More importantly, Oahu is a great place to race. Normally, a real location is a limiting factor for the racing game designer, who’s forced to create interesting courses out of the most mundane of urban grids. Not here. Oahu has something for every racing taste, whether you prefer tight-cornered tarmac tear-ups or long, undulating coastal routes. The latter might sound like easy going, but then you try negotiating them at 170MPH in a supped-up Corvette, and realise that you haven’t blinked for three minutes and the lump halfway up your chest used to be your stomach.
Of course, you don’t have the island all to yourself; if you start the game while connected to Xbox Live, you’re automatically connected to a game server, and you’ll see other gamers exploring the island with you. It’s not quite an MMO, but more a racing equivalent to Guild Wars, with the island acting as a central hub, and events divided into solo affairs for single-player action, and online events where you enter a lobby screen and wait for a spot on the starting line. In effect, the races are instanced, but this works to keep the online action speedy and – for the most part – relatively lag free (though whether this will be the case when the buying public hits the servers remains to be seen). It’s one of the finest integrations of online and offline experience I’ve ever seen.
And other neat tricks continue the online theme. For a start, players can create and post their own challenges at local diners, with a fee collected from each entrant for the pot, and the final amount shared between the winning player and the setter. And if you’re tired of your old ride or want a reduced one at no cost, the game even supports used-car sales. Just put your old motor on the market, and the game takes care of the rest.
It’s almost redundant to say that TDU looks fantastic, but it does. As far as I’m concerned, it outclasses PGR3 and NFS: MW, even given the former’s more detailed cars and million polygon monuments. The scenery is lush and frequently breathtaking, the warm HDR lighting is sublime, and the cars boast lovely body work and beautifully handled reflections. Meanwhile, I doubt any car freak would fail to be impressed by the wonderfully detailed interiors when you switch to the driving seat view. And from the roar of engines to the screech of brakes, the audio is equally top notch.