Stacking up against games such as NASCAR Rumble or even Need for Speed III: Hot Pursuit, Touring Car Challenge: TOCA 2 has the potential to finish in third, but unfortunately it misses by a mile due to one lousy criteria that can brake any game, racing or not: bad controls. And its features are reminiscent of Destruction Derby 2 and Daytona USA -- a pit stop away from the in-depth details of even PlayStation titles (like Gran Turismo). However, Codemasters does a good job of creating some realistic effects, sound and gameplay. But those elements lessen the realism by frustrating players as they spin out of control.
The Beatles would be proud of this British home invasion into the hands of American racecar enthusiasts. But would American racecar fans reciprocate the enthusiasm? Not quite. For one thing, the features are sort of on the average side. You've got plenty to do like driving for eight official teams with 16 somewhat customizable cars on 18 tracks, but what's the deal with forced pit stops, especially before the last lap? And sure, seven modes and so-called separate difficulty levels can ensure a repeat of gameplay, but after witnessing how hard it is even on the easiest of levels, one might consider giving up on network play even!
The benefit of the doubt has to be given, however. Graphically, Touring Car Challenge: TOCA 2 rivals many of the finer examples of racing games aforementioned. Truth be known, this game is quite a challenge already, but it also shells out some much-needed special effects and car physics lacking in other games of its time and genre. From weather effects like rain, storms and fog to smashing glass, smoke and realistic vehicular damage, it definitely fills in areas that have been sorely missing (although Demolition Derby comes close). Though there is a bit of poor rendering in the backgrounds, all of the cool effects like light reflection on the slippery cement, the splashing of rain on the ground (scattered by cars' tires), the cars flipping upside down, and the lightning effects make for better realism. Even the drivers inside the cars move!
Having the rearview mirror helps as well as the digital gauge, but some of the camera angles can be awkward. One of them even shows your driver off to the side, as if somehow the wheel magically relocates! But a nice view from a bird's eye is something that is unique for a game like this. The frame rate of the animation is smooth and quick, even with a ton of cars onscreen. Too bad there isn't much movement from the audience watching you; just as well, nothing moves in the background at all.
Adding to the realism is the sound effects. While not entirely spectacular, some of the subtleties are astounding. For example, the lightning is really loud but distant and each car's engine sound (although similar to other cars) has a feeling of location as you pan between views. Inside the driver's seat produces the closest and most realistic sound of course, particularly when you go over grass; it has a really compelling metallic-bouncing ambience! Plus, the voiceovers are done well from the announcer and your radio guy. The music on the other hand is decent but nothing to write home about.
Touring Car Challenge: TOCA 2 displays some interesting features, but there aren't that many if you think about it. Besides that, from the existing features there isn't much room for customizing. When you are only guaranteed to change the color of the car among a few other details, it sure can't touch what Gran Turismo can do! Gameplay-wise it's really fast-paced and the pit stop is presented realistically, but it doesn't seem like fixing your tires is of much help if you can't fix your car's body too. And racing down the tracks, although it gives a bit of a rush, is stifled by objects that get in the way as well as tiny collisions that cause your car to flip over or spin out -- all the time.
Which is what leads to the poorest of executions in the history of race games. This game has about the worst controls ever. Little sudden movements -- no matter how sensitive you set your mouse, keyboard or joystick controls -- will make your car toss and turn and fly all about, crashing right into walls and turning around 360 degrees! It is this horrible programming glitch (if you can call it that) that ruins the rest of the game, which would have been a supreme racecar fan's fantasy.
So on with NASCAR Rumble, on with Need for Speed III... Touring Car Challenge: TOCA 2 sets a bad example of what can go wrong when a developer hasn't tested out what can be construed as the number-one frustration of all gamers: bad controls! But if you can get beyond that and get yourself a wheel, it might be slightly easier to pull off, but don't take my word for it.
Graphics: From visual weather effects and reflections to smashed glass and splashing water, you name it -- this game's got it! The cars look really good too, and everything is fast and furious. However, some of the angles as well as the backgrounds could use a bit of enhancing.
Sound: You have to hear the sounds from inside the car because it's simply unbelievable, especially on the grass. Voiceovers are done well and the music is decent too.
Enjoyment: Unfortunately what we have here is a game that's ruined by some of the poorest of poor controls; enough said!
Replay Value: If you think you can muster beyond the horrible control "glitch," then perhaps trying to win the tournament and other modes might make it a feasible idea to keep this game around.
People who downloaded TOCA 2 Touring Cars (a.k.a. Touring Car Challenge) have also downloaded:
TOCA Touring Car Championship, TOCA Race Driver 3, TOCA Race Driver 2, TOCA Race Driver (a.k.a. Pro Race Driver), Grand Prix 4, V-Rally Edition 99, Sega Rally Championship, IndyCar Racing II
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