ToCA Race Driver 2: The Ultimate Racing Simulator is the follow-up to Codemasters' original Pro Race Driver. Like the first game, this sequel features a series of racing challenges strung together using a reality TV-styled storyline. A total of 31 licensed and fictional race locations offer 52 tracks for more than 15 different racing styles, such as GT sports car racing, Street Racing, Rally, and Rally Cross.
The game's new "Terminal Damage Engine" was developed to accurately reflect various types of damage in both the appearance and performance of the player's car. Damage sustained by cars in the game is based on actual observations made while viewing real-life racing accidents. Each virtual car was developed with thousands of deformation points, allowing for realistic collision consequences that could prove to be educational, if not gut-wrenching. Sound effects were created with similar devotion to detail -- if the player drops a transmission or throws a rod, the sound will be unmistakable.
Race Driver 2's single-player mode features competition against 11 other racers for a shot to be part of the Grand Prix Team. Online multiplayer races support up to 16 players. There are 35 different cars available to race (or destroy), including beauties such as the Astin Martin Vanquish, Jaguar XKR, AMG Mercedes CLK, and Ford GT.
Codemasters bills TOCA Race Driver 2 as the "Ultimate Racing Simulator." If that sounds a little familiar, you may be remembering Gran Turismo, the PlayStation classic that set new standards for racing games as "The Real Driving Simulator." Fortunately, for PC race fans, the similarity in marketing blurbs isn't the only thing these two games have in common. Like the beloved PSX title, TOCA Race Driver 2 doesn't take the "simulator" part too seriously; instead, it strikes a near-perfect balance between painstaking realism and flat-out fun.
And, if this isn't the ultimate racing simulator, it certainly has the widest range. TOCA Race Driver 2 offers an amazing variety of racing types: 15 different kinds of rides, including stock cars, rally cars, formula cars, hot rods -- even pickups and semi trucks. No driver in the real world could ever dream of having a career this diverse, but the game's career mode gives you exactly that, in 31 championships -- real and fictional -- on 48 tracks.
TOCA Race Driver 2's career mode is similar to that of its predecessor, Pro Race Driver. You take the role of a hungry young driver with eight seasons to make your mark, find an agent, and gather sponsors. This time around, the animation and acting is better (and the cutscenes are rendered in first person, so you're not left out in the cold if you find it hard to imagine yourself as a Gen-Xer with a boy-band haircut).
The graphics are generally excellent, with great detail in the cars and tracks, and long viewing distances. Sound is very good, too, from the roar of a sports car to the scream of an open-wheel racer, right down to the hiss of turbochargers and the thunk of the shifter. Of course, the most important factor in any racing game is control, and TOCA Race Driver 2's control is very responsive (and deeply adjustable).
There aren't as many licensed vehicles as you'd find in a Gran Turismo game, but the 35 cars offered are pretty choice: The new Ford GT, a 1968 Mustang, new and old Jaguars and Aston Martins, the ubiquitous Nissan Skyline, and cars from Land Rover, Mitsubishi, Subaru, and others.
There's a lot to love here. The only significant problem you might encounter comes from the sheer variety of race types, which can actually be a little jarring in career mode. As you begin your career, you run just a couple of races in a classic Mustang, then suddenly have to make the switch to a Formula Ford; later, you may go straight from a Nissan Skyline GTR to a choice between a Ford 150 pickup or a Ford 9000 semi truck. It's a testament to the game's depth and detail that the different race styles and vehicle types can put very different demands on your driving skills -- but it also means that just as you're getting used to one type of racing, you'll find yourself having to learn a whole new type.
That potential problem is relieved quite a bit by the game's simulator mode, which lets you set up any race (or series) in any of the race types you've unlocked in career mode. That means you can prepare for the next stage in your career by "simulating" the championship you're about to enter until you're reasonably sure you can finish in the money. And, since you can restart a championship from any point in the series, you can even take a break from your career and work on a single race that's giving you headaches.
And you don't always need to take first in every race. Aside from the jumps between wildly different race types, TOCA Race Driver 2 has a pretty friendly difficulty curve. Early races in career mode are not very tough, and your goals are pretty reasonable: get at least third place in this two-race championship, finish this season with at least $100,000, etc. Between that and simulator mode, it's hard to hit a wall in this game (except the ones on the track, of course).
The "simulator" is also where you access the game's other modes, like multiplayer and time trials. Multiplayer offers split-screen for two players or as many as 12 players via LAN or Internet. It's easy to set up a race and adjust all sorts of parameters (damage on or off, vehicle setups on or off, collision settings, etc.). There's even a rating system that lets you put lower-ranked racers closer to the pole position if you choose. Performance in multiplayer is good, although choosing a smaller number of players seems to make for a smoother experience.
TOCA Race Driver 2 is very much the solid, satisfying racing experience any racing fan could want. The wide array of race types is the tasty icing on this cake, giving the game a lot of replay value even after your racing career is over.
People who downloaded TOCA Race Driver 2 have also downloaded:
TOCA Race Driver (a.k.a. Pro Race Driver), TOCA Race Driver 3, Grand Prix 4, TOCA 2 Touring Cars (a.k.a. Touring Car Challenge), Total Immersion Racing, TOCA Touring Car Championship, Need for Speed Underground 2, Need for Speed: Carbon
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