help players find a button configuration suitable for most people.
The player may choose to enter single races, undertake time trials, or compete in a championship cup competition (each with its own rules for success). Some courses are point-to-point journeys, while others are closed circuits--something for advocates of both approaches. The 18 tracks are spread across the world, including Moscow, Scotland, England, Italy, Australia, Jamaica, and Japan; the United States is represented by Hawaii and North Carolina's Blur Ridge. Each contains several alternate paths, some of which offer significant shortcuts; only six are available at the beginning, and in some cases victory will serve only to unlock a mirrored version of the track. There is also a two-player race in split screen mode (horizontal or vertical) and a two-player cup series over four courses.
The races themselves are a challenge, primarily because the computer AI introduces a high level of randomness to each race. If you fall behind, you will be able to catch up, sometimes due to your competition's propensity to become entangled in multiple-car pileups. However, get ahead, and you'll note that you cannot shake the other cars. That's yet another reason for the cops in this game--to stop you while allowing your equally-fast opponents to speed past. Ah, the joys of selective enforcement. I note the cops are nowhere to be found when your opponents choose to play bumper cars with your vehicle.
The cumulative impact of these AI challenges is to make it very difficult to win a race, even on the easiest difficulty level. Dodging traffic and eluding cops is bad enough without facing opponents determined to make sure that you never get too far ahead while teasing you if you are behind. Moreover, if you want to unlock cars, tracks, and other options, you must choose traffic, cops, and the less onerous checkpoint timer. It would be more equitable to base what prizes you unlock by what conditions you choose, so people who want a straightforward racing experience will not be penalized. Instead, the result is an exercise in dodging and driving (and accepting what the fates give you) rather than racing per se.
The cop chase mode (which must be unlocked) adds little to the game; the same is true of the drag-race option.
Difficulty : 75
Frankly, the difficulty level of the game--complete with computer AI and various obstacles--will limit its audience to dedicated video game racers. Others may purchase the game and find it attractive to view but too much to play.
Overall : 77