Gran Turismo Meets NFS in Test Drive Unlimited: Solar Crown Preview 1

Gran Turismo and Need for Speed are two opposing extremes of a spectrum that, on the whole, isn't that wide. Yet, Test Drive Unlimited: Solar Crown appears to have found a pleasing middle ground between the two. The first series entry in 13 years, the upcoming open world game blends a fairly arcadey approach to street racing with a respect and passion for cars that you'd expect out of a Polyphony Digital production. In practice, it results in what appears to be another successful racing title on PlayStation consoles, but it's actually the philosophy behind Test Drive Unlimited: Solar Crown that really struck a chord with us more than anything else.

Prior to our two hours of play on a preview build — conducted at Big Ben Week in a Paris office building — racing game veteran and Test Drive Unlimited 2 director Alain Jarniou explained how KT Racing wants you to fall in love with just a couple of the cars on the release's roster rather than amassing the entire collection. Just like owning a car in real life, the developer hopes you create a connection with your four wheels, upgrading it to suit the requirements of race events rather than copping another motor already prepared for what you need. Buying your way through the experience will be an expensive ordeal according to Jarniou, so you must learn the ins and outs of your automobile to get by.

The approach reflects the sort of affection you'd find in a Gran Turismo instalment. Solar Crown doesn't come with the same sort of in-depth history lessons featured in Gran Turismo 7, but it still oozes that love for cars. As racing games in recent years — such as Forza Horizon — have moved to a model where they're handing out new whips every other race and as rewards for slot machine spins, it's refreshing to get back to a title with a visible respect for the motor industry.

Having purchased our first ride at the start of the preview build (we opted for a Nissan 370z), there were only a handful of events we could compete in across the recreation of Hong Kong before the tuning shop called for an upgrade. New parts for the likes of your engine and suspension kit improve your overall Performance Rating, which you must modify to meet the demands of events you unlock. It's difficult to tell how the gameplay loop will translate to the full game as we were locked to exploring just a single region, but KT Racing certainly seems to have leaned into the idea of forming a relationship with your first car. We could only afford maybe one or two upgrades, and buying a new set of wheels was completely out of the question. By trying to get everything possible out of what you have instead of paying your way to victory, raising the checkered flag in first place is that little bit sweeter.

In the open world, you'll do the usual thing of driving up to race events to start them, and then optional tasks like speed traps form another source of income outside of podium finishes. Alongside money, performing well increases your reputation levels, which unlock new driving modes and tyre types.

This process of routinely enhancing the car you already have over buying new ones is what makes Test Drive Unlimited: Solar Crown tick, and while it doesn't have the production values of either, it does seem to have achieved a pretty happy middle ground between the Gran Turismo and Forza Horizon IPs. You'll swing your vehicles around corners and speed through red lights in an arcadey gameplay system, but when you get them back to the garage, it's all about making sure they look spick and span to do it all over again. That could be enough for a standout hit once it's out this September.

Gran Turismo Meets NFS in Test Drive Unlimited: Solar Crown Preview 6

Test Drive Unlimited: Solar Crown releases for PS5 on 12th September, 2024. Are you excited for the racing IP to return? Share your thoughts in the comments below.