Test Drive Unlimited Solar Crown environmental screenshots released

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Test Drive Unlimited Solar Crown made another appearance in this year’s Nacon Connect, with developer KT Racing talking about what they’re creating for the aspirational open world racing game and releasing some in-engine environmental shots, but there’s precious little for fans eagerly awaiting the series’ revival to really sink their teeth into. No gameplay, no release date. All we know is that Test Drive Unlimited is currently expected to release in 2023 for PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S and PC. A beta test is also planned before then.

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From the surrounding developer chat, we know that one thing KT Racing is focussed on is teamwork amidst the two rival gangs. The Sharp and Street clans will vie for supremacy on the streets, with Sharp focussed more on the luxurious vehicles and Street clan being into the nightclub scene.

The two sides will have their own HQ that any player can access, but only aligned players will be able to enter the VIP area. This will all sit beside the Solar Crown PvP competition which gives the game its name, a tournament that will sprawl across the whole city.

This new Test Drive Unlimited will take place in a full recreation of Hong Kong and, at the very least, KT Racing did provide some new screenshots that show the environmental work that they’ve been putting in. It ranges from the inner city to the practically untamed wilderness, and we’re keen to see how it all comes together… but that will have to wait for another time, because not even a sniff of gameplay has been revealed.

The lack of gameplay at this point is getting a bit tiresome, and leans into one of the worst trends within the games industry: announcing a game or project far too early. It’s now been two years since the first teaser trailer and announcement for Test Drive Unlimited Solar Crown in 2020 with KT Racing returning in 2021 with a moody head to head’ video, and then a location reveal for the Hong Kong setting, but no gameplay, even with a 2022 release date still expected.

It wasn’t until May of this year that they confirmed that the game has been delayed until 2023, and that KT Racing cancelled the release for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One consoles. This should hopefully help them while polishing the game and optimising for the vastly more powerful newer generation of consoles.

I get that Test Drive Unlimited is geared to be a grand revival for a once very popular and pioneering racing game series, but I don’t think it really helps build any kind of anticipation for the game to keep trotting it out and have nothing representative to show. Better to wait until there’s something meaningful to show, even if it means you can’t feature a tentpole release in your summer showcase.

Looking back on the last game in the series, the 2011 title Test Drive Unlimited 2, we didn’t pin a score on it, but Alex did share some thoughts on the game:

“There are moments in Test Drive Unlimited 2 when everything snaps together perfectly and you get an all too rare, blissful, zen-like rush of pure joy.  If it’s the right time of day with the sun setting on the horizon ahead, an open road at 150mph and Paul Van Dyke blasting through the in-car radio like Kevin and Perry going large, it’s a dreamy, unworldly sensation that could only be captured with all the variables firmly in place. TDU2, when it works, is breathtaking.”

Of course, the next line was, “But when it doesn’t, it’s a wreck.”

Here’s hoping Solar Crown is the former and not the latter.

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