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Like the original Test Drive, the focus of The Duel is driving exotic cars through dangerous highways, evading traffic, and trying to escape police pursuits. While the first game in the series had the player simply racing for time in a single scenario, Test Drive II improves upon its predecessor by introducing varied scenery, and giving the player the option of racing against the clock or competing against a computer-controlled opponent.
The player initially is given the opportunity to choose a car to drive and a level of difficulty, which in turn determines whether the car will use and automatic or manual transmission--the number of difficulty options varies between gaming platforms. Levels begin with the player’s car (and the computer opponent, if selected) idling on a roadway. Primarily these are two to four lane public highways with many turns; each level is different, and they include obstacles such as bridges, cliffs, and tunnels in addition to the other cars already on the road. Each level also has one or more police cars along the course.
The goal of each level is to reach the gas station at the end of the course in the least amount of time. Stopping at the gas station is not mandatory, and one could drive past it if inattentive. The consequence of not stopping results in running out of gas, a thus losing a car (life). The player begins the game with 5 lives, one of which is lost each time that the player crashes into something. If the player completes a level without crashing or running out of gas, then he or she is awarded a bonus life. In addition to losing a life, crashing adds thirty seconds to the player's time. Cars could crash into other traffic or off-road obstacles such as trees; they could crash by falling off the cliff on one of the mountain levels, or they could sustain too much damage by staying off the roadway for too long on the flatland levels. Players could also lose a life when using a manual transmission by redlining and consequently blowing the engine. Crashing into a police car instantly ends the game, regardless of the number of lives the player has left.
Police cars appear in every level, and if the player is driving faster than the speed limit when encountering one of them, the police car will follow in pursuit. If at any point while being pursued the police car is able to pass the player’s car get in front of it, the player is forced to pull over and receives a ticket stating the offense and the speed of the vehicle. While this doesn’t cost the player a life, it does take away valuable time. Players can avoid being pursued by police by slowing down before encountering them, anticipating them through the aid of a radar detector, which comes standard in all vehicles in the game.
In the standard version of Test Drive II, the player has the option of using one of two vehicles (three in the SNES and Genesis versions of the game). These vehicles are presented at the beginning of the game with technical specifications, including top speed, torque, and acceleration rates. The cars included a Porsche 959 and a Ferrari F40.
- The Supercars car disk included cars from the previous game in the series, some in slightly different versions including the Corvette ZR1 and the Lotus Turbo Esprit.
- The Musclecars car disk included five muscle cars from the 60's including a Pontiac GTO and a Dodge Charger Daytona.
The computer versions of the game provided one course, referred to by the game as “Master Scenery”, consisting of several stages. Each stage had one of three possible locations: a desert, with cacti along the side of the road; a mountain, with a sheer rock wall on one side of the highway and a cliff on the other, and occasionally a tunnel through the mountain; and a grassy area with trees.
Later, two "scenery disks" were released, each containing an additional course:
- California Challenge, which included seven stages, each representing a section of a southbound crossing of the state of California.
- European Challenge, which allowed players to travel through six different European countries: the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, France, and Spain.
There are four available courses in the console versions of the game, each of varying length and difficulty. Each is a route on a public highway in a different part of the continental United States. The courses included are:
- "Desert Blast (Easy)" - Seemingly takes place somewhere in the US Southwest.
- "City Bound (Medium)" - It is not entirely clear where this takes place, but in various parts of the course, Mount Rushmore can be seen.
- "East Coast (Hard)" - Takes place in the eastern U.S., with the last section of the course including a view of the New England coast.
- "West Coast (Hardest)" - Takes place in the United States West Coast and is the longest and most difficult course in the game. The Seattle skyline and Space Needle can be seen in the beginning parts of the course.
- 'The Duel: Test Drive II' at MobyGames
- The Duel: Test Drive II at Rotten Tomatoes
- 'The Supercars car disk at MobyGames
- 'Musclecars car disk at MobyGames
- 'California Challenge scenery disk at MobyGames
- 'European Challenge scenery disk at MobyGames
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