Codemasters has really outdone themselves with the newest installment in the TOCA racing series, TOCA Race Driver 2. Many great and not so great racing titles have been released within the last few years, but none contained the excitement of this title. Instead of just racing cars, Codemasters added a story line to guide you through the available racing scenarios including Super Trucks, Stock Cars, Rally, and of course Performance Vehicles. Not only is the car selection incredible, the graphics are near photo realistic, from the cars to the characters themselves. Plus there’s an angry Scott as your coach that isn’t afraid to give his honest to god opinion.
The Simulation Mode has you playing as a young driver who is trying to make his way through a series of Championship Races. The story mode quickly starts you in the midst of a race where you’ll take over the steering wheel mid-way, and you must quickly prove yourself by placing in a top position. After doing so a cut scene will take over, introducing the lead mechanic, Scotty and other cast members. Once everyone is acquainted with each other the story will quickly pick up the pace. After a few races, sponsors will be beating down your door, from here on in the main objective will be to place in a top position to gain the attention of several more sponsors. Instead of racing one type of vehicle, the story presents new cars as you progress through the game. My only problem with the gameplay is the continuity of the story mode that I think holds TOCA 2 back from being the Ultimate Racing Simulation. The game mechanics heavily mimic real life handling, although I wouldn’t know what a 200 MPH Formula One racecar would handle like. Voice-overs are professionally acted, and most of the time I rarely noticed any flaws.
Many game developers faint at the idea of placing damage modeling on their priceless vehicles but not Codemasters, they have no qualms with banging up their beautiful models and uses quite possibly the most detailed damage system yet. To go throughout the game without damaging your race car is not only seemingly impossible, but it is also close to breaking the law. Running into walls and bumping into other racers not only dents your vehicle, but this act also hinders the overall performance of the car.
After getting acquainted with each car’s handling, multi-player is another option if racing against AI opponents gets tiresome. Up to 21 players can battle it out for the top position at once, although many hosted games were only able to reach the 17 player mark. A ranking system keeps track of players’ performance. At default, the system starts at 1500, in which you can increase by winning races.
One of the things missing from TOCA 2 is a sound track. There is no game music to speak of but the sound affects from cars are very realistic and helped the immersion factor of the game. The most impressive sound affects came from the Formula One cars. Call me crazy, but the constant buzzing of the motor mesmerized me.
While speeding down the racetrack you glance to the right to see a beautiful mirage of lush foliage. After embracing yourself from this beautiful sight, you turn head back to focus your concentration back to the race, instead everything is completely out of focus thanks to the glare shining off the bumper of the nearest car in front of you. While this description might sound as every racer’s fantasy, it is an actual experience you will find in the game.
Racing sims have always been my least favorite type of game. One of the most important gameplay features that aren’t in most racing titles is an interesting story lines to keep the player intrigued long enough to continue game till the end. I would have to admit it, in general story lines don’t mix well with racing titles. That’s why I’m truly impressed with Codemasters’ being able to make the story line work and not skimp in the gameplay department. However, TOCA Race Driver 2 has made me realize how much fun this genre can be. The sense of accomplishment after beating the story mode makes this game all the more enjoyable. Although not everything is in tip-top shape, TOCA 2 is still enjoyable game that is worth it’s meager asking of $29.99.