TOCA Race Driver 2 - game review

Date: 2004-06-29 14:44:00
The review was based on the PC version.

TOCA - The name comes from the words "Touring Cars" and means touring car circuit racing. This was what the first and second TOCA game by the well-known Codemasters company, the creators of the immortal Colin McRae Rally, was about. Both TOCA 1 and TOCA 2 concerned the same car races - the already mentioned TOCA. The player could sit behind the wheel of modified vehicles known from the streets of our cities: Audi A4, Ford Mondeo, Volvo S40 or Renault Laguna. Both games were characterized by decent realism, attractive graphics (for those times) and great gameplay. The games appeared on the market 2 years apart (TOCA 1 in 1997 and TOCA 2 in 1999). We had to wait 4 years for the next representative of the series, because the game TOCA Race Driver (also known in other countries as Pro Race Driver, DTM Race Driver and V8 Superchallenge Race Driver) appeared only in 2003 and at the same time significantly changed the formula. In fact, only the title remained of the TOCA races, as the game actually allowed you to drive many different cars. The latest, fourth installment of the TOCA series is titled Race Driver 2: Ultimate Racing Simulator (depending on the country, the words TOCA, DTM, V8 Superchallenge may appear before the title) and takes us into the world of cars more strongly than any previous version. Is it as good as previous versions? It's better.

In a nutshell, TOCA Race Driver 2 (later called TRD2) is an evolution of TRD1 - the game develops to a large extent the idea of "one". It offers many more cars that we can race, as well as a heavily "tuned" physical model responsible for how the cars move on the track. And it is the latter feature that makes the game interested in a larger group of players, including real players who have spent hundreds of hours playing titles such as NASCAR Racine, Grand Prix Legends or are waiting impatiently for GTR. Of course, one should not expect TRD2 to match the realism of the aforementioned titles, but it will certainly arouse interest in the fanatic world. It is also obvious that the TRD2 has a much more attractive visual setting than the TRD1, especially due to the use of the new capabilities of the Pixel and Vertex Shader units found in the new graphics cards. However, let's take a closer look at individual aspects of the game.

As I mentioned, TRD2 offers many more cars that we can race. This is due to the fact that the authors wanted to reach a much wider audience. The TRD1 game offered only tourist class cars, including the following models: Alfa Romeo 147, Peugeot 406 Coupe, Subaru Impreza WRX, Saab 95 Aero, Audi TT, ABT Mercedes CLK, etc. As you can see, these are models either known from the streets of our cities or taking part in competitions (eg DTM). TRD2 offers a significantly expanded range of models and classes - in principle, every lover of four wheels will find something for themselves: Aston Martin (DB5, DB9, Vanquish), Audi TT-R, Ford Mustang '68, Jaguar XKR, Seat Leon Cupra-R, Ford F-150 Lightning, Mitsubishi GT3000, Nissan Skyline GT-R R34, Koenig C62, Ford 9000-series, Land Rover Wildcat, AC Cobra 289 CRS, Subaru Impreza WRX and many more. As you can see, there are representatives of most classes here: series cars, super sports models, trucks, pickups, off-road cars, concept cars. However, it can be felt that some vehicles were added a bit by force - I mean, for example, the Ford 9000 tractor unit. The problem is that the concept of the game is based on typically sports cars, so the implementation of the truck did not work out well. Nevertheless, it's nice to switch from the Opel Astra V8 to a 1,300-horsepower monster weighing 5 tons.

The second eye-catching feature of the TRD2 is the physical model that governs the behavior of cars on the track. It is clearly better than in the previous version - it makes what is happening on the screen more similar to the behavior in the real world. It is not known whether the creators created it from scratch or modified the existing one, in any case the effect is very good. The game has two driving modes: semi-PRO and PRO - the first is intended for players who just like to race, regardless of whether the car they drive behaves properly on the route or not. Only the keyboard is enough for this mode, although a pad would be welcome. The semi-PRO mode enables unrestricted madness on the road, driving with "throttle to the board" in almost every corner, controlled skidding at any time. To perform the so-called "Spina" requires some effort, because almost every car behaves as if it had a traction control system. Nevertheless, this mode offers a lot of fun for beginners and intermediate players. The PRO mode is rather aimed at those who have already had contact with racing games that are or aspire to be simulated. This mode requires a steering wheel to play - yes, we can try our hand at using a pad (the keyboard is completely unsuitable), but the effect is not very good and we will not achieve satisfactory results in any race. In addition, in PRO mode, mastering the car requires much more practice - here it is not enough to sit behind the wheel and press the gas. Doing so only guarantees that we will land off the track in the first corner.

After spending many hours with the TRD2 (both playing in the semi-PRO and PRO mode), I got the impression that the behavior of individual cars was fairly well reflected, even though I was neither sitting behind the wheel of a sporty Audi TT-R nor in the driver's seat of a 1,300 hp Ford from the 9000 series. First of all, the weight of individual vehicles, the type of suspension or the type of tires are well reflected. While the car taking part in the DTM competition sticks to the ground like a sucker, is perfectly balanced (neither understeer nor oversteer) and can be stopped almost in place, the civilian Jaguar XKR, which is a luxury roadster rather than a sports car, can at most boast a nice a sounding engine noise, because despite its high power, it is difficult to race. It (power) is not simply properly transferred to the rear axle, which means that too unwise use of the accelerator will end up in contact with the nearest bank or lawn. In addition, there is a too soft suspension, which only hinders all the fun. However, do not take it as a disadvantage of the game, because when driving a comfortable Jaguar, our opponents will be Aston Martins or AC Cobra, i.e. cars with similar specifications and driving characteristics, and the whole fun resembles street racing. Unfortunately, this kind of selection of opponents is on the one hand an advantage and on the other hand a disadvantage, because the game does not allow you to race, for example, Mitsubishi Lancer EVO VII against Land Rover. The reason for this is the algorithms responsible for artificial intelligence, which have been prepared in such a way that we can only race in a certain group of cars (e.g. Aston Martin DB5, Ford Mustang 1968, Jaguar E-type) and only on some tracks (e.g. A1 Ring, Nurburgring, Brands Hatch).

When describing the physical model of the game, it is impossible not to mention the destruction system that has been implemented in the game. This topic was already loud at the time when the first part of the Race Driver was to hit the stores, because Codemasters boasted about this system very intensively. In fact, in the demo of the first part, it was used and showed its capabilities, but the full version contained a truncated version of it, because the system (called FEM) consumed too much computing power, which made the game, even on powerful machines, jumpy. Before the release of TRD2, Codemasters was much more cautious about the collision and damage system that will be in the game. Yes, it was supposed to be brilliant and "as we have not seen it yet", but no technical details about it emerged. After many hours of playing TRD2, I have to admit that the system is actually very good, but it is a bit lacking. The cars in the game damage nicely, the headlights and windows break (the broken glass effect is especially good), the doors and wheels break, the car body crumples and the tires fall off the wheels. To this should be added difficulties in driving a car after encountering an obstacle: failure of the gearbox, suspension, etc. The only important element of the entire system, which is not exactly as it should be, is the lack of damage to the entire structure of the car - yes, we can upholster it solidly, break the door or lose tires, but we will never be able to make a piece of bent steel out of it - unmatched a model from many years ago is the game Viper Racing, where such a possibility existed, well! the car was prone to damage and deformation just like the real thing.

TRD2 graphics is absolutely # 1 in PC driving games. Beautifully made models with attention to the smallest details, perfectly selected textures - all this using the latest effects offered by modern graphics cards (possibilities offered by Pixel and Vertex Shader units), such as: environmental mapping, light reflections, bump mapping etc. I must admit that TRD2 offers one of the best visuals I have ever seen. The quality of the graphics is so high that some of the photos from the game may be perceived by players as so-called "Renders" or graphic materials prepared for advertising purposes. I admit that writing about graphics is in my opinion a bit pointless, because it can be best judged by the available demos, which I encourage you to do.

It is a bit worse with the sound and noises made by cars. These represent a pretty good level for racing games, but tend to be a bit muffled. Some cars sound like a kitchen blender at all, but that's partly because they have one drive and no other. Perhaps the assessment of the sound on my part is too harsh, but compared to what offers, for example, the production of the SimBin company called GTR, TOCA Race Driver 2 is simply much weaker.

TRD2 offers several game modes, thanks to which most virtual drivers will find something for themselves. As in the first part, the career mode was used enriched with "rendered" movies, thanks to which the plot woven between races is more tangible. However, there is nothing to cheat - the plot is added a bit by force and in fact does not contribute anything to the races themselves, apart from the possibility of choosing (from time to time) the race in which we want to start. It is a pity that the creators were not tempted to introduce the possibility of buying cars, spare parts, etc. - in a word, to implement the economic aspect, thanks to which the game would gain a lot.

In addition to the aforementioned career mode, the player can use a number of options known from other games: single race, time trial and multi mode. It is the multiplayer mode that is one of the most interesting features of TRD2. It offers the possibility of racing up to 32 people at once in both "simulation" and "PRO-simulation" modes. In this mode, there are also limitations known from single player gameplay, i.e. we can race only in one closed group of cars (Mercedes-Benz CLK-DTM, Audi TT-R, Opel Astra V8 Coupe) on specific tracks (EuroSpeedway, A1-Ring GP, Hockenheimring, Zandvoort, Norisring, Nurburgring Sprint, Donington Park). These limitations, however, do not affect the experience of competing with a live opponent in any way - each race is accompanied by great emotions, which I checked the hard way by spending many hours racing with other players.

Summing up the above text and my many days of experience from playing TRD2, it must be clearly stated that TOCA Race Driver 2 is currently the best race for a huge number of players, both beginners and advanced, characterized by a good physical model, excellent graphics and huge the stake of available vehicles - from vintage classics, through super sports cars, and ending with tractor units. It is a game for everyone who is even slightly interested in this genre of games and likes to spend a lot of time on good, uninhibited fun.