If you usually go off to make a cup of coffee while waiting for games to load, get the kettle on well before you boot up Test Drive. You don't want to miss the loading screens on this one. Never have I encountered a program where the introductory screens made me want to play the game as much as this one.
Test Drive is the sort of game that dreams are made of. It's all about sports cars. Sleek, shiny, fast sports cars. The loading screens flip through the five on offer for you to drive in the game - the Porsche 911 Turbo, Ferrari Testarossa, Lotus Turbo Esprit, Lamborghini Contach and Chevy Corvette - all so graphically detailed as to make you drool, with digitised speech, some great music, and appealing touches such as the windscreen of the car on display being wound down, and a gleam of teeth and flash of shades from the driver as he roars offscreen.
The object of the game is to select one of the five cars, and test drive it up a winding mountainous road to the top, avoiding oncoming cars, highway patrols, oil slicks, and potholes. The faster you do it, the more points you score. The program falls into two distinct parts: car selection and the driving. Flipping through the selection screens, you get a picture of each car and a detailed and accurate technical specification of its performance: acceleration speeds, tyre types, dimensions, braking distance, etc. This is the drooling bit.
Having chosen your car, you take to the road, with a driver's seat (left hand drive, since it's an American game) view of the dashboard and the road ahead. You also have your rear-view mirror, a radar display to warn you of approaching speed cops, and your gear box. Would that I had sat in any of these cars for long enough to be able to tell you how accurate the dashboard layout for each car is - from the attention to detail in the selection screens. I would imagine they are fairly faithful reproductions.
Driving is controlled by keyboard or joystick: left and right for steering, directional movement (with the fire button pressed) related to the gearbox layout for changing gear. Run over oil slicks, and you'll get mucky marks on the windscreen; potholes affect the steering slightly. With the highway patrols, you can either slow down to within the speed limit (there are road signposts as well) which will lose you points, or speed up to try to shake them off.
Assuming you don't crash into anything, or go over the edge of the road, you will automatically pull into a gas station for status reports at various stages. Here, you'll generally get a sarky comment such as, "What's the matter - couldn't find second?", your average speed and time, and a points score. If you do crash you experience the game's most disappointing moment, the screen simply cracks unrealistically. Even if you drive over the edge. No sound effects either. Very disappointing. Given the beautiful graphics of the cars' exteriors and dashboard, the road is drawn slightly less impressively.
Each car really does handle differently in the driving screens. On paper, the Porsche and Lamborghini have the best acceleration (0-60mph in 5.0 and 5.2 seconds respectively), and when test driving each this is borne out; they were definitely nippier than that cheapskate Corvette (0-60mph in 5.8 seconds and a puny $35,000 to buy).
The traffic police, oil slicks and status reports mean that you can play Test Drive as a straight race against the clock, and very enjoyable it is too, but it's equally, if not more interesting as a simulation. However there's an is-that-all-there-is feeling that abounds in the game. Something's missing, like a tough Out Run style challenge.
Test drive offered something that no one ever saw before in computer gaming - a variety of cars and a true "first-person" view from a car! This game was a big hit on all the systems (Commodore 64, Amiga, Atari and PC) in 1987 and people could hardly wait for the sequel. You can choose among 5 top sport cars and drive on several tracks in a pre-made order. Drive around, get to the gas station, avoid police and try not to hit a truck or something.
Classic car driving simulator game. There were 2 episodes on Amiga and 3 on C64. In first one, you can drive only in mountains. Many car types can be chosen, with different interior.
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