Test Drive 5
Windows - 1998
Description of Test Drive 5
Think Police Academy
Test Drive 5, as the name suggests, comes from a long line of racing games. The original Test Drive for the old 16-bit computers was played from a cockpit view only, and crashes were depicted by a jagged set of lines appearing on your windshield (the idea being that the glass had shattered). The objective was to drive as fast as you could around a high mountain road and avoid getting arrested. Reminiscing back on racing games of the olde times is definitely not something I do fondly when you consider how amazing the quality of PC racing games is today in comparison.
Test Drive 5's closest competition is undoubtedly EA's Need for Speed 3: Hot Pursuit, an excellent example of the best PC arcade racing has to offer, featuring many game modes, cars and superb graphical effects, played in real-life settings. It was a little sparse on race tracks, and didn't play well over the Internet, but otherwise had all the makings of a classic. So how does TD5 measure up?
The most noticeable feature of Test Drive 5 is undoubtedly the number of tracks and cars it offers. With nearly 40 cars in total, and 19 tracks, this is certainly one of the beefiest racing games around. The car selections range from fictional, to real modern sports cars, to classic vintage cars from the 60's and 70's. Their statistics are accessible in the menu screens before the racing begins, and include such attributes as top speed, horsepower, torque, grip, etc.
Unfortunately, unlike NFS3, there's no comparison chart available, so when scanning through the many cars, it's often very hard to tell how one performs against another. The best way to evaluate their performances is, of course, on the race track. I personally just like to grab the one with the best combination of acceleration and speed possible and use that, though. Why you'd want a car with poor handling I can't imagine -- maybe for the challenge, but since you can't limit the AI opponent's choice of car, it's not a lot of fun watching them speed off in their high-power, high-traction vehicles. I'd be more inclined to play with different vehicles if they actually felt like the real thing, but as I'll discuss later, this game really fails to achieve any degree of realism and is definitely for pure arcade fans only.
Tracks vary from circuits to one long race course split into stages or checkpoints. As is the trend with the Test Drive series, all of the tracks are based in real-life settings like city streets or country roads. Additionally, practically all of the tracks are set in cities that actually exist around the world, including San Francisco, Moscow, Edinburgh, Sidney. The roads, of course, aren't modeled after the real geographical templates of the cities, but each of the tracks are vastly different visually; backdrops, roadside buildings and objects will all be recognizable as indigenous to that area.
The variety in the tracks is fair. One important thing to note is that several of the tracks from Test Drive 4 have been ported over to this sequel, so owners of that game may not feel there's enough new on offer. New to this fifth edition is the "branching technology" that enables the player to actually approach forks in the road and choose a slightly different route -- the branches rarely last very long, however, and only in one or two tracks do they actually provide a different enough race course to be noticeable. And as has plagued this series for a while, there are a good number of "invisible barriers" which prevent you exploring side streets or other openings -- this can be extremely frustrating in some instances where the actual race course appears to lead you to follow a road that doesn't really exist for the game engine.
Some of the tracks definitely stand out as more fun than others. One of the bonus tracks, "The House of Bez", takes on the theme of Micro Machines and has you racing amongst giant household objects, like playing cards and video cassettes, across the carpet. The San Francisco track is also one of my favorites as it features one of the city's most famous characteristics -- the unfeasible steep hills. Launching yourself off those at 100mph is always good for a laugh.
Graphically, there hasn't been a great advance since Test Drive 4 it appears, but the visuals are still well above average. They definitely tend to look better when moving (and the sense of speed in the game is certainly well accomplished) since much of the visuals have a rather indistinct blurry look up close. Variety is once again the game's best feature in the graphics department as each track has countless amounts of different scenery, more so than most other racing titles.
Special effects are definitely less impressive and more scarce than other racers. The only weather I encountered was rain, and the 'drops hitting against the camera lens' effect that was implemented exceedingly well in NFS3 and Ultim@te Race Pro is very lackluster here. The cars look pretty good, and things like overcast shadows affect their appearance, but again not to the quality of the reflective chrome in NFS3. The backdrops can be very beautiful, especially the North Carolina course where at one point, you're driving past a vast lake which reflects the sky.
Audio is somewhat lacking. Impact and crash noises are both weak and unrealistic, and the environmental sounds aren't up to the quality of NFS3. For example, when entering tunnels, all that happens in TD5 is your engine noise becomes louder instantly - NFS3 did a lot more to make it sound like you really were travelling through a tunnel, especially if a police car's siren was wailing behind you.
Crash me not
The sound effects of crashes aren't the only disappointing elements. The actual reaction from all the cars involved in collisions is pitiful and certainly won't encourage you to believe that you're racing down streets in excess of 150mph. When you collide with a car, 90% of the time, your automobile will raise up off its front wheels and appear to dance merrily in circles for a few seconds on its rear. I don't expect the incredible physics engine of Carmageddon 2 (come to think of it, why don't most racing games play as well as C2?), but it would be nice to see some variations in high speed crashes.
It's obvious that the controls have been ported directly from the console version (or at least manufactured with consoles in mind). The support for analogue controllers doesn't appear to be well implemented - at least the joystick I tried it with managed to do little but spin out of control at the weakest nudge. I had better luck using a digital control like the keyboard, but that means swerving slightly to the left or right is accomplished with taps of the keys or gamepads -- something I thought had been left behind to the racers of old. There's also little in the way of configuration options, as accelerate and brakes are inflexibly binded to the up/down on your joystick or pad (keys can, thankfully, be reconfigured).
There are a few more controls available including look-behind (no rear view mirrors though) and a handbrake which is good for sliding at high speed around tight corners. Camera view adjustments can be made -- between chase and front bumper. There's about eight different settings for the chase camera which are barely a few centimeters apart so it seems rather superfluous. There's also no cockpit mode which is a shame.
One of my biggest complaints about the tracks is how non-interactive they are -- you're barricaded in tight between the edges of your designated route, so you can't skid off into the 'rough', for example, or knock down any signs, cones etc (there's no 3D objects, period). You don't see any U-turns, like in NFS3 where you can cut across the grass if you felt daring. This also contributes to another problem with the tracks often having the "feel" of a contrived race track rather than real-life streets. Many of the NFS courses throughout the series had a much more life-like feel about them.
I'm also not too excited about the way the game limits your speed when riding off of what is considered the "optimum" area of the road, for example, sidewalks are a no-no area -- there is no physical reason why your speed should be unable to go above 70mph when on the sidewalks (a moral reason, sure, but not physical), yet this game prevents it. This is another throwback to the racing games of yesteryear where it would swap realism for gameplay elements like punishing players for not staying on the road.
Not all downhill
Fortunately, a split-screen mode has been implemented (TD4 lacked this, I believe) so jumping in for some instant relief with a friend is possible and works quite well in fact. You can also toggle civilian traffic on and off, which is good, because I've always found dodging between the slow-moving cars one of the great thrills of these types of racing titles. When you finish a single race in first position, the ability to race it in reverse is enabled which will help longevity further.
There's also the option to include cop cars in your races. This is sadly not implemented as well as the "Hot Pursuit" in NFS3. There's no scanner, you'll only ever be chased by one cop car, they don't coordinate or converse with fellow officers on the force and they don't setup roadblocks or spike strips. They appear to be more of a tacked-on feature than anything. When a cop sees you (it's hard to test if he just spots you automatically, or if he clocks your speed, since without a scanner, you get little warning that you're approaching a cruiser), he puts on the sirens and comes a-chasin' (he doesn't go after AI players either, unlike NFS3). All he has to do is get in front of you -- not run you off the road -- and you spontaneously brake to a halt as if he has some powerful grip on your mind as soon as his car is visible in your front windshield. The instant that you stop, the mindlock is released and you race on. Kind of dopey, really.
Racing as the police is a bit of fun, and is quite nostalgic of the classic coin-op Chase HQ. As soon as you come across a speeder, you hit your "horn" key to activate the sirens (though maintaining the siren is not necessary for the game's purposes, it obviously helps the atmosphere - so to do this, I have no idea why you have to keep the key depressed), and the offending car displays an energy bar. Every time you ram it, the energy goes down. It won't hold your attention for long, but can help release some aggression. There's no option to play this mode with two or more players, though.
Modem Internet play is also a no-no, but I'm not surprised. Barring Motorhead, I've yet to see a racer that any company has bothered to make playable for the Internet gaming community. It might be beneficial for all if this review was spared a rant on that subject.
The arcade racing genre is overcrowded these days, and Test Drive 5 sadly doesn't compete too well with the current pack. Although visually it makes a competent stand (the 3D accelerated version, that is), it's still not the best out there, and its lack of decent controls and handling, restricted level of interaction on race tracks and abysmal crashes (involving the car collisions, that is; not a programming bug!) only makes it harder to recommend. If you're looking for a good driving game set in the streets, go for Need for Speed 3 (or even NFS2:SE at a budget price) or Ultim@te Race Pro. If you want to add in a new slant, pick up Carmageddon 2 for some awesome driving physics, but be prepared for some gore.
If you've bought most of the arcade racers available and want another to add to the collection, though, Test Drive 5 isn't so terrible that it's not worth giving a try. It's got tons of tracks and cars in comparison to its peers, and that instant-appeal factor where you can just load up and have a game without needing to read instructions has its plus side. The simplistic digital controls might even be welcomed by the more casual gamers. Just don't say you weren't warned that there are better games out there.
Review By GamesDomain
Comments and reviews
PSNWP 2020-12-17 0 point
@Speed here's the fix for not working music: https://www.pcgamingwiki.com/wiki/Test_Drive_6 (Issues fixed - Music is not present). It works for Test Drive 6 and 5.
speed 2020-11-20 0 point
Anyone got the music files? Dunno but i don't think they're included in the package
ANF Vlogs 2020-03-26 1 point
I was looking for some better free games to be downloaded and played for my windows when I found this game. I promise you and can bet that Test Drive 5 is the one of the best car racing games that I would have ever played on my Pc. no lags, or problems regarding this game. loved it. thank you to the creator
Stinnger 2019-11-16 0 point
Really funn and good game, sure it has it flaw`s on handling and ai.
but for what it is its really nice game with Lots of Varied Cars and Tracks,
funny they didn`t use the same select car& select track layout like in ps1 version,
PS1 had a spinning world globe when selecting track and showing it`s location.
and selecting cars was horisontal, and right before the car is showing it had a spinning disc(sort of loading from disc icon) hehe :D
so: Open Heart And open minded+ retro its a cool and good Game :D
ps:Launch the game with 'voodoo2.exe' if you have Nglide installed.
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