TOCA Race Driver 2: The Ultimate Racing Simulator PS2 Review

TOCA Race Driver 2 was first released on the Xbox and was applauded for its wide range of vehicular racing. Console Obsession for one loved the diversity of each drive and during the story mode we didn’t fear the unexpected but rather revelled in each and every new race. A PS2 port was inevitable, as if Codemasters’ could allow the Gran Turismo series to continue to dominate the simulation side of PS2 gaming.

TOCA Race Driver introduced plot devices to the racing genre to great success, despite this it didn’t really add much to the game, partly because the racing itself was so dramatic. The plot still remains but Ryan McKane is now nowhere to be seen and instead is replaced by a first person view that gives you a more personal perspective of your surroundings and of any character you are supposed to be conversing with (now totally done with FMV), obviously you are the real star wearing the racing leathers and helmet this time around. The drama off the track is passable enough but the real drama is to be found in the many different racing events you are able to participate in.

TOCA Race Driver 2 has so much to boast in the wide amount of variation it has to offer. Namco’s R: Racing attempted to collectively bring together assorted racing events, but failed on many accounts, where Namco went wrong Codemasters’ have come up trumps. A wide array of motors that can be raced over a mind-blowing number of tracks does nicely live up to the “Ultimate Racing Simulator” of the title. This PS2 version even comes with a brand new and exclusive track. Spain’s Catalunya does seem a little bland in comparison to many of the others though, which include the hilly Bathurst and the famous Laguna Seca raceway amongst others. Still we’re not complaining, as Catalunya is a nice change after racing on all the other tracks so many times on the Xbox version.

The cars may not be in the hundreds but the differing attributes of each one present a huge amount of variation. TOCA Race Driver 2 is fantastic value for money with its diverse pool of cars, there’s DTM vehicles, Rally cars, classy convertibles, vintage motors, hulking Super Trucks and more. The majority of the vehicles have their own distinctive feel when out on the track, for example the Super Trucks are rather awkward, refusing to turn round corners if you treat them like they’re lightweight vehicles, whilst others such as the GT Lights give you more feeling that you’re fully in control. The rallying is nice enough but is one of the games major disappointments especially if it’s compared to Codemasters’ own sublime Colin McRae Rally series.

This reviewer is admittedly more into pick-up-and-play arcade style racers rather then the heavy hardcore titles. It’s true that TOCA Race Driver 2 requires a lot of patience to draw the most out of it whereas arcade racers are more intuitive. TOCA Race Driver 2 has a quality we could not argue with, this kept us playing and we’ll still be racing long after this review starts sitting in our archives, therein the game definitely must be doing something right for us.

Patience does eventually pay with extra cars and tracks coming available, resulting from success in the extensive career mode. There are 31 massively different championships, which means you must get to grips with a wide load of diverse vehicles whilst racing against a rather clever bunch of non-robotic AI racers in order to progress. On occasion you are even able to choose your championship, this doesn’t alter the plot in any way and parameters do remain the same but it’s still a very welcome addition. When individual championships are completed they become available for use in the free race, 2-player split screen and System Link multi-player and online modes.

If System Link is an inconvenience for you and your buddies or a two-player mode just isn’t quite enough then those with a PS2 online account will reap the benefits and Codemasters’ had to tell the world that it’s the “only” online racing simulator after GT4’s online options were surprisingly dropped. Online the game can be played with up to 8-players in any series (granted you’re not hosting a game you can even play any series you are yet to unlock) on track simultaneously, although depending on your connection you may be recommended to lose a few for best results if you are hosting a game. We have seen occasions of lagging, but when it’s running smoothly it is a very enjoyable title online. The Super Trucks are still underused online much to our dismay though.

Graphically the game is gorgeous and the port from PS2 to Xbox is surprisingly very faithful with highly polished vehicles that each possess a showroom like shine, then there’s the draw-distance that quite literally stretches into the horizon and a very smooth frame rate that doesn’t even stutter when there is a mass field of cars on-screen. The new Terminal Damage Engine more a less means that a crash can almost crumple a car into nothingness (the particle effects aren’t as good on PS2), or at least a bit misshapen and in need of a sledgehammer to straighten things back out again. It not only looks cosmetically superb but also can squander your chances of finishing a race as key vehicle components become damaged.

The Ultimate Racing Simulator title is very apt as TOCA Race Driver 2 certainly is that. There is much value to be found for your hard earned cash and completion doesn’t even mean mastering the game, as those are two totally different things. If your patience doesn’t amount to much then the game may not be for you, but for petrol heads or those who just like a little more variation in their racing titles should have no reservations about picking this gorgeous racer up, oh you already have?