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TEST DRIVE 4
S.SHOT
Developer Pitbull Syndicate Options
Distributer Accolade Mem. Card
Game Type Driving/Racing 2 Player Link Mode
Review Date February 1998 Analogue Pad
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SCENE
GENRE
GRAPHICS
SOUND
PLAYABILITY
VALUE
OPINION
 
 
REVIEW INDEX
Setting the Scene
Ever find yourself wondering which car would win in a race between the old muscle cars of the late 1960's and today's sleek, more exotic cars like the Corvette? What do you mean NO? Whaddaya mean, you never heard of a muscle car?? Sheese....

Test Drive 4 answers that age-old question - Which cars were really faster; the beasts of yesteryear or the speed demons of today. In an attempt to clear up this all consuming, pressing issue Accolade has delivered a racing game that places you behind the wheel of 10 of the hottest street cars to ever hit the pavement.

Does it really answer the question? Well, strap yourself in and read on to find out!

Genre
Test Drive 4 is a cross between a driving simulator and an arcade racer. The cars have realistic specs and handling capabilities, but the overall driving experience is "balls to the wall" arcade racing.
Graphics
The graphics in Test Drive 4 are up to the Playstation standards that most of today's recent driving games have set. A few shorts years ago the graphics in this game would have been considered incredibly cutting-edge, but with all of the progress that has been made with the PSX graphics, I would say that this title looks like most of the other 3rd generation racers that are out there now. Not that there is anything wrong with thing! Far from it actually...

All of the cars in the game are portrayed very nicely and easy to differentiate from each other. When you strap yourself into the '69 'vette for instance, there is no mistaking the look of this car from any others. The texture mapping is done quite nicely and the light-sourcing effects that reflect off the car are convincing. About the only drawback that I could find with the cars is that they appear to "float" above the track instead of being firmly anchored to the pavement.

The backgrounds are also very nicely done. There is some pop-up, but it is set pretty far off in the distance and does not cause any undo distractions. The scenery is very colorful and moves along at a very good clip. The manufacturer claims a frame rate of better than 30fps and I found no reason to doubt their claim. I did however notice that for some strange reason the screen "stops" for a split-second and then picks right back up and goes. I think the reason for this is that the tracks are probably being read right off the CD as you drive and tend to sometimes over-drive the CDROM in the PSX. This was a random occurrence and as such, did not happen at the exact same place in the courses each time. I found this to be somewhat annoying, but started to expect it after awhile and learned to live with it (grumble).

The animation of the crashes is cool as you helplessly watch your car tumble end over end and ultimately settle on its roof. It's just too bad that there was no damage texture-mapping added to the cars. You can smash the crap out of you vehicle and it will still look sparkling new. There are also some nice sparking effects that occur when you sideswipe another car or edge along a guard rail or tunnel wall.

I should also mention that the opening CG clip is very nicely done and fun to watch for the first few times.

Sounds and Effects
The music in Test Drive is okay. It is certainly well orchestrated, but is a rather uninspired blend of techno-rock. It does a decent job of getting your motor running so to speak, but never really takes things over the top.

The sounds were also a bit of a disappointment for me. I could never get the sounds to a decent enough sound level that would make the crashes and engine sounds stand out. Even cutting back the music to zero and pumping it through a Surround Sound receiver did little to throw the sounds into the forefront. Don't get me wrong, the sounds used for the car engines, crashes, burnouts, etc. are all very nicely captured they are just reproduced at such a low decibel level that it took an ungodly amount of effort to get a satisfying effect.
Playability
To start off with, if you have read any of my previous reviews here, you probably already know that I LOVE driving games. I will go out of my way to obtain practically any racing title that hits the store shelves. I have more darn driving peripherals laying around my console than I could possibly use in my lifetime, but what the hell...give me a driving and I am a happy camper.

As soon as word hit the street that Accolade was going to be releasing a driving game that pits cars from the present against the beasts from the muscle car era, I began my countdown to release day. It was with great anticipation that I popped this sucker in and began to fulfill some of my all time racing fantasies. Here was my experience...

First up I was treated to a nicely produced CG opening which showed a high speed encounter between a Shelby Cobra and a Dodge Viper (yeah!!). After watching the viper stomp on the Cobra's butt I pressed start to begin my own race. A nice photo of the back-end of a 1998 Corvette graces the screen as the game loads in. After what seemed like an eternity, the main menu screen popped up for my review. There is a lot of loading time in this game!

From the main menu you can select from a Single Race option that includes a single race (of course), four Cup races and the Drag race. A Duel option that pits you against a ghost car that represents your friends track time, a Link Game option, High Scores, Credits and the Options menu.

In Single Race you can go in and select you car and track and have a go at the game. This is a good mode to get used to the feel of the cars, the track layouts, etc. before actually entering into a Cup race. Since this was the mode that popped up first, it was of course the mode that I jumped into. I decided to test drive the Keswick, England track with the '69 Vette. The first thing I noticed was how nicely detailed my car as well as the other seven competitors all appeared at the starting line. Next came the countdown and I was off! Whoa...the car does an outstanding burnout! After leaving about 4 yards of smoking rubber and tire tracks I was off and edging my way into the front of the pack. As in real life, the '69 Vette in this game had awesome acceleration. It was then that I noticed just how accurate the tracks are...I had forgotten that I was driving in England and that traffic goes in the opposite direction from the states...SMASH...I get into a head on collision with some poor bloke and my car does an end over end. From 3rd to 8th in a matters of seconds...errrr. Jumping back into the fray, I noticed that according to the position graph, car number 7 was within my grasp. It was also then that I noticed the game cheats a bit. After a few seconds I had caught up to the next car, yet it was next to impossible to pass it! What the hell...I was obviously travelling much faster than the car in order to catch, yet the damn thing would not let me pass it. Anyway, it became a moot point because I then slammed into another car, didn't make the next checkpoint and was disqualified from the race...grumble.

The cup races offer the gamer a nice variety of races. In the Challenge Cup you races on 5 tracks. The object is to finish all five races with the total lowest time. Championship Cup has you racing on 10 tracks. Here you must finish with the highest accumulated points. The Pitbull Cup challenges you with 5 tracks in with you must finish first on each track before being allowed to race on the next one. Finally there is the Masters Cup. 10 tracks to race, each one with a different car. Get the lowest total time and you walk away with the victory. Cup races are very difficult and require a lot of practice to complete. The computer drivers are brutal and the traffic and cop cars only add to the stress!

There is also a neat little 1/4 mile drag race where you can go up against the other cars one on one for the best 1/4 mile times. I had some fun trying to beat the manufacturers 0-60 specs on some of the cars.

In the options menu you can adjust the music and sound setting, turn traffic law enforcement on or off and customize your controller. There is also an automatic or manual option. In this game I recommend the manual, it really helps.

The link mode works very well and is a blast to play against a friend. It's just too bad that it's such a hassle to drag two TV's, two Playstation consoles and two copies of the game together.

I really thought that the concept of Test Drive 4 was fairly well executed. I loved being able to drive some of the worlds fastest street legal cars against each other and the theme of muscle cars against today's more elegant models plays out extremely well. As in real life, the newer cars handle the turns much better than their older counterparts, but in all out straight-line acceleration, the muscle cars have few peers. Another neat idea was implemented here as well. The tracks are designed from a point A to point B perspective. There are no laps, no going around and around the track time and time again. This was pretty cool, because the scenery is constantly changing. The tracks are pretty long too, requires you to drive simulated miles before completion. I would like to see this concept implemented more in future driving games... There are unfortunately some shortcomings though, that could perhaps be corrected if the series continues.

First off, put in a split-screen two-player mode for crying out loud! The game is already fun to play, with two players (non-linked) it would have been a blast! Next, improve the handling of the vehicles a bit. You really need to learn the layout of the courses, so that you can over-react to each turn. Thirdly, put in some shortcuts! The tracks in this game have a multitude of side streets with active traffic coming out of them, yet you are forbidden to turn onto those streets yourself. Shortcuts are cool. Lastly, clean up some of the load times. Jumping between games or even racing the same track again requires you to sit and wait an inordinate amount of time.

Well, I'd say that about covers it. The game is a lot of fun to play. There are even some secrets to discover such as additional cars to race. The cups races are diverse and challenging and the tracks are designed very well (just wait 'till you hit the hills in San Francisco!)

Value for Money
Test Drive 4 offers you a nice variety of cup challenges and cars to race. Track selection is a bit sparse, but very well designed. It's just a damn shame there is no two-player mode in this game, it would have increased the re-play value tremendously!

As it stands, this title is a decent value for your money. You may want to rent it first to formulate your own opinion though. Personally, I found the game to be a keeper and for some strange reason, even though there is no split-screen mode, it is very popular with a bunch of people. My friends liked to watch each other drive (and crash) and then try to best their times or get into a more spectacular accident.
Opinion
TOM
GRAPHICS: Very Good Test Drive 4 offers a great concept in a driving game. You get to drive late '60's early '70's cars against some of today's finest. The cars are modelled very well and all handle quite differently. Track design is wonderful and the cup races are a blast to compete in.

All in all this is a very competent single-player driving.

Next time add a two-player split-screen mode and you can count me in for a repeat performance.
SOUND: Average
PLAYABILITY: Very Good
VALUE: Very Good
OVERALL 86%

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