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TOCA Race Driver 2 PlayStation 2

Published by Codemasters
Developed by Codemasters
Release Date: Out Now
Price : £39.99

Earlier this year we looked at the Xbox and PC version of TOCA Race Driver 2 and very impressive they were too. Now, finally, the game has arrived on PlayStation 2 and thankfully we have the opportunity to see how it shapes up. I suspect most people would expect the PlayStation 2 version of the game to be significantly weaker than both the Xbox and PC versions of the game but that's not the way it's turned out and Codemasters have done a great job in utilising the PlayStation 2's resources as fully as possible which will be great news for those who've waited so long for the game.

If you played TOCA Race Driver you'll recall that the heart of the game was the story based career mode that centred around the rather arrogant and very irritating 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 33 championships which is 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 Aston Martin Vanquish to the AMG-Mercedes CLK.

Variety is the key word with Race Driver 2. Formula Ford, Grand Prix, Stock Car, Ice racing, DTM, Rallycross and Super Truck Racing are all here and all are great fun. 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 and this allows for high speed laps. It's not just the vehicles which 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 AI actually seems quite good but I found the races to be slightly easier in this version than on the Xbox or PC. What you really have to consider though is that your car can and will take damage if you drive aggressively. That said though there are times when it pays to drive aggressively and a fair few positions can be gained by cutting corners here and there and hitting opponents side-on. 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 usually are to finish first or second or to acquire a certain amount of prize money or to place within so 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 which 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 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, system link 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.

The main multiplayer mode though has to be the network races which allow you to race online. Races can have up to 8 players, four less than Xbox Live. Finding someone to race against though can be much more difficult than on Xbox Live (this has been the case with a lot of multiplatform titles that have online functionality). The way the online game works is that you begin with a rating of 1,500 and this score will either reduce or increase depending on you performances. The the race itself, when you can arrange one, runs smoothly with only a small amount of lag from time to time. On the whole the online races are OK but I suspect most PlayStation 2 gamers will prefer to race against their friends in their own home rather than online (at least that would explain the small amount of people who participate online).

Naturally you'd expect Codemasters to have included a few extras for the PlayStation 2 version as it's being released much later than the other versions of the game and there are a few differences. This version includes the Catalunya circuit which is a welcome addition. A new pro-sim mode has been included for a more realistic experience. The Championship structure has also been altered enabling 99 additional track and car combinations. You'll also be able to save your replays and show them off to your friends. These extras are certainly nice touches but if you already own another version of TOCA Race Driver 2 they are not significant enough to warrant buying the game again.

Graphically you would expect TOCA Race Driver 2 to be inferior on the PlayStation 2 when compared with the Xbox and PC versions and whilst this is the case it's only slightly poorer and Codemasters have done an excellent job in making the game look virtually the same. Not once does the frame rate dip and it remains impressively smooth throughout. The circuits all look good and the car models are impressive. The races can be in a variety of weather conditions too which is good to see. The damage modeling is not as impressive on the PlayStation 2 but it's certainly not bad. You'll also notice the impressive environmental reflections on your vehicle whilst driving which is great to see. With the realisation that Gran Turismo 4 won't be here in Europe until early next year it's great to have TOCA Race Driver 2 looking and performing so well.

Race Driver 2, unfortunately, is no more deaf gamer friendly than TOCA Race Driver 2 on PC and Xbox. The numerous cutscenes that tie the stages of the career mode together are not subtitled. This is unfortunate (especially at the third time of asking for the game) 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 some are rather stupid. I really hate it when you're third and you get a message, which is stupidly obvious, telling you that if you overtake the two in front you'll be first. These issues aside though there isn't any other problems for deaf gamers.

There is little we can say about TOCA Race Driver 2 on the PlayStation 2 except to repeat what we said in the introduction. Codemasters have done a great job with bringing the game to the console. There's no sign of a sloppy port here. The fact that the game looks virtually as good as it does on Xbox and PC is a major achievement. The few extra features may not be essential but they are still welcome and don't harm the game in any way. Online play isn't quite up to the standard of the other versions but the lack of participation from other gamers is the main cause of this (as well as the PlayStation 2 online service being nowhere near as polished as Xbox Live or PC online gaming) It's disappointing the subtitles were not added to the cutscenes but it's still possible to enjoy the game, which is good news as it's a great driving game.

Overall Game Rating: 8.8/10
TOCA Race Driver 2 arrives on the PlayStation 2 in style. Codemasters have done a great job in making the game practically identical on a, technologically, weaker format.

Deaf Gamers comment:
Disappointingly subtitles are still missing from the game.