TOCA Race Driver
Ronkonkoma Speedway, Michigan, 15 years ago. Two young boys watch their father burned to death in a tragic racing accident. Or was it? Cue the haunting melody of Lynyrd Skynyrd's epic Sweet Home Alabama (a scathing riposte to Neil Young's Southern Man, rock bores) and we're back in the present day at Brands Hatch where a young upstart driver is being courted by a Sopranos style character called Paulie Satriali. Confused? You will be. Welcome to the world of the story-based driving game.
For years, gamers have had no other reason to play a racing game other than the fact that they wanted to. The incentive to continue was provided by nothing more than a desire to drive fast and maybe win some races. Not any more. By introducing a narrative that unfolds as the game progresses, TOCA Race Driver has turned the genre on its head. Or has it? The alternative view is that Codemasters has done little more than throw in a few cutscenes to pad out a series with nowhere else to go.
Mckane And Disabled
Either way, to get back to that story, you take on the role of said young upstart Ryan McKane, whose brash attitude can be attributed to the mental trauma of watching his old man being flambeed in front of his eyes a decade and a half ago. Nevertheless, the experience hasn't put him off driving, and he is over here seeking to make his fortune in the world of Touring Cars. How well he does is, of course, up to you, and it can be embarrassing when the cutscenes show McKane boasting of being the best driver in town, only for you to career off at the first bend and crumple the expensive car entrusted to you. And crumple it will, with the damage model among the best yet seen. Using the so-called Finite Element Modelling system, as used to model real-life crashes, the effect is often spectacular, with bonnets bending and doors flapping as you systematically destroy one of 42 real touring cars. Of course, the idea is to actually stay on the track, but as with previous versions of TOCA, this isn't always possible and you do tend to spend a lot of time negotiating grass verges.
Hitting other cars is also sometimes unavoidable, and the consequences extend to more than just messing up the paintwork. Cut someone up here and they will confront you after the race with a volley of abuse, and quite possibly hold a 'W grudge. All of which sounds very similar to Total Immersion Racing, a game that was released a few months ago to scant acclaim.
TOCA Race Driver is admittedly a far more polished game than TIR, but let's not pretend that it's anything other than just another TOCA game with knobs on. As such, it's a highly competent recreation of road racing with a host of licensed cars and no less than 38 real-life race circuits. The story sequences are watchable enough, and while they don't necessarily add that much to the core gaming experience, they are professionally executed and do provide some mild entertainment between races.
While the graphics are highly detailed, they come at a price, and the game shouldn't really be entertained on anything less than a 1,6GHz machine. That fact alone will already make this review an irrelevance to a lot of readers. But if your system is up to it, and you still hanker fondly for the polished TOCA experience, this is your only real option. We know it was out on PS2 a while ago, but this version has been enhanced, offering 20 cars on the track simultaneously, for instance.
It's undoubtedly a comprehensive simulation of the sport, and the career mode does at least force the issue of what car to drive and what track to race on. And once you get into it, there is scope for countless hours of play, albeit with no guns or explosions. But ultimately, for all its revolutionary pretence, it's just a good old-fashioned driving game.
It Only Made it to PC a couple of years ago, but already TOCA Race Driver looks like a bit of a dinosaur. Not only because Race Driver 2 was so much better and more comprehensive, but because it's so badly out of touch.
It's sad because this was a valiant attempt to rejuvenate the genre. Faced with a stagnant TOCA franchise, Codies decided that adding a plot-based campaign was the way forward, stuffing the game with cut-scenes and casting you as rookie driver Ryan McKane. You have to laugh, but how could the developer have known that as little as a year later racing games would be hot again, not because of storylines, but because of so-called tuner culture and all the urban gurning that goes with it.
As such, Race Driver looks a bit bland and unexciting compared with this season's offerings, but if you're looking for a competent, old-fashioned racer it's still not a bad option.
Processor: PC compatible,
OS: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game Features:Single game mode