TOCA Race Driver
The PC Probably needs another driving game like you need a kick in the throat. The barrage continues apace though, and this one has every chance of being quite good, coming as it does from the stable that yielded the first two TOCA games, as well as the brilliant Colin McRae series.
This is a lot more than simply TOCA 3 though, as rather than just applying a bit of spit and polish to an established game, Codemasters has decided to take a deeper approach, giving it something of a roleplaying feel. This doesn’t mean that you'll be cruising round in an Audi TT sporting a wizard's hat and summoning earth elementals, simply that you’ll take on the part of a clearly defined character.
Ryan McKane is the name, and driving cars is his game. It's an (oily) rags-to-riches story of the meteoric rise of a lowly test driver to genuine contender. Just how meteoric that rise will prove is down to you as you make a concerted attempt on some of the world's most challenging championships. Numbering 13 in total, these include the traditional British Touring Car Championship (the TOCA tour) as well as a slew of European and American equivalents. What this boils down to is a total of 38 real-life tracks, all recreated using official landscape data. Amongst those you might recognise are Britain's Brands Hatch, Silverstone and Donington.
Clearty, you're going to need some wheels to make a concerted challenge, and TOCA Race Driver doesn’t disappoint, reading like the contents of a game developer's car park. As well as the aforementioned Audi TT, the 42 high-performance motors on offer include the Alfa Romeo 147, Mercedes CLK, Ford Falcon and Lotus Sport Elise.
Needless to say, every car has been lovingly recreated, from the walnut dash to the leather trim. However, in a break from tradition, said vehicles can be scratched, dented, crushed, mutilated, and generally damaged in much the same way as their real-life counterparts. To the average prole this might seem perfectly normal, but traditionally car manufacturers have been extremely precious when it comes to seeing ,their prized vehicles bent out of shape.
TOCA Race Driver will not only show visible damage, but will render it using the so-called Finite Element Modelling system, as used by the crash test industry, which accurately simulates the deformation of both the exterior and interior of a car during an impact.
There's a lot to look forward to then, with the TOCA heritage virtually guaranteeing that it’ll offer a decent drive. Furthermore, the story element seems to be more than a mere tag-on, with Codemasters employing the services of professional scriptwriters, composers and directors. It's out this summer, so you've got plenty of time to dig out the driving gloves.
Download TOCA Race Driver
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
We've traditionally looked kindly on the TOCA games here at PC, adorning them with the default goodness award of the time, be it a 'Recommended' or an 'Excellence' tag. While never capturing the heady heights of the Colin McRae games. Codemasters' tar-based counterpart has nevertheless provided a consistently solid drive. There have only actually been two TOCA games released, and it would have been all too easy to simply spruce the series up and churn out a number three. But Codemasters doesn't want to give you that. It wants to give you a whole new driving experience. As studio head Gavin Raeburn says: "If we were to expand the appeal of TOCA, and also move the racing genre forward, we really needed to start all over again with a fresh concept and design."
To this end. TOCA Race Driver will involve a lot more than simply driving round and round a track in an expensive car. To be fair, that will make up the bulk of the gameplay, but the on-track action is bolstered by a complex storyline intended to provide a compelling incentive to race.
"There are many, many reasons for adding characters and a story into TOCA Race Driver" says Raeburn. "To begin with, most current racing games are not a true reflection of the sport they portray. They treat motor racing as if it were a very dull documentary, where no people are involved at all. and the focus is purely on the cars. The racing itself, of course, is vitally important to a good race game, but motor sport is not just about cars - it's about the people involved as well. Imagine F1 without the likes of Schumacher and Eddie Irvine. We think this is one of the main reasons that F1 games are generally so mind-numbingly dull to play."
What's The Story?
The story, where you play top driver Ryan McKane. involves betrayal, murder and revenge (which you certainly didn't get in Grand Prix 4). Raeburn is -J sure the narrative approach is more than tokenism though, and it even adheres to Hollywood's classic nine-act structure.
"We're not talking about throwing in a few dull cut-scenes that people have no interest in. We're talking about trying to create the complete world of a pro race driver, where everything in the game has a real-world reason for being there, and where all events are directly driven by you. We want the whole game to flow so that you don't notice the story unfolding, just like in Half-Life." Throw in some extremely complicated damage simulation and a host of tracks and cars, and it all sounds very promising. The game has already been something of a hit on the PS2, where it appeared before Christmas, but needless to say we're betting that the PC incarnation is the definitive version. If so, we might even dig out another award.
Storylines In Racing games. There was time when such a thing was a more alien concept than Steve Hill turning down a press trip or Leeds in the Premiership. TOCA Race Driver changed all that - well, the storylines in games bit, anyway. You play as Ryan McKane, a driver keen to make a name for himself in the world of pro touring car racing. What follows is a story-driven campaign in which you get to drive and destroy one of 42 cars on 38 real-life circuits.
To be honest, the story is throwaway, with the game's true beauty lying in its excellent recreation of touring car racing, made all the better by a top-notch physics system that makes each car handle uniquely and degenerate in a variety of debilitating ways. Better still, opponent drivers hold grudges should you shunt or block them off, meaning the experience glows with a genuinely lifelike sheen. Highly recommended then, but if you're running anything under a P41.6GHz, make sure you steer well clear.