At a glance...

Reviewer Platform Publisher Developer Players Screenshots
Matt Bailey PlayStation 2 Codemasters Codemasters 1-8 (LAN, Online) Here
Requirements Also on... Buy from Amazon.co.uk
Memory Card: 209KB Xbox, PC, PSP Click here to buy TOCA Race Driver 3.

TOCA Race Driver 3 review

The TOCA series has come a long way since it began back on the original PlayStation and the PC - a game that set out simply to give us a taste of the action in the official British Tour Car Championship (managed by those guys at TOCA). It has since evolved, first into a game encompassing touring car racing across the world, and now into a beacon for nearly all forms of four-wheeled motorsport (though oddly removing that BTCC element, despite the title).

TOCA Race Driver 3 follows on from, well, TOCA Race Driver 2 - but more so than how that game followed the original. Where the last game toned down the heavy story focus and refined the game after the shaky first release, this one instead does everything bigger, bolder and better, but without doing anything completely different. In fact, there aren't really any notable new features that you would use to describe what makes up this edition, instead you rely on the raw statistics to tell you why this release is significant. The game now encompasses over 120 championships, with motorsports varying from DTM (German touring cars), to rallying, to trucks. There's even some Formula One action thanks to BMW Williams (it's the 2005 season, unfortunately), though Sony sadly have the grasp on the full official licence, preventing a proper championship there. The sheer scale of this range is impressive, not least when you consider the selection of different vehicles which makes up each event. Of course, this also gives cause to a very impressive selection of tracks, with over 80 included, most of which are officially licensed (as are most of the sports themselves), and fully recreated.

However, while these stats might be impressive, they don't convey the most important factors about the game - that is, despite the large range of disciplines, it offers a racing experience more realistic and more enjoyable than nearly all the other titles in the genre. The fact that Codemasters can put in motorsports which can vary quite heavily, and still pull off something that most developers would love to get near is something they should be credited for. However, it comes as no surprise, as they also managed to achieve this feat in the previous game, and have basically succeeded in not letting us down, despite expanding their horizons.

As stated above, the story element remains, but it is also rather toned down now. The World Tour mode uses cut-scenes, often featuring your Scottish mentor Rick, to provide occasional tips along your way through a whole variety of motoracing championships. You progress, tier by tier, each time given a selection of two or three different motorsports, allowing you to both focus on what you like, and experience a whole variety of vehicle types. The championships are often short, with few laps, allowing you to progress quickly. Don't be fooled by this - there are 32 tiers to progress through, so it will take some time to fully complete. This approach keeps you hooked on the action, and provides arcade-style thrills to what is essentially a simulation game.

If you're looking for a more hardcore approach then the Pro Career mode is for you. This allows for you to choose from a selection of eight different types of motorsport, from touring cars to open wheel to off-road, and lets you compete in a range of championships, progressing from the basics right up to the high-level racing that's televised worldwide. The championships themselves take a more realistic approach here, featuring a great range of courses, and a much heavier emphasis on learning the tracks through practice and qualifying, as well as actually having to abide by the rules. There are also more options, with the ability to actually choose your car within a championship, as well as setting up things like the number of laps for each race. It's an impressive selection of races, that's bound to appeal to all fans, and keep the game in consoles for months.

As if that wasn't enough there are a whole host of "simulation" modes, from setting up your own championships within each motorsport, time trials, split-screen play for two players, and even network and online play. Online gaming on the PS2 has remained fairly limited, but was given a boost later in the console's life with an inclusion of an Ethernet port on the slimline models. What's quite interesting here is that over a year since the game launched, on a platform not known for major online gaming outside of the SOCOM series, there are still a whole raft of games going on. In fact, even playing late at night you can still find people playing. This gives the online mode continued appeal, and is bolstered by a comprehensive range of options that allows you to set up your own championships or a collection of individual races. The only downside is not being able to tell if a game is in progress or not before entering (an issue currently plaguing the PS3's Motorstorm), but aside from that it's a competent, mostly lag-free endeavour which will extend the life of an already bulging game.

Graphics are the only thing I haven't covered here, and it's getting more difficult to judge now that we've moved on to a new generation full of bloom effects, heavy amounts of textures, and of course, HD visuals. However, TOCA Race Driver 3 still does remarkably well on the PS2, and there have been few games to pass it in terms of visual quality since release. Sure, the crowd may be cardboard cut-outs, but the cars and the tracks - the most important things - contain more detail than you thought the machine was capable of. The series' trademark damage engine is fully in place here, and its effect runs through before the cars' handling, and in the way vehicles manage to lose whole chunks, as well as lights, front wings, and even whole wheels. You only have to see the videos of me playing the game in our preview to see how that can happen...

On a separate note the game is fully PlayStation 3-compatible, including online play. Also, with no decent simulation game on that platform, it's still worth picking up for your new console, especially as the PS3 will now upscale the game for your HDTV.

Ratings

Graphics It looks rather good for a PS2 title, with plenty of detail in the cars, in particular. The surrounding could have been better, but overall you can see they tried their best with the limited hardware. 8/10
Gameplay Enjoyable, addictive, and appealing to a wide range of people. It'll have motorsport fans hooked easily, and is appealing to anybody who likes racing, but not many people beyond this. The most impressive thing, however, is how the game manages to include such a wide range of motorsport disciplines and yet make pretty much of all them great to handle, and challenging where necessary. 9/10
Value All of that above, now available at a Platinum price. That's quite a bargain. 10/10
Lifespan Over 120 Championships, 80 tracks, and a mountain of cars add up to a game that keeps fresh for months. Added to this is an online mode that, even on the PS2 after a year, is still active, and enjoyable, and you've got a game that just keeps going. 10/10
Audio Music is quite good, if overly repeated in menus, but it's deliberately fairly limited in-game; the realism means there is instead focus on the engine noises which have been done fairly well, particularly across all the motorsports. 8/10
Overall TOCA Racer Driver 3 is not only an impressive showcase of motorsport, but an impressive showcase of the abilities of Codemasters to deliver a all-round very good driving game, despite including almost every bit of four-wheeled action under the sun. It's a package that anyone who likes racing games should be pick up instantly. 9/10

Click here to buy TOCA Race Driver 3 from Amazon.co.uk.

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