Test Drive Unlimited Solar Crown has been a long time coming. A sequel to Test Drive Unlimited 2 released in 2011, Kylotonn’s open-world racer was revealed back in July 2020. However, TDUSC has been in development for several years, with BigBen Interactive (now known as Nacon) acquiring the rights to Test Drive back in 2016.
Kylotonn’s teaser campaign for TDUSC has been agonisingly slow. Since the announcement in July 2020, we’ve been drip-fed CGI trailers with no actual gameplay footage and precious little information about the game.
Last year, Nacon announced a 22 September 2022 release date. But with no updates or gameplay footage released in the run-up to release, this seemed increasingly unlikely.
And so, it came as no surprise when TDUSC was delayed to 2023, with no specific release date announced. It’s a shame because TDUSC was one of our most anticipated new racing games coming this year. Not only was TDUSC delayed, but the PS4 and Xbox One versions were also cancelled.
Delays for anticipated game releases are always disappointing. While fans are starting to lose patience, delaying TDUSC was the right call.
Test Drive Unlimited 2’s terrible launch
In an update on Steam, the developer said the extra development time will make TDUSC the “most polished gaming experience in the franchise.” While fans have fond memories of exploring the exotic islands of Ibiza and Oahu, it’s easy to forget Test Drive Unlimited 2's terrible launch.
TDU2 was a buggy mess on release. Server issues plagued the game for months, while core features such as friends lists, Clubs, and MyTDULife were broken. A serious bug also corrupted save game files, causing frustrated players to lose all progress.
It was a disastrous launch echoing DriveClub's troubled launch and Gran Turismo 7's recent server issues. With constant connection issues and complaints from the frustrated community, the developer had no choice but to disable the online multiplayer at one point - not ideal in a game primarily designed for online play.
The original TDU pioneered “Massively Multiplayer Online Racing,” but the buggy sequel nearly wrote the series off for good. Let's hope lessons have been learned because Kylotonn can’t afford to tarnish the series’ reputation with another botched launch.
To quote Nintendo’s Shigeru Miyamoto: "A delayed game is eventually good, but a rushed game is forever bad.” At least the closed betas announced last week will help stress-test the servers ahead of the game's launch this time.
Kylotonn has already shown its talent for designing realistic environments. Stage designs in the WRC games have come a long way since WRC 5, and the underrated TT Isle of Man: Ride on the Edge’s recreation of the TT Mountain Course is astonishingly accurate.
But creating a 1:1-scale recreation of Hong Kong Island with over 340 miles of road to explore is another prospect entirely. It's an ambitious project from a relatively small studio, so the extended development time is wholly justified.
Some fans have criticised the map’s size compared to TDU2, but this isn't necessarily a bad thing. Give us a smaller map that's fun to explore with densely detailed environments, hidden routes, and activities at every corner any day.
TDUSC is no longer being developed for PS4 and Xbox One, making it a next-gen only title. This is a wise move, as splitting resources between last-gen and next-gen consoles would have hampered the game’s potential. Now, Kylotonn can focus on optimising TDUSC for next-gen consoles and improve the overall experience.
Curiously, however, the Nintendo Switch version is still in development. WRC 10 was poorly optimised for the Switch with downgraded graphics and missing features, so it will be interesting to see how TDUSC and its massive map translates to Nintendo’s hybrid console. Incidentally, the original TDU was ported to PSP with surprisingly few gameplay compromises
Move over Forza Horizon?
Whereas the Forza Horizon series has become stale and formulaic, TDUSC takes a fresh approach. TDU titles aren’t just racing games - they’re also luxury lifestyle simulators. Cars in TDU are status symbols.
Buying and furnishing houses, customising your player avatar, and visiting dealerships give the TDU games a unique identity.
But it's the little details like listening to the radio, starting the ignition, putting the roof down, and rolling down the windows that create an unmatched sense of ownership. You can easily spend hours simply enjoying the drive and cruising around the map without entering any. TDUSC will retain these details while also introducing a new gambling system.
TDU games have an excellent sense of progression, too. You start out with a budget car, it takes time before you can afford desirable supercars, and limited garage slots force you to make considered purchases. It's a stark contrast to Forza Horizon 5, which hands you cars like candy.
With hundreds of miles of exotic scenery to explore, deep customisation, and unique lifestyle elements TDUSC has huge potential to set a new benchmark for open-world racers - just as the original TDU did back in 2006. It could be a serious Forza Horizon rival that, crucially, isn’t exclusive to Xbox and PC.
Open-world racers have evolved since the original TDU, and the latest game is facing some stiff competition. It's perhaps ironic that TDU was likely a huge inspiration for Forza Horizon, and now the series is returning to reclaim the crown.
With no major open-world racers announced for 2023 (unless of course Forza Horizon 6 is coming next year), pushing TDUSC back until next year gives this ambitious open-world racer a chance to shine.
Kylotonn now has the time and resources to make the best game possible. If Kylotonn can deliver its ambitious vision, we're confident TDUSC will be worth the long wait. But the French studio needs to start showing the game off sooner, rather than later to keep fans invested. CGI trailers are no longer going to cut it - we need to see gameplay so we can adjust our expectations accordingly.
Hopefully, we'll get an extended look at TDUSC at this year's Nacon Connect show, which will likely start in early July.
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