Having spent two weeks playing TOCA 2, I simply cannot decide whether I love it for what it is, or hate it for what it is not.
On the plus side, TOCA 2 is practically an interactive encyclopedia of racing series. Included in the title are such diverse types of racing as street cars, stock cars, rally cars, open-wheel cars, and everything in between, up to and including multi-ton tractor trucks (thankfully sans trailers). Each of the different types handles differently and requires a bit of practice to master. Enormous attention to detail from the graphics team is evident in the realistic renderings of each model within a type.
The excellent graphics, attention to detail, and encyclopedic variety are also apparent in the fifty different race tracks. World famous tracks like Laguna Seca, Brands Hatch, Silverstone, and Hockenheim are all included.
All of this is, of course, the eye candy expected in a modern racing sim. As is always the case, however, the real fun comes from the racing itself. I usually shy away from console racing titles since they typically cannot provide the highly realistic driving and physics models I prefer. This limitation mostly comes down to controllers – high degrees of driving realism require highly accurate force feedback steering wheels to provide adequate feedback and control. The vast majority of consoles are equipped with the controllers that came with them, and these are just not well equipped for providing the control required for precise driving.
There are times, though, when I just want to turn on the box and race without having to worry about graphics settings, wheel calibrations, and all of the other complexities that come with a PC-based sim. For times like this, TOCA 2 delivers pretty well. The cars are not only easily controllable, but just touchy enough to require at least some level of driving skill. The AI drivers are tenacious in pursuit, aggressive in passing, and don’t commit the cardinal sin of slowing down to wait for you once they manage to get past you.
The career mode provides an entertaining introduction to all of the disparate racing types available. The story is typical to these types of games: you start with nothing but desire and talent. Throughout your career you are rewarded for achieving goals by being given chances to race in stronger and tougher series. After each successful completion there is an animated cut scene involving your team manager, your agent, and other hangers-on. These scenes are entertaining, particularly those involving your Scottish team manager who sounds eerily similar to Shrek. The career mode moves pretty quickly since most of the races are only a few laps long. As you successfully complete each series, the cars and tracks involved are unlocked in free race mode. Once unlocked, free race lets you configure for more advanced races including more laps, car setups, and qualifying rounds.
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