Test Drive Unlimited With A Steering Wheel

The slow boat from Amazon finally brought my copy of Test Drive Unlimited, a "massive multiuser online racing game" set on the island of Oahu. At first, I was slightly disappointed, since while the layout of the streets is based on reality, the scenery isn't. So it's not like you're bombing down the street at 180 and see the old water department and thereby know that you're coming up to Punchbowl Street (although I did shout to Tina "Don't go around the block! Just take Prince Kuhio the wrong way for three blocks!").

The individuality of the cars doesn't seem quite at the same level as Project Gotham Racing, especially the drift mechanics (in PGR3, you go around one corner and you can tell where the engine weight in the car is). The engine sounds of PGR3 are also more distinctive.

So, while I was very happy with the TDU as a different kind of racing game, I wasn't entirely jazzed. And then, after tooling around for a couple hours using either the gamepad or my MadCatz steering wheel, I discovered the somewhat obscure "Options|Controllers|Steering Wheel|Enable" setting. Oh baby... The problem with steering wheels has always been that games optimized for thumb-stick steering aren't responsive to the slight corrections of "real" steering. So although you have a steering wheel (which is nice), you have to throw it side to side. Not with TDU: once you tell it you have a steering wheel, the responsiveness improves tremendously and, instead of feeling like a video game, you feel like you're driving and can do things like stay in your lane, track through corners, weave through traffic... It's incredible. I lost like 3 hours yesterday to it. (For me, spending 3 hours of daylight in front of a TV is inconceivable.)

Awesome game.