Previews// TOCA Race Driver 3 (Xbox)

Posted 22 Dec 2005 12:07 by
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Games: TOCA Race Driver 3
Before we take a look at the latest in the instalment of the critically acclaimed TOCA series, we have an admission to make. Whilst always having respected the solid, dependable gameplay the TOCA series has continued to deliver over the years, it's never been something which has set our world alight. Touring Cars just never did it for us. Of course we could appreciate the quality of the games, the ultra-realistic car physics and the precision cornering and driving skills demanded of players. It's just that, given a choice, we?d rather play a rally game such as Codies? superlative Colin McRae series, or maybe crack out a quick ten minute blast on an arcade racer such as Outrun or Ridge Racer.

So it was a bit of a surprise for us to fire up the preview version of TOCA Race Driver 3 and see an immense variety of over 35 different motorsport genres and over 100 championships from which to choose from. If you thought TOCA Race Driver 2 was about as detailed and comprehensive as the series could get then you were much mistaken. For fans of that last game, take that one, double it and add a hundred. And if SPOnG's calculations aren't good enough for you then here, just to convince you, is exactly what you get. TRD2 had 15 types of motorsport, TRD3 has 35, including Oval, historic and open wheel. TRD2 had 35 different cars, 52 international race tracks and 33 championships; TRD3 has 75 real world race cars, 80 international race circuits and 120 championships, featuring this seasons DTM and V8 Championships including Indy Car Series and British GT. The splendid online play of TRD2, where you could race with up to 7 other mates has been improved on TRD3, so you can now race with up to 15 other budding Nigel Mansells. And there's loads more, so read on.

We just cannot figure out how the driving game uber-brain made up of Gavin Raeburn and his team up at Codemasters in Warwickshire have managed to squeeze all of this into one game. TRD3's championships feature in the six main racing categories ? Open-Wheel, GT, Touring Car, Oval, Off-Road/Rally and Classic. This is a clear country mile more in terms of content than any other racing game has ever offered before. With TRD3 its safe to say that the ante has most definitely been upped.

However, whilst variety is indeed the spice of life, we do have an initial concern at the idea of a game which clearly sets out to please fans of all these different driving genres. You cannot please everybody all of the time, as politicians are keen on reminding us when they cock something up. Is TRD3, we whisper to ourselves in our brains, a jack-of-all-trades at the expense of being a master of one? We can?t imagine Codies putting out anything but a first class game, of course, but the underlying fear is that perhaps they might have pushed the team just a little bit too far? Bit off a little bit more than they could chew? This just looks like way too much content to us, and being hardened game hacks we cynically expect some of it to be flawed.

We start off by testing out the World Tour mode, which offers the opportunity to experience the complete range of motorsport disciplines ? from the Autosport Clio Cup, through to Rallying and up to the giddy heights of Formula One, plumping for the Autosport Clio Cup to start off with. The car we?re given is a souped up, Max Power reader?s wet dream. Nought to sixty in four-point-one seconds. Have that! And soon we?re feeling pretty cocksure about ourselves after pissing the first couple of races round Brands Hatch and Silverstone. Racking up two wins on our first go fills us full of confidence. It?s a sunny day out on the track, and we?re boosted by the beautiful light and shading conditions as we pick out the fastest lines, weaving around corners like we were born joyriders from Moss Side. ?Hahaha have that!? we joyfully shout as we slip past the other losers on the track. ?Nicole! Papa? Shazarr!!?. We are getting annoyingly cocky now. And very into TRD3, very quickly. The game?s engine seems to succeed in being both ultra-realistic and eminently playable at the same time, without any kind of trade off on either side of the reality/gameplay equation.

Only there is still a slight niggling feeling at the back of our minds. Surely we can't really be this good? In real life, for example, our driving is worse than our grandmother's. Perhaps the game is just far too easy. Or perhaps it needs a lot more playtesting to set the difficulty levels at a harder setting. Who knows? Who cares at this point, as we?re itching to get onto the next stage of the World Tour. Rick, our cheery Scottish manager, also seems pretty pleased with our first two races and the proud smile on his cheeky, whisky-flushed Caledonian chops brings a self-satisfied grin to our face. Then it all very quickly goes Pete Tong.

For the second stage of the World Tour we plump for the UK Rally. And being seasoned Colin McRae Rally veterans, we don?t really think this stage is going to pose too much of a problem. Four destroyed MG's later on, Rick, the Annoying Scotch Git, is screaming at us red-faced with exasperation. ?Call that racing?!? he barks. ?Your granny can drive better than that!?. Oh fuck off. And stop rubbing it in about our gran. We skulk off back to the pits (kitchen) to read the game?s guide and rules, and dust ourselves down for another crack at the Rally. This time we vow to listen to the co-driver.

Another crack at the Rally and a few more bust-up cars later on and we give up. We are either a bit shit at rallying, or the difficulty level on the game is way too high. Surely the latter. Perhaps our incompetence is also down to the fact that we were too busy checking out the lakes and rolling hills of the beautiful English countryside. Wistful contemplation of nature does not sit well with focusing on hardcore, aggressive rallying action. Yeah, that was the reason why we were rubbish, because the game just looks too damn good.
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