At a glance...

Previewer Platform Publisher Developer Players Release Date Screenshots
Matt Bailey Xbox Codemasters Codemasters 1-12 (System Link, Xbox Live), 1-2 (Split-screen) February 2006 Here

GME: TOCA Race Driver 3 preview

This preview is based solely on the early build available at Games Market Europe.

It may not seem long since the previous TOCA title, but that's a bit of an illusion. TOCA Race Driver 2 originally came out on PC and Xbox back in April of last year. Last October's release on the PS2 and last week's release on the PSP means the game is probably more fresh on the mind. TOCA Race Driver 3 is still a few months away from launch, but playable code was shown for the first time at Games Market Europe. We got to play both the PlayStation 2 and Xbox versions, but we've decided to tell you about the latter edition.

There were a range of modes available in the code, though the BMW Formula 1 option was not present (the closest Xbox owners will get to F1 without buying a Sony machine). We got to test out touring cars, off-roaders, and 1920s racers. As in previous games, each mode was distinctly different from the others, and the new modes already appear to be working to the same high standard we've come to expect from the series. Off-road racing (which interestingly was across grass and tarmac at Brands Hatch in the code) has been significantly improved since Race Driver 2 - a response by the developers to some of the negative comments that were levelled at it.

In fact, Brands Hatch seemed to the main offering in the code, so we can't tell you about the variations of courses on offers. The lack of choice could have been because the new Pro Career mode was not being played. Long term career modes, however, don't suit trade shows, so we also aren't able to comment on this either.

Graphics seemed to have been sharpened up slightly, but there's no significant difference that was noticeable in the brief time we played the game. This was probably the key problem with Race Driver 3; while the game remains a very solid offering, and highly enjoyable (even if I can't seem to get the hang of the 1920s cars), ultimately it remains to be seen how much it can differentiate itself from its predecessor.

Still, the series' car damaging was on show - with one Codemasters representative showing how it's possible to completely take your car out of action through the art of driving the wrong way. The game's reworked engine plays a major part in this, with tyre burnouts among the destruction promised. This is something we hope to see better over a longer period of play than the few minutes at GME.

The game still has a few months to go, but it will be facing a big test upon its release, as it goes up against the likes of next-gen titles Project Gotham Racing 3 and Test Drive Unlimited. We hope Codemasters make this generation's last TOCA title the best yet.

Three videos of Matt and Dave playing TOCA Race Driver 3 at Games Market Europe are available (all require XviD codec). You will have to save each of the following to disk before playing: Off-Road, 1920s and IndyCar.

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