TOCA Race Driver 2
Developer: Codemasters | Publisher: Codemasters | Release Date: 2005 | Genre: Racing | Website: n/a
Toca Race Driver 2 is one of those games that you’ll immediately love or hate. Touting itself as the “Ultimate Racing Simulator” you can forget about playing this one like you would Ridge Racer or Burnout Legends.
Instead of power slides around hairpin bends at breakneck speeds or nitro charged sprints, it instead calls for strategic braking and cornering while keeping to the racing line to avoid damage to your car. Although it doesn’t sound very thrilling once you get into it this game is much more tense than the most fast paced arcade racer and you’ll feel the pressure of driving well like never before.
TRD 2 is basically a straight port of the PS2 version and graphically the game sets new standards for a handheld. Pretty much everything has made the transition to small screen and actually looks much better at times due to the hi-res PSP screen. While not quite “Photo-real” like the back of the box would want you to believe it’s still very good looking stuff and since this is a launch title all the more impressive. Don’t think the awesome graphics are limiting the game in any way either as Codemasters and Sumo Digital has managed to squeeze up to 21 cars onto a track all with accurate physics and excellent damage modeling. How this was managed on a handheld console with no loss of detail or dip in frame rate is beyond me but certainly a major achievement. Add to that 15 types of racing, including Street Racing, Supertrucks, Rally, Classics, Formula 1 and much more and you can’t help but take your hat off to the programmers. All of this racing action also takes place numerous tracks all modeled on real-world circuits like Laguna Seca, Nürburgring, Road America, Kayalami and many more.
If all of this wasn’t enough, they have also managed to cram in a wireless multiplayer mode where up to 12 players can race each other! Of course, finding 11 other people with a copy of the game is going to be pretty hard, but this is a very impressive feature none the less.
Don’t worry though, as with a 33 championship single player mode, you’ll be playing this one till the cows come home anyway. In fact, the single player mode is so involving and addictive you’ll be constantly playing it for hours on, end which doesn’t really make it suitable for a handheld title but it’s so much fun who cares. Between races you are treated to some awesome cut-scenes which are well written and really hilarious at times. Including a storyline in a racing game might not be anything new these days, but when it’s as captivating as in this game you’ll find yourself playing just to see what the next revelation is.
The sound effects aren’t too bad either and all the cars seem to sound like they should. You also get your Scottish pit chief yelling instructions, warnings and other messages at you via radio during the races which, although somewhat annoying at times, does add that sense of realism to the game. The one thing that TRD2 doesn’t have is in-game music which is a somewhat surprising omission, but you can download a small program from the Codemasters website which allows you to import your own mp3s into the game and use them as a custom soundtrack which is a nice feature.
So far it might sound like TRD2 is the best racing game out on PSP and while this is true in many regards the game does have its fair share of flaws which might make you think twice about purchasing it. Firstly, it’s a racing simulator, so you can expect lots of realism which tend to be a little less fun than your average arcade racer. With the realistic damage it only takes a few knocks for your car to become undriveable and while it might look cool when your car loses tires or other parts it certainly isn’t fun when it happens on the last corner of the final lap. Remember there can be up to 21 other cars sharing a narrow track with you so the chances of you getting bumped and scraped is very high. The one saving grace is the fact that you can restart a race instantly with no extra loading times and if it wasn’t for this I doubt if I’d wanted to continue playing as some races had me restart over and over again till I managed to get it perfect.
Your progress through the game is also pretty linear, so getting stuck in a certain race type will require you to doggedly keep at it until you manage to beat it. You are then thrown into the next championship where you might be driving a new type of car on new tracks requiring you to start from scratch and get used to the new driving style. If you like your games nice and easy then you might want to give this one a miss as it sometimes takes hours before you crack a certain track and manage to finish in a halfway decent position.
The nice thing is that you’re not always required to finish first and sometimes your goal is to only finish on the podium or beat a certain racer making things more exciting and personal. The one thing I truly hated was the Codemasters idea of “purchasing” cheats. Each copy of the game has a unique code so you can forget about getting cheats on the internet and instead have to buy them from Codemasters. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that some races might just be a little bit harder than usual to prompt desperate people into coughing up some cash. In fact the last race is a pretty good example, with your opponent somehow driving an indestructible car while yours will come apart at the slightest bump. This kind of unfairness puts a serious dent in the so called “ultimate racing simulator” claim and will probably be enough to make a lot of people hate the game.
While I had a blast playing TRD2 and it kept me hooked for hours on end, I’ll be the first to admit that this won’t be everybody’s cup of tea. Its playing style is much more suited to console than handheld, but this is still a great title that shows just what the PSP is capable of.
*Review originally published in 2006.