Toca Touring Car Champion
Just before I left the fair shores of England to take hold of the collective leashes of this bunch of weirdos, this game was causing a stir. With the Touring Car Racing sport enjoying a spectacular surge in popularity it was the right game at exactly the right time. Over here though, it's somewhat less relevant. Most of the cars are known to American players, but there are a few uniquely European models that will have you scratching your heads. The courses are also all uniquely British (as you'd expect...it's a British sport) and, as a self-proclaimed expert on these things I can tell you that all of them look dead-realistic. Honest guv. What most impressed the discerning British games-play-ing public though, was the way it "feels"--the controls are absolutely spot-on and once you've got the hang of a featherlite touch you'll be screaming around Silverstone behind the wheel of your Renault Laguna in record time. If anything winds you up at all, it's probably going to be the quirky nature of the sport itself rather than the game. The Championship is very much a points-based arrangement and when playing this mode you'll find you have to race every track twice, which may seem a bit odd. Still, it looks good (not Gran Turismo good...but good) and will definitely satisfy car loons.
TOCA's handling is particularly realistic but more impressive is the opponent car Al. As you work your way up through the pack you'll notice them making the same mistakes you make...swerving off the track and bumping into stuff, etc. Graphically it all looks very nice. It's not on par with Gran Turismo, but it still looks OK. It's definitely something for the more enthusiastic racing fan. Johnny England should like it--it's on his turf.
TOCA certainly shines in one very specific area: The physics are realistic. This is definitely not a Daytona USA-style racer. TOCA is the type of racing game where you'll have to take each sharp turn with the utmost of care, or you'll spin out onto the grass and insure a loss. In these regards, TOCA is a bit frustrating. (Is there such a thing as "too real?") It will take most people a lot of practice to place well in the game.
TOCA is the only racing game that offers nearly as much realism as Sony's masterpiece Gran Turismo. Unfortunately, this realism means that you're likely to have an extremely unforgiving racing experience. Countless hours will be required in order to properly compete in races and many more will be needed to get through a season. Still, TOCA is a must-have for serious racing fans who have some time on their hands.