Review by: Jonathan Hynes
Published: May 11, 2004
What other title allows you to race a Koenig C62 and a big rig truck on the same track? How about formula one and stockcar events in the same game? This is the selling point for Codemasters’ latest racing outing: variety. There are 35 vehicles, 48 tracks and 15 modes of competition in TOCA Race Driver 2, and you can even take the struggle online with Microsoft’s Xbox Live service. While there’s certainly no shortage of entrants in the genre, TOCA isn’t exactly your run-of-the-mill racer.
The Career mode is central to everything else in TOCA, as it’s through the completion of this that additional tracks, vehicles and game modes are made available. You begin your new life as a rookie on the circuit, one with plenty of potential but little in the way of experience. Taken under the wings of an eccentric Scottish engineer and a gorgeous female agent, you must battle your way up the ranks, one race at a time. Along the way, you’ll encounter a collection of friends and foes, all of whom are quite peculiar in their own right. The French prim Donna and the ladies man from Brazil are but a few of the characters that you’ll meet, each of whom embodies the clichés and stereotypes of their respected culture in the most amusing, harmless and lighthearted of ways.
TOCA features approximately three dozen of the world’s finest vehicles, both modern and classic. You’ll hop behind the wheel of everything from the Aston Martin DB5 to the new DB9 coupe, from a vintage Ford GT to a Ford 9000 big rig truck. Each circuit consists of so many races across a set number of tracks, and the specific cars to which you have access depends entirely on the restrictions of the course. Initially, most of these circuits (and the attached tracks and vehicles) are unavailable for time trials and free races, but will gradually be unlocked as you move through the Career mode.
There are many different types of events in this particular title, and whether you’re competing in a circuit, street, rally, open-wheel or stockcar race, you’ll be given the option to make adjustments to your vehicle beforehand. Naturally, customizing your ride isn’t an easy chore, and should probably be reserved for veteran gamers. Still, tinkering with your gear ratio, suspension, tires and brake bias, among other things, can do wonders for your lap time, especially if you’re able to tailor it to your style of driving.
As you may have discerned from the above paragraph, TOCA is a simulation geared a little more toward serious racing fans. All of the vehicles handle realistically; the larger cars will have trouble taking sharp turns at high speeds, but are heavy enough to keep their tires firmly on the asphalt. Smaller autos can whip around the same corners at much higher speeds, but the lighter chassis can also result in complete loss of control, sending you careening. Even the start of the race is brutally unforgiving, as holding down on the accelerator while waiting for the go signal just won’t cut it. The high RPMs will cause you to spin your tires and lose precious seconds as your transmission struggles to get to third or fourth gear.
The realistic physics engine also encompasses vehicular damage; because of this, careless driving can put you out of a race in the blink of an eye. Hit a wall at 150 mph or roll the car, and your day is done; while not all accidents are race ending, even the slightest of impacts can have a dramatic effect on your handling. Your vehicle is broken down into five key areas (transmission, suspension, steering, wheels and engine), and as each of these components sustains damage, your performance is reduced. For instance, wrecking your gearbox will make shifting much more difficult, limiting your top gear potential and, thus, your top speed.