Test Drive Unlimited Solar Crown gameplay has been a long time coming. Since it was announced back in 2020, Nacon has only shown the ambitious open-world racer in CGI trailers and screenshots – much to the frustration of fans. At long last, Nacon has finally shown off Test Drive Unlimited Solar Crown gameplay footage for the first time.
Following last week’s mysterious teaser, Nacon lifted the bonnet on Test Drive Unlimited Solar Crown in a special 30-minute TDU Connect presentation.
All footage shown in the presentation was captured in-engine from an alpha version of the PC game. While it doesn’t represent the final game’s quality, what was shown looks very tantalising.
First look at Test Drive Unlimited Solar Crown gameplay
Now a familiar face to TDU fans, Creative Director Alain Jarniou took to the stage to present our first look at Test Drive Unlimited Solar Crown gameplay alongside Vivian Hughes, organiser of the mysterious Solar Crown competition played by presenter Melek Balgun.
Joining them were a handful of fans and influencers including YouTubers BlackPanthaa, Alex VII, and Alan Boiston, who were given an exclusive first look at TDUSC.
Associate Producer Camille Courtier and Lead Game Designer Guillaume Guinet also joined the gameplay session to showcase TDUSC’s social features, driving missions and open world.
Visiting the Solar Hotel
At the start of the gameplay session, we get a first look at the interactive Solar Hotel. Featuring 120 floors, this is the game’s central hub. An interactive window displays the player’s driver card, daily objectives to complete, and a calendar of upcoming events. As you progress and earn more money, you can upgrade to a larger room.
After a tour of the suite, Jarniou visits the hotel lobby, a social hub where players can meet and interact with each other, make friends or form rivalries. This hub also showcases the best drivers and displays current activities.
As well as driving the world’s most exotic cars, TDUSC is about living a luxurious lifestyle. This has always been a core part of TDU’s DNA that sets the series apart. Every prestigious car you own reflects your personality, but you’ll need to work to earn them.
In TDUSC, players can customise and control their avatars in enclosed environments like the Solar Hotel. Once you’ve joined a group, all clan members can voice chat and interact with each other. It reminds us of PlayStation Home. Character models and animations look a bit stiff, but the social features and interactivity are a step up from Forza Horizon.
After meeting at the Solar Hotel, it was time to hit the streets of Hong Kong Island.
Street or Sharp?
When you first start TDUSC, you need to join one of two rival clans: the Streets and the Sharps. These are the two clans competing in the Solar Crown competition and have distinct identities.
The gameplay session revealed the headquarters of the Sharps and Streets. Located at different ends of the island, they reflect the two clans' lifestyles and perceptions of luxury.
The Streets are based in a dark nightclub with loud music blaring and bathed in neon lights. And yes, you can dance with your group at the nightclub to cool off from an intense race.
In contrast, the Sharps’ headquarters is based in a luxury hotel restaurant, giving it a more sophisticated atmosphere.
TDU is about enjoying driving with your friends, and the gameplay session emphasises this social experience. Instant challenges let you host impromptu races. A casual street race to each clan's headquarters results in plenty of banter and amusing accidents.
A photo mode is also confirmed in the options for virtual photographers. It all culminates with a frantic race between both clans.
Overall, TDUSC is coming along nicely, though we noticed some slowdown and the world looked sparse in places. But this is an early alpha build so there's clearly still a lot of optimisation work to be done.
Frankly, we’re just relieved to finally see gameplay footage after all this time as it was starting to feel like a mythical game. While it’s smaller than the environments in the first TDU games, Hong Kong Island's scale looks stunning.
Recreated in 1:1, the diverse environment looks fun to explore, from winding highways to city streets and dock areas, while the focus on social features offers a unique experience.
We’ve only seen a small section of the map too. Building on KT Racing’s experience with the WRC games, Hong Kong Island will also feature off-road terrain to explore, but this was only briefly shown in the gameplay session.
As for cars, you'll be getting behind the wheel of exotic and luxury cars from prestigious brands like Ferrari, Lamborghini, Bugatti, Koenigsegg, Dodge, and Apollo.
Cars like the Nissan GT-R and Lamborghini Huracan were shown in-game for the first time hurtling through the streets of Hong Kong Island. While these models were already seen in screenshots and CGI trailers, this is the first time we've seen what looks like the Chevrolet Corvette Z06 C8 appearing in TDUSC.
TDUSC won't have as many cars as Forza Horizon 5. But the key distinction here is quality over quantity. KT Racing wants every car to feel earned and for you to bond with your car. We'll reserve judgement until we've played it, but the car handling looks weighty and responsive, striking a balance between arcade and simulation.
2024 release window confirmed
After rumours of a delay, Nacon also confirmed the release window has changed.
Originally scheduled to release later this year, TDUSC is now set to arrive in early 2024. We don’t have a more specific release date, but a financial document posted by Nacon suggests it will come out in February or March 2024. This suggests Nacon is still aiming to release TDUSC in the 2023 financial year ending in March 2024.
This will be disappointing for fans, but TDU's long-awaited comeback is KT Racing's most important release yet. That means it's vital that TDUSC delivers a polished experience. If KT Racing can deliver its promise, the extra wait will be worth it.
With The Crew Motorfest also coming this September, Forza Horizon 5 is about to get some stiff competition. The second half of 2023 is overcrowded with major racing game releases like Forza Motorsport, so a 2024 release will give TDUSC a better chance of standing out.
As for platforms, TDUSC is coming to PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S and PC. Notably, the Switch is no longer listed as a platform, so it looks like the Nintendo version has been cancelled alongside the PS4 and Xbox One games.
Closed beta coming soon
To ease the disappointment of the delay, a few lucky fans will get to play the game early because a closed beta is coming soon.
Nacon is hosting the first TDUSC closed beta on 24 July 2023. This beta will last for three days, but platforms are yet to be confirmed. For a chance to enter the beta, subscribe to the official Test Drive Unlimited newsletter here.
Did the first Test Drive Unlimited Solar Crown gameplay live up to your expectations?
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