The first gameplay to be seen anywhere outside of private testing was set-up with six players racing in two separate clans: The Streets and The Sharps.
This is a key gameplay mechanic, as you select your street-racing climb to stardom, and thus the top of the Solar Hotel, from one of the two groups.
If the presentation is anything to go by, playing with friends co-operatively is a big part of Test Drive Unlimited Solar Crown, with a network-connected 1:1 recreation of Hong Kong Island allowing you to meet up with fellow players and compete for common goals.
We saw the meeting areas in action for the first time too, first detailed via still images and blog posts, you can walk around the hotel reception area and team up with other avatars. These seem to be customisable for each player and we also now understand that on-foot traversal is done through a first-person viewpoint – although minus any on-screen hands or arms at present, giving it ghost-like qualities as you glide through buildings.
We are also treated to the inside of a nightclub, where you can show off dance moves. At one point we see a dancefloor filled with the same identical character, although we assume in the final game greater variety will be on offer.
As for the driving, it’s difficult to gauge how the vehicles behave at this stage or sound, as the footage has a backing track. In this Alpha build, you can notice some stuttering, even in what appears to be a LAN environment, and a lack of fluidity in how the cars slide through corners and make contact with each other. But again let’s wait to see what it plays hands-on closer to release.
Certainly, visually, for a game that is only on the current-generation consoles and PC – a Nintendo Switch version is also slated, but no footage or images have been released – right now the lighting effects seem a little dowdy, especially when compared to an immediate rival such as Need for Speed Undound.
Solar Crown uses the proprietary KT Racing game engine, the same technology used by the recent World Rally Championship and TT Isle of Man games. It’s not known particularly for its visual prowess, but it can deliver excellent driving and riding experiences, so we’re still hopeful this is the case for the next Test Drive instalment.
Smaller gameplay mechanics are also showcased, such as an up-to-three-star rating for what appear to be ‘speed traps’ when you drive around the environment. Gas stations also act as a way of fixing your vehicles, with visual damage portrayed, although it appears you stop and hit the A/X button to action repairs.
Of note, the development team appears to have eschewed a boost system. Instead, based on this early HUD, driving quickly and cleanly raises a level, which in turn pays out experience points in the form of FRiM. The players could ‘cash in’ by hitting a gamepad trigger, or try to keep going – although an accident would wipe the counter clean.
Back to the battle of the two clans, there’s also a brief clip of a challenge between the two, with a percentage rating. Once one side hits a set level of FRiM XP first, collectively, they reap the rewards.
The vehicles used hint at a diverse line-up, with a Ford F-150 Raptor truck – briefly shown driving off-road – a Lamborghini Huracán (driven by TeamVVV’s Alan Boiston), BlackPanthaa in a Nissan GT-R and the electric Porsche Taycan Sport Turismo among the roster. Each had a details cockpit, but the wheel and hand animations could do with some refinement ahead of release.
After this showcase, there’s little doubt in our mind that Solar Crown is Kylotonn’s most ambitious game yet, and we’re yet to see if the single-player experience can whitness a return of the star quality delivered by its forebearers.
Following an initial reveal in 2020, there’s still work to be done ahead of its release, now slated for ‘early 2024’. Finally, there has been gameplay shown, and we can judge its progress over the coming months.
A limited Closed Beta will begin soon on the 24th July, essential for a title with such a multiplayer presence. Let us know in the comments below how you think the game is shaping up so far.