PC Software: Toca Race Driver

On the strength of the past Toca titles you could be forgiven for thinking that Toca Race Driver would be pretty much the same game but with new cars and drivers. Well, that isn’t the case at all.

These games are generally just about driving, but CodeMasters has given an extra dimension to Toca Race Driver by adding a storyline. You’re not just any old driver, you’re Ryan McKane, son of a racing legend who tragically lost his life in an accident. The desire to finish the work your father began led you on to the Toca circuit, and now you’re competing against some of the world’s best racing drivers. But let’s just stop right there. Cheesy plots don’t sell racing games.

Petrol heads aren’t interested in sentimental rubbish, just adrenalin and speed. Someone who’s going to buy Toca Race Driver is only going to be interested in driving fast cars, not adopting the role of a young man out to avenge his father’s death. Forgive me if I’m starting to sound like Jeremy Clarkson, but I just don’t see the point in even bothering to try to add a storyline to this kind of game. So I’m going to ignore it, pretend it doesn’t exist, and concentrate on what’s really important.

The Toca series has always been popular, with 4 million games sold and counting. This latest addition to the family looks as if it’ll be every bit as successful. Even though the preview code we saw was only about 80 per cent of the finished article, it still looked absolutely stunning. The tracks have been accurately rendered, with every hairpin and chicane in place. The cars are all up to date and the current Toca drivers provide the competition. Believe me, the driving is pretty hard work with Tim Harvey and Yvan Muller breathing down your neck while you’re keeping a nervous car on a thin strip of tarmac.

Touring car racing has a big following and it’s easy to see why. The races are closely fought and the cars vaguely resemble vehicles you might see on the road, albeit with the addition of low skirting, powerful engines and freedom from rules of the road. This is something that Formula One just can’t compete with — real motor-racing fans would rather watch Toca any day.

The driving experience itself is incredibly immediate and lifelike. Every time you lock a wheel, bump another car or let the rear slip out, you can feel it. This makes the game very different from less realistic programs. That familiar urge to attempt every corner flat out will soon wear off when you realise just how careful you have to be to keep the car in one piece. Mind you’re not too careful, though, or you‘ll be left eating everyone else’s dust.

Toca Race Driver is tough to get to grips with technically, so if you’re not prepared to spend time learning and can’t accept that you’re not going to win —o are getting a ose to winning, first time out — then don’t bother. Some racing games cater for those of you who want your thrills quick and easy, but Toca Race Driver just ain’t that kind of girl.

A word of warning: you’re going to need a powerful system to run this game. The full hardware requirements haven’t been confirmed yet but don’t expect to be able to run it on any old PC. The system we used had a 32MB GeForce2 graphics card and an 800MHz Pentium III processor, yet had trouble running the preview code, so make sure your PC is up to scratch to avoid disappointment.

If you want a simple but satisfying driving game, I wouldn’t recommended Toca. However, if you want a challenging but ultimately rewarding racing experience, you’ll love it.

Publisher: CodeMasters
Developer: CodeMasters
URL: www.codemasters.com

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Ben Camm-Jones

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