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Test Drive 6 (DC) Review

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Racing games have always been a staple of the home video game industry, and the Test Drive series has been a part of the industry almost from the beginning of the home video game revolution. Now Infogrames gives us Test Drive 6 for the newest video gaming platform, the Sega Dreamcast. Does the franchise make a successful move to the Dreamcast? Can it have the same impact for the DC that the Need For Speed and Gran Turismo games had for the PlayStation? In a word, no. And in three more words, not even close.

Presentation/Graphics : 76
The Dreamcast is capable of amazing things, graphically speaking. Therefore it is a real shame that Test Drive 6 suffers from such mediocre visuals. Test Drive 6 is nowhere near as good looking as Speed Devils, a DC racer that came out in late 1999.

The cars themselves are unimpressive, though it is hard to say exactly why. They have almost a cartoon appearance to them, starting with the way the glare from the paint appears. The cars also seem to glide over the road rather than grip it, something that has plagued the last couple of Test Drive games on different platforms. With such problems, it is difficult to get lost in the illusion, to forget that you are doing anything but playing a video game. The tracks are equally unimpressive. There is simply nothing here that gives you that "Wow!" feeling that you have come to expect from the Dreamcast. While popup does not present much of a problem in most of the courses, there is, as with the cars themselves, a real lack of immersiveness, as the tracks and their surroundings appear completely artificial. Even the lighting effects are disappointing, given the muscle of the Dreamcast. The frame rate does stay consistently high, which is always welcome.

In short, however, Test Drive 6 looks slightly better than a top notch PlayStation game. Sure, the resolution is better, but overall the look of the game is just not convincing at all.

Presentation/Audio : 76
Test Drive 6 opens with a nicely done intro, accompanied by that Gary Numan opus from the 80's, "Cars." It is a neat way to start Test Drive 6, and it appears as though the song has been either re-recorded or remixed to give it some extra oomph. Test Drive 6 offers a wide selection of music from different musical acts, from such bands as Eve 6 and Fear Factory. The soundtrack is very well done.

Unfortunately, that is the high point of the audio. The in-game sounds are, for the most part, average at best. And in one glaring case, engine sounds, they are absolutely horrid. It is simply hard to understand how these engine sounds made it into the game. At first, everything seems fine. As you rev up at the starting line, the engines give a healthy, throaty growl. Different cars appear to have different sounds. Then the race actually starts, and the audio goes all to hell. The throaty growl is replaced by a generic, low quality "buzz," for lack of a better word. The drop off is incredible, and every person I showed this game to was really taken aback at the way the cars sounded in mid-race. Personally, I couldn't really tell the difference between cars either; the newer sports cars have basically the same sound as the muscle cars from the past. Once again, any attempt at immersion into the game is quickly lost.

Other in game sounds, such as screeching tires and collision noises are merely adequate. The audio in Test Drive 6 is just as disappointing as the graphics.

Interface/Options : 80
The interface of Test Drive 6 is nothing special. While functional, it is not what I would call user-friendly.

Test Drive 6 is the latest racing game to offer "upgrades," letting you improve your car as a reward for success. Simply put, wining races will allow you to improve your car in specific areas, such as braking, acceleration or top speed. While adding depth to the game, Test Drive 6 will never be confused with Gran Turismo. GT gives you an incredible number of options to tinker with, while Test Drive 6 gives you more limited choices. Still, it is a welcome addition to the TD series and adds a bit to the longevity of the game.

There are a variety of racing modes, from single races to a tournament mode, which allows wagering with the other racers. Winning such wagers allows you to stockpile money and upgrade your car even further, or to even purchase a new car. In addition, there are "challenges," which give you a good test of your driving skills. Finally, there is a Cop Chase mode, where you try to overtake a number of speeding racers in an effort to pull them over.

Two-player mode offers a Pink Slips mode, where you can race a buddy for the rights to your cars. The winner gets the loser's car, so the stakes are high indeed. Cop chase is also available in two-player mode.

Other options can be toggled on or off, such as traffic, checkpoints and an overhead map indicator.

Gameplay : 60
One word sums up Test Drive 6's game play: arcade. This is strictly an arcade racer, despite any attempts at realism via the upgrade system or the inclusion of licensed vehicles. The cars do not handle realistically at all, and in no way does Test Drive 6 resemble real life driving. Power sliding through turns is a must. As mentioned earlier, the cars seem to float over the road rather than grip it, which is very disconcerting and takes away from the feeling that you are simulating driving.

Everything in the game is over the top. Speeding over hills and jumps will get your car so airborne that you will literally be nearly a hundred feet in the air. With no damage model, landing such jumps does no harm to your car. Collisions are similarly ridiculous; running into a car in traffic will send the computer controlled car hundreds of feet into the air, but does no damage to your own car, other than momentarily slowing it down. The effect is ludicrous. Running off the road, whether into buildings or guardrails, slows you down a bit, but not nearly enough. In fact, scraping against buildings while taking corners can be an effective way to keep your speed up while maneuvering through the more difficult parts of the course.

Needless to say, Test Drive 6 is strictly an arcade racer. That in itself is not a bad thing. But is Test Drive 6 fun? Not in my book. Test Drive 6 tries to have things both ways, by allowing you to upgrade your cars and offering over 40 licensed vehicles, while having such real vehicles handle in a ridiculously unrealistic fashion. And until the Test Drive series can do away with the feeling that your cars are hovering over the road, I will be unhappy with the driving model of these games.

Replay Value : 70
Naturally, with such disappointing game play, I find very little reason to return to the game. But Test Drive 6 does offer some variety in its game play, via the different game play modes mentioned earlier. In addition, the different cars do handle differently, if not realistically. Taking to the road in an old Dodge Charger is a different experience than flying down the road in a Jaguar. That's not to say it is particularly satisfying, but if you decide to put time into the Test Drive 6, you will be able to get some replay value out of the game by trying to master the handling of each car. With such shoddy game play, that is not my idea of fun, but someone out there may enjoy it.

Overall : 63
I have played a slew of Dreamcast games, and Test Drive 6 is by far the most disappointing, given its pedigree. While the Test Drive series has never been the king of the racing hill, it has been a solid and enjoyable series, despite some problems in the handling of the cars. Test Drive 6 effectively ends such enjoyment. This is a major step backwards for the Test Drive series. It will be very interesting to see where the series goes from here.

By: Jim S. 2/15/00

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