Pro Race Driver on the Xbox was expected to be a gift from racing heaven. While it packed a ton of tracks and some nice cars, there were some issues with damage and AI which prevented it from being the stellar racing title it was expected to be. Codemasters tries to correct themselves with the sequel to PRD, named TOCA 2. This time the game reads like a whoís who of racing classes. With some 2 dozen race classes and even more tracks, thereís reason for race game fans to be hopeful.
Presentation/Graphics : 80
At times TOCA 2 astounds you with the graphics while at other times you question whether this title is indicative of a sequel. The cars in the game look incredible. The car models are some of the best in any racing game. The tracks likewise look great, but from there off-track detail tends to be hit or miss. A combination of 2D and 3D textures create the off-track pleasantries. But I take a ďwho caresĒ attitude in this department. For me, as long as the graphics donít interfere with the racing Iím happy. Racing is viewed from a variety of first- or third-person views. A bumper and hood camera complement the excellent in-car view. Looking out over the long hood of the classic Mustang is a great feeling.
Presentation/Audio : 80
Iíve seen some gamers complain about how Codemasters did not get the sounds right. Blah. How many gamers have been behind the wheel of any of these cars to know what sounds right or not? To me they sound fine and put me in the driving spirit. V8 engines have the right amount of throaty roar for my taste and the 4 or 6 cylinder cars whine appropriately. A nice touch is that the engine sounds are dependent on the camera view used. The other driving sounds are done well. Tire squeal, the sound of tires running over the rumble strips, the slide of the car on the grass or kitty litter, and collisions all sound good.
Interface/Options : 90
TOCA 2 comes with standard Xbox Live enabled game modes. A career mode sends you through multiple racing series and follows an entertaining story line. The courses raced in career mode can also be raced in single race or time trial mode. The online racing allows gamers to race in any series opened by the host (series are opened in career mode). In some modes, detailed vehicle setups are available which include things like gear ratios, suspension settings, and brake bias. An appreciated feature is the custom controller mappings available.
Gameplay : 95
The racing in TOCA 2 is superior to that offered in Pro Race Driver. In fact, it rivals the best racing simulations on any console. While NASCAR Heat 2002 still takes my prize as the best racing simulation on the Xbox, TOCA 2 is coming up as a close second. Through the different car classes, each vehicle has unique handling. The Formula Fords remind me of Grand Prix Legends on the PC in that you have to gingerly make your way around the circuit. Pushing a little hard in a turn means the back end flips around on you. Switching to GT Lights you instantly feel the better aerodynamic grip offered by the rear wing. For completely different handling, classes such as the Land Rover, Vintage Classic, or Supertruck fill the game out nicely. The bonus feature in the game with all cars is that you have the option of driving with a manual transmission complete with a clutch. This, coupled with access to detailed vehicle setups in certain parts of the game, adds to the realism the game try to convey.
The AI is much improved in TOCA 2. There have been several instances where I felt I wasnít just battling it out against AI cars. Rather, the AI tends to have humanlike tendencies. At times AI cars will lose control, bump each other, or drift off track and slow. Despite some driving errors, the AI fields are tough competitors. To succeed in the game, you really need to race solidly. While you can muscle your way to the front half of the field, often getting into first takes some skill. Again, it ranks right up with Heat in terms of the quality of the AI.
Taking TOCA 2 online opens up a whole new world of fun. Project Gotham 2 has been usurping my online time of late, but with the arrival of TOCA 2, PGR2 has gone by the wayside. The draw for me is threefold Ė cars, courses, and competitors. The cars are more diverse in TOCA 2 ranging from trucks to Japanese muscle to Champ style cars. While PGR2 has this game beat in number of tracks, the ones in TOCA 2 (with the exception of a couple of street circuits) are real race courses. I much prefer taking the wheel at a course I see on TV than a fantasy street circuit. Finally, TOCA 2 allows up to 12 player on Xbox Live and also a field of AI cars. With nearly 20 cars racing, the realism comes in spades. A nice feature is that you can run a full series of racing and points are accumulated during the series.
Damage is modeled in the game. Damage affects items such as steering, the transmission, brakes, suspension, and engine. Hitting other cars and walls obviously inflict damage, but Iíve had damage accrue simply due to getting a little too much air on a bump or catapulting off a rumble strip. Damage has a tangible effect on your carís performance. Top end may be reduced, shifts are tough to complete, or handling goes out the window. If you continue to incur damage, eventually your cat just gives up.
Unfortunately, with any games there are some flaws. TOCA 2 is no exception, and the most glaring flaw rears its ugly head online. The lack of side mirrors or the ability to look left or right makes pack racing difficult. While a red arrow does mark the position of cars approaching from behind, as cars come up beside you the arrow disappears and it can become difficult to know where the competitionís racing line is. Inadvertent bumps can be commonplace, and they can have disastrous effects. Codemasters really should have included at least a radar like F355 to keep track of opponents.
The other big factor in the game is how damage accumulation does not affect vehicle aerodynamics. This is particularly noteworthy in the Indy series where losing wings has no effect on vehicle stability. This type of damage is cosmetic only. Then the game goes overboard in my opinion in terms of loss of mechanical grip in the rain. Finally, in some classes you can cut corners without penalty. While at times a shortcut across the grass will induce a nasty spin, on some courses there is no issue with taking a shortcut.
Replay Value : 90
The replay on TOCA 2 is a function of the online and offline component. As a hardcore racing fan, most racing games come relatively easy to me. TOCA 2 is no exception. Iím breezing through the offline career mode. With no way to adjust the difficulty of the career mode, there wonít be much incentive to restart a career. Online, the game has built-in replay with the ability to race human opponents.
Overall : 90
TOCA 2 is the kind of game Iíve been waiting for on the Xbox. Realistic race games seem few and far between as developers too often coddle to the casual gamer and release watered down arcade titles with hints of simulation. We have to give credit to Codemasters for giving us the excellent TOCA 2 right on the heels of their Colin McRae 4 release. An entertaining career mode and intense online racing make TOCA 2 a title to own for race game fans. With its several dozen real courses, offline and online racing, fantastic AI, and over a dozen racing classes, TOCA 2 earns a spot in the library of every race fan.