“Test Drive III: The Passion” is an older racing/driving simulation game for IBM-compatible computers. It still retains some popularity because of its realistic nature and wide range of features.
Unlike many racing games, “Test Drive III” lets the player decide whether or not to race against other cars, and doesn’t require a specific course to be followed. The player can drive one of three different cars wherever he or she likes in the simulated world, without any time limit.
In addition to roads and bridges, the simulated world in “Test Drive III” includes such objects as street signs, telephone poles, houses, barns, bodies of water, boats, traffic lights, railroad tracks (with a moving train) and numerous hills. There are animals as well, such as cows, squirrels, and chickens. Other vehicles in the game include trucks, station wagons, and police cars (which can stop the player for speeding). The weather and time of day varies in different parts of the game as well, ranging from a clear, bright sky to rain or snow with dark clouds. Most of the graphics are fairly realistic, although how the game actually functions is the greater element of realism.
Each of the three sports cars (a Lamborghini, a Pininfarina, and a Chevrolet) which the player can choose from has a different dashboard, steering wheel, meters, exterior appearance (when the external view or instant replay is used), and driving performance. A manual or automatic transmission can be selected by adjusting the skill level. Steering wheel centering can be turned on and off by pressing CTRL-C. Other realistic features of the car interior (the game is viewed from the driver’s perspective) are the compass (upper-left corner) and radar detector (upper-right corner). The windshield wipers (press “W”) and headlights (press “H”) can be turned on and off as well. Shifting is accomplished using the “A” and “Z” keys, and the cars can be driven in reverse by pressing “Z” while in neutral. The arrow keys (or joystick) are used to accelerate, brake, and steer. In addition to engine noise and other sound effects, Test Drive III allows three different types of instrumental music can be played while driving (press CTRL-M to switch from one type to another).
“Test Drive III: The Passion” will run in DOS or Windows operating systems. I successfully tested it in DOS 5.0, Windows 95, and Windows 98. Its system requirements are quite modest; 16-color EGA or Tandy graphics are sufficient, although 256-color VGA is preferable, and the entire program will fit on a 3.5″ disk or a hard drive with just over one megabyte free. It supports Soundblaster-compatible sound cards, as well as Tandy 3-voice, internal speaker, and some older cards. A keyboard or joystick (press CTRL-J) can be used for input. As for the processor (CPU) speed, this is most likely to be problematic on some pre-1993 and post-2000 computer models. When I tested it on 200 MHz Pentium II, I found that the game ran quite well with the detail level set high (see next paragraph). However, on a 10 MHz 286 it was somewhat choppy (although playable) and it ran too fast (especially when steering) on a 333 MHz Pentium II. On a 233 MHz CPU, gameplay was mostly acceptable but accurate steering became difficult. I didn’t have any luck trying to test it on a 7 MHz 8088. The performance would probably be very poor on a computer slower than 10 MHz or faster than 333 MHz, so I recommend using a computer with a CPU ranging from a 16 MHz 386 to a 200 MHz Pentium for the best results.
If the game is running too slowly or quickly, try adjusting the terrain detail level (press F2), changing the viewing area size (press F1), turning the sound effects on/off (press CTRL-S), switching on/off the engine noise (press CTRL-E), disabling the rear-view mirror (press R), or turning on/off the music (press CTRL-Q). Running the game from a hard drive rather than a floppy disk will also speed up some parts of it, because a hard drive can read data faster than a floppy disk.
To purchase it, try searching for the full title “Test Drive III: The Passion” on eBay.com, without selecting a category. It also appears that this game is included on a CD-ROM with several different games on it, called “Racing’s Greatest Thrills,” which apparently can be purchased on a few different websites. Make sure it includes the copy protection wheel, as this is needed to answer a different question at the beginning of the game each time Test Drive III is run (this may or may not apply to “Racing’s Greatest Thrills”).
Overall, “Test Drive III: The Passion” is a realistic, interesting, and enjoyable game which can be purchased relatively inexpensively, runs well on many older computers, is free of graphic violence, and allows for more experimentation than traditional racing games.