TDU stresses player customization... maybe a little too much. We started the game at an airport; we flew to Oahu, rented a Lotus Elise, bought a house (!), bought a Saturn Sky, and hit the very open roads. The more money you make in races, the more houses you can buy, and the more cars you can store in those garages. You can also earn wardrobe options and change minute details of your physical appearance (how big do you want your ears to be?), but we're really not sure why we'd want or need to do that - after all, most of the time, your doppleganger isn't even visible beneath the roof of a car. However, we can see where this fits in if you're trying to build an RPG-style massively multiplayer racing game and give each player a sense of being a unique and beautiful snowflake in a blizzard of cool racers.
Navigating the monstrous island is simple, thanks to an on-board GPS and a simple glowing arrow that points you in the right direction. This easily could have been a huge problem, but the preview proves that it's already handily solved. However, the constant bloom effects prove immediately distracting - any variance between light and shade (driving under a tree, for instance) seems to make the entire screen glow or dim. We're hoping this is one of those last-minute tweaks waiting to be made before release. Otherwise, we're bringing sunglasses.
All these annoyances might simply disappear - we know the early version we tried was definitely still in development, so it's too early to condemn Test Drive Unlimited for things that might be fixed or changed before the game hits store shelves in early September. But with so many great racing games already out for Xbox 360, TDU needs to be totally tuned to win.