Racing sims are a special blend of gaming. They give you the thrill of something you may never experience in real life, while satisfying your need for excessive speed and life threatening challenges. TOCA Pro Racer (aka Pro Race Driver in North America) is the next game to offer this great experience. But surprisingly, it also offers something not every racing has done before, an RPG-style storyline that keeps you well immersed in the game.
Codemasters has provided some of the best engine sounds to date. With surround sound, it really feels like you’re in the car going 200 Km/H. The roaring of your car at the start line, the screech of the tires as you pull that 180Ã‚Â° degree turn; the sound design in TOCA truly brings the game to life. The sounds bare a likeness to the real deal; BTCC cars, sound like BTCC cars, and the V8 cars have a V8 sound to them. Being a British game, the game contains a lot of music that is popular in Britain. A few of them include the likes of Al Green, The Stooges, Thin Lizzy and the classic Lynyrd Skynyrd, "Sweet Home Alabama". What adds a touch of realism to the music is that during the game you’ll only hear it from speakers around the track and during cut scenes as well as the main in-game menu.
Now this is where the game really shines. The graphics in TOCA are probably the best to date in any racing sim with realistic visible car damage that only sweetens the view. These graphics are evident in all 38 real tracks, and on all 42 cars (most of which are real), with clear reflections of the world passing you by. The textures, although extremely good on the track and cars, are lacking on the trackside with some bland buildings and seating stands that resembles a feeling of emptiness as opposed to a crowd cheering on their favorite drivers (this is especially evident at the Bristol Motor Speedway, which is an oval surrounded by seating stands). But wait until you see the graphics move! What really impressed me here is the blurring effect, where when your car is traveling at a high speed your surroundings start to blur just like they would do in real life. This increases the feeling of speed and in a game that is based on speed this is a vital aspect of the game. As mentioned, the damage to your car affects just more than how long you last, but other cars as well. Take for instance your front bumper gets ripped off, it will sit on the crack in everyone’s way for the rest of the race. Take a harder hit and you’ll see your windshield shatter in both the front and the back.
Firstly, the storyline within this game adds quite the little treat, since this is quite different from most racing games. You play as Ryan McKane, a young driver just starting to make a name for himself. You’re the son of a champion driver who is now deceased from an accident caused by another driver, who turns out to be your main opponent in the game. Your older brother is also a racer with a few wins under his belt. The most impressive thing about the racing is the AI of the opposing drivers. During the course of a racing season (and also during a race) they remember all those little nudges and shunts you've given them, and they pay them right back. Don't think you're going to win that championship by barging everybody else out of the way - it might work for one race, but by the third of the season they'll all be out to get you.
What sets this game apart from other games is that TOCA has licenses for the proper cars and three of the championships (the British, German and Australian ones). This adds a feeling of authenticity to the mix. I was using a Logitech Wingman Formula Force GP steering wheel with this game and found the compatibility to be smooth and sensitive, a little too sensitive at times, but that’s just because of my driving habits. The controls are very simple and easy to set up, including the in-game garage to tweak your car.
TOCA Race Driver falls a tad short in this department because of the limited amount of players you play with. Eight is the max limit, compared to other sims such as NASCAR 2003 which has a limit of twenty. Now what adds points is there are 12 different racing modes for multiplayer, 11 of them being different championships, while the last one is just free racing. With 42 cars and 38 tracks to combine, the replay value of this game is endless.
TOCA Race Driver is the new kid on the block everyone has to meet. It combines pure racing adrenaline with an exceeding storyline that you will enjoy. Just about a flavor for every genre is in here. Top that off with a very impressive graphics engine, huge amount of cars, tracks to conquer and the always satisfying name of Codemasters behind it; there really isn’t much choice for all racing lovers – play this game!