ToCA's development has been closely followed for what seems like an eternity now, and there's been plenty of talk about the storyline style gameplay which the game revolves around, and elevates the game to more than just a standard racer.
As the game starts you get to see a massive crash, which was the cause of Ryan McKanes father's death - next you see Ryan's brother Donnie in the pit lane speaking with a team manager, who is looking for a new driver, and Ryan is suggested for the role.
Codemasters have clearly put a lot of effort in to the presentation, and it's been really well thought out, from the ambient and environmental use of well known music such as Ash, Morcheeba and Thin Lizzy in offices and pit garages, to the fact that items such as computer monitors, filling cabinets and wallcharts are used to represent options that you can select - much better than just a button on an option screen.
Visually ToCA Race Driver is impressive - it's got a soft tone to the colours, and looks fairly arcade like whilst remaining realistic. Cut scenes however appear to have the odd glitch in them where objects appear to flicker slightly, and the start grid women that walk past your car all look like identical twin sisters!
There does seem to be a fair amount of pop-up when viewed from the external cameras, and the draw distance doesn't seem all that great in some places. Replays look very life-like, although there are times when it'd be nice if the camera was a bit more zoomed out, and possibly more "TV camera" in style, instead of following along like a very close up mid-air floating cam.
Control of your chosen car seems fairly good, but the braking and balance seems a bit unstable, especially at first. Once you get used to the braking in to corners, and accelerating out, you should find that keeping to the track is actually fairly easy, at least, it's easier than the previous ToCA titles where we spent most of the time in the gravel traps.
It wasn't long before we were in the point scoring positions, and by the end of the first season we'd had some podium finishes, with even an illusive first place managed by about the fourth race. After each set of races you find yourself back in the office at your computer, where Ryan gets job offers by email, and you have to pick what team you want to drive for in the applicable seasons.
There seems to be a total lack of any Marshals and flags, in fact there's not even a chequered flag waved on the finish line. There also doesn't appear to be a safety car, which is probably a good thing seeing how short the races are, but it'd add quite a bit to the game if you had a bunching up of the pack
Races are much shorter than real touring car races, with races being as short as three laps on many of the races, which despite not being very realistic, does keep the pace of the game going, and prevent utter boredom from seemingly endless races. Indeed the boredom factor is removed yet further with no qualifying session, so you've not got to battle it out with a fast time just to get placed high up the grid as your start position is randomly generated.
The addition of the storyline does make the game feel very different to previous ToCA titles, although at no point do you really feel as though you actually matter to the outcome of what's happening, and never do you feel as though you're letting down your team by coming in last, or finishing a race with a mangled wreck - surely the team manager would be on at you saying that you're jeopardising the teams chances...?
Despite this lack of really feeling as though you are central to the storyline, you do get to meet quite a few characters including Ryans girlfriend Melanie, and it does keep a good amount of pace and interest in the game, especially when you've rammed a rival driver out of the race, and he comes to have a few heated words with you afterwards - we weren't quite expecting that in ToCA!
A very impressive addition to the ToCA series, and the storyline does add to the playability, but it all feels a bit of a tacked on feature instead of actually shaping the way things happen. It's also a shame that there's not a bit more realism, such as Marshals removing debris, and yellow flags on approaches to crashes.Overall score: 7 out of 10
Recommended Price: £39.99
Available: NowBuy ToCA Race Driver for the PS2 from Amazon