When I was 17, I loved driving. I couldn't imagine a time when being in a car, by myself, would feel stifling or mundane. But then I got older and realized that cars are cages on wheels, containing barely restrained animals. Our basest emotions emerge behind the wheel. Driving has become a chore, a meaningless and hostile means of conveyance. Nowadays, when I want to experience the pure thrill and freedom of the open road, I play a video game.
So last night, I cracked open my copy of Test Drive Unlimited 2, a driving game released on Tuesday by Atari. The game's breezy title promised a stress-free environment in which to tool around freely. Limits? Who needs them? I was going to drive around the island of Ibiza with the wind in my hair (seriously, there's a button that lets you roll down your car's windows). So I whipped through the silly introduction and learned the basics. I was playing as a valet who is terrible at her job. As a reward for sleeping on the job in a Ferrari California, I was handpicked to be the next contestant in some sort of racing series.
All the horrifying character models told me they had the utmost faith in my abilities, so they took me to a garage and handed me the keys to the car of my choice. I picked a red Lancia Delta Integrale Evoluzione, a classic rally car whose boxy frame belies its racy performance. I zoomed through a couple tutorials, set up my personal living space (a trailer on the outskirts of town) and set out to explore the island.