Racing games have been numerous for Sony's European PSP launch, and heading the grid has been Codemasters technically impressive Toca Race Driver 2 - can it live up to the Xbox and PS2 reputation that it's already gained?
First thing that you notice about the PlayStation Portable version of Toca Race Driver 2 if you've ever played it on the Xbox or PlayStation 2 is that it's identical - be it the menus and loading screens, video cutscenes with your team manager giving you a talk in the trailer, or the sound of your car as it splutters to the finish line after a demanding race, everything plays just as well as the full-size console versions, and each aspect of the game appears to be identical.
The only slight difference comes in the form of the visuals, which whilst looking exactly the same, don't look quite the same - there slightly grainy speckled effect with different colour shades looking almost like newspaper print, which doesn't distract from the beauty of the game but does seem to be a trade-off for the small screen compared with the shininess and gloss of the fullsized console versions.
Loading times are slightly longer than some PSP games - although nowhere as bad as Midnight Club 3 - but no worse than you had on either the Xbox or PlayStation 2. Thankfully race restarts are instant, which is good news if your first corner results in a car-bustingly bad prang which has seen you shunted off in to the barriers loosing bodywork and wheels.
Because Toca doesn't simply let you go full-throttle on the accelerator, the driving style is a bit different from other racing games, and this is a slight downside to the PSP version because pressing the X button to accelerate doesn't give you half as much control over throttle as the analogue triggers such as those found on the Xbox, and you'll find yourself doing some quick taps of the button to try and get away from the start line without over-revving the engine.
Unfortunately it's a bit of a slog working your way through the various championships with no way to unlock further championships and cars for use in even non-championship mode, without gaining enough points in individual championship races - it worked ok on Xbox and PS2 but was a bit of a chore, which becomes more obvious on the PSP.
Ideally some form of random race mode would have proven a good addition for the PSP version, giving you a randomised championship mode along with a track and car from that type of racing, meaning you could get in to the fun of DTM, Truck Racing and other championships which are only usually available after hours of driving.
Toca Race Driver 2 is an excellent recreation of the Xbox and PS2 version with everything bar the online play (although there is multiplayer wireless support) present and correct, and there's no doubt that you've got weeks worth of gameplay available to you if you're prepared to race your way through the entire championship and onwards to the more desirable race types.
Ultimately though Toca Race Driver 2 doesn't feel quite as well suited to the short on-the-move bursts of gaming as Codemasters' other PSP launch title Colin McRae Rally 2005, but it's still a massively impressive launch title which really pushes the capabilities of the PSP without straining the machine too much and overdoing it.Overall score: 8 out of 10
Recommended Price: £34.99
Available: September 1st 2005Buy Toca Race Driver 2 for the PlayStation Portable from Amazon