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TOCA Race Driver 2 PC DVD-ROM Official Website

Published by Codemasters
Developed by Codemasters
Released - Out Now
Price : £34.99

Only last week we reviewed the Xbox version of TOCA Race Driver 2 and in our opinion it's one of the best driving games you can buy for the Xbox (which is saying a lot given just how many great racing games there are on the console). On the PC it's a different matter entirely. Apart from Grand Prix Legends and the Colin McRae Rally series there isn't too many great titles that spring to mind. The original TOCA Race Driver, whilst it was a good game, was by no means a classic on the PC and it just wasn't as good as the TOCA 2 that preceded it. TOCA Race Driver 2 is completely different and is one of the best racers ever to have graced the PC.

If you played TOCA Race Driver you'll recall that the heart of the game was a story based career mode that centred around the rather unpleasant Ryan McKane. This time around the game still has a story based career mode at it's heart but you simply play as yourself which is much, much better. The career mode is where you'll unlock everything such as tracks, vehicles and competitions. Believe me there is a lot to unlock. The game includes 31 championships comprised of 15 different motorsports. There are 31 different race locations with 52 tracks (some being shortened or lengthened versions) and there are 35 different vehicles for you to drive ranging from the Subaru Impreza to the Jaguar XJ220.

Variety is the key word with Race Driver 2 and never has a PC driving game offered so much of it. Formula Ford, Grand Prix, Stock Car, Ice racing, DTM, Rallycross and Super Truck Racing are all here and all are great fun. We commented in our review of the Xbox version that the Rally driving felt wrong and that it felt like you were floating. However, the rally driving in the PC version isn't as bad but it's still not as good as in the PC version of Colin McRae Rally 04. Everything else definitely feels right though and whether you are using the keyboard, gamepad or even a steering wheel, the handling is excellent. The Super Truck Racing feels very heavy and it's a real effort just keeping on the Racing line whilst the Formula Ford cars seem to stick to the track, which allows for high speed laps. It's not just the vehicles that have bags of variety though and the many tracks, off road, road and circuit races, really add to the quality feel of the game. Brands Hatch, Laguna Seca and Pikes Peak are just three of the many official circuits that you'll find in the game and they all look great.

The PC version of Race Driver 2 also has a Pro Simulation handling model that you can switch to if you want and it allows for more realistic handling. Be warned though this handling mode is far more difficult and the slightest driving error could put you out of the race. It's an option for the serious PC racing enthusiast and not only is a steering wheel highly recommended for Pro Simulation handling (it's just impossible with the keyboard or gamepad), but you'll also have to put in many hours practice in order to feel comfortable with it.

The AI actually seems quite good and can put up a strong fight. What you really have to consider is that your car can and will take damage if you drive aggressively. That's not to say your vehicle can't withstand a knock or two and it's possible to pick up a few places by driving aggressively early in the race. However you have to consider the vehicle that you're driving. You'll be able to take more knocks in the Super Truck Racing than you will in Formula Ford for instance. In one Formula Ford race, I was shunted from the track and into the barricade and one of my front wheels came off, which meant it was the end of the race for me. The level of damage you've taken is shown on your speedometer and it uses icons to show you what parts are damaged.

Anyway back to the career mode. The career mode spans eight seasons. Each season has a number of championships for you to take part in. To move from one championship to another you'll have to complete your objectives. These are usually to finish first or second or to acquire a certain amount of prize money or to place within a certain amount of places of a rival driver. What I really like about the career mode though is that more often than not you can choose from two championships that are usually of a very different nature. This allows you to not only drive in your preferred championships but also, in effect, will encourage you to drive through the career mode a second time choosing the championships that you didn't take the first time. Regardless of which you choose both will be unlocked for the simulator modes (more on that in a moment). What might irk some gamers is that during the career mode you don't have any qualifying or practice sessions. Your grid position appears to vary from race to race. Of course it could be argued that you don't have chance to have a test drive on the circuits and that this will give you a disadvantage. This isn't really the case though because as soon as you complete a championship all the circuits that you'll be racing on (and vehicles you'll be driving) in the next championships become available in the simulator modes, so in effect you can practice the circuits before you race.

When you've finished the career mode then you'll head for the simulator modes. The simulator modes contain free races, time trial, multiplayer, network races and online races. Free races aren't just single one-off races and you can even construct your own 10 round championships. You have a choice of picking the AI difficulty and you have a choice of Normal, Hard or custom (which allows you to alter the difficulty with a percentage slider). Unlike the career mode you can also switch on pit-stops, vehicle setups and qualifying if you want to. Time trial is the usual pursuit of the fastest lap on a circuit of your choice with the added incentive of having to beat your own ghost. Multiplayer is racing for two players only on a split-screen.

Just like the Xbox version of Race Driver 2 you can race online. Using the now standard Gamespy online service getting up and running is no hassle at all. The way it works is that you begin with a rating of 1,500 and this score will either reduce or increase depending on your performances. Should you quit a race you'll have 12 points deducted from your overall score. We commented in our review of the Xbox version that it could become a little laggy in the online races and that opponents would seemingly appear and disappear continuously. There are no such problems with the PC version. In fact racing over a 512k ADSL connection the races were just as smooth as in the single player game. If you simply want to race against a small number of friends then you can add AI opponents if you want, which is a nice touch.

Graphically Race Driver 2 is one of the best racing games on the PC. Every vehicle from the Formula Ford cars to the Super Trucks looks great. The graphical configuration options allow plenty of tweaking so if your system isn't up to running the game at maximum details you should be able to alter the settings to obtain a smooth frame rate. The game can be run in resolutions ranging from 800x600 to a whopping 1600x1200. We ran the game at 1024x768 with a Pentium IV 2.8GHz CPU, Radeon 9800 Pro, 1GB RAM and the game ran very smoothly on almost full detail. Even on lower detail settings though it still looks good. The damage modeling is superb and probably the best ever seen in a PC racing simulation (the screenshots show off this damage modeling).

Race Driver 2, unfortunately, is no more deaf gamer friendly than TOCA Race Driver. The numerous cutscenes that tie the stages of the career mode together are not subtitled. This is unfortunate as they are much better than those in TOCA Race Driver and can actually be quite funny. Also during a race you'll receive messages and these are not subtitled either. Thankfully though this is a blessing as they simply state the obvious and most are a waste of time. These issues aside, there aren't any other problems for deaf gamers. At least with the PC version there is hope that maybe a patch might add subtitles for the career mode cutscenes.

TOCA Race Driver 2 is one heck of an impressive sequel and has to be the most varied racing game of all time. It's been a long time since the PC had a racing game that offered so much variety and put it all together so well. TOCA Race Driver may have been a bit of a mild disappointment when compared to TOCA 2 but TOCA Race Driver 2 more than makes up for it and is a classic in the true sense of the word and quite possibly the best racing game that we'll see this year.

Overall Game Rating: 9.3/10
One of the best racers for a long time. Anyone who has an interest in driving games owes it to themselves to buy TOCA Race Driver 2.

Deaf Gamers comment:
The career mode cutscenes are not subtitled and the messages you receive whilst driving are not subtitled.