Tuesday, May 22, 2012

TOCA Race Driver 3

A fun racing experience in a game chock full of racing.
Review By JuicyFlow
ToCA Race Driver 3 is, when it all comes down to it, a pure racing simulation. The game aims to make everything realistic, from tracks to cars to the structure of championships. It's an extremely fun driving experience, but not without a few minor faults.

GAMEPLAY: ToCA stands for Touring Car Association, but the game extends far beyond just touring cars. There are six different "disciplines" of motorsport present: Classics, GT, Oval, Touring Cars, Open Wheel, and Offroad. Plus a few bonus disciplines like the Honda Challenge and the MotorSport Sensation. In these six disciplines are 112 different championships. That's right, one hundred twelve. And just about each one with a different kind of automobile. They range from monster trucks to sprint cars to Formula One to sport cars to semi trucks to go karts to offroad buggies to V8 supercars to the classic Mercedes-Benz W25. All this on 35 real-life circuits. There's plenty of racing to be done. It's amazing how they managed to fit so many kinds of racing into one game, and for all of it to be done so well.

The single player mode is split into two areas: World Tour and Pro Career. The World Tour, which is basically the story mode, takes you around the world through just about every single championship the game has. You don't have to complete every championship to beat the Tour though; this mode usually offers you a few championships to choose from to unlock the next few. This is a good way for newbies of racing to sample what's in the game. In addition, the World Tour features a guy names Rick to help you along. He'll appear in the cut scenes to inform you about the race and teach you some racing techniques. He'll also radio in during the actual race to help you out. The Pro Career simply takes you through all the championships in a more official manner -- with qualification rounds and etc. In addition to the single player campaigns, there is free racing, time trials, and multiplayer which allows for split screen, local networks, and internet racing.

So what about the driving itself? It's all about the experience of real-life professional motorsport. You're going to need a steering wheel. You don't NEED one, but a steering wheel is far superior to arrow keys. The steering wheel controls are very customizeable -- from the amount of force feedback (if your controller supports it) to turning satuation to dead zone adjustments of the wheel and pedals. That takes care of the controls. They're sharp, responsive, and differs with different cars. You'll get to know every kind of handling as you race through the championships. You'll have to if you want to win. Monster trucks take a while to respond to steering,the Renault Clio is sensitive and handles quite well, and the GT Light cars can spin out very easily. The physics are great. Crashes and spinouts are exciting and pretty, even though you're probably not going to win the race.

This is real racing, so you're not going to drive like an ass, because that'll net you some penalties, which can add several seconds to your time. Not to mention some damage to your car. That's another good feature of the game. Damage to your car can affect your gears, steering, suspension, engine, and wheels. Engine wear will reduce your top speed, tire wear will reduce traction, steering damage will make your car more difficult to handle. It's all realistic. If you have a lot of damage, you can head to the pit to get your ride fixed up in a jiffy. On some races you can upgrade you car with improvements and fine tunings to your car. You can put in engine tuning, suspension kits, turbochargers, better tires, oil coolers, brake hoses, and a bunch of other stuff. Tuning your car allows you to change some very fine parts of the car like gear distance, brake bias, and tire profile.

When you're out driving on the circuit, you'll noticed some things about the AI. The AI is decent. But not without faults. One key fault in the AI is theirs turning. In turns, sharp ones especially, the AI will be very conservative. They will hit the brake and slow way down to turn on a hairpin corner, while I can do the same corner with no problems 10 or 20 mph faster. Basically, there is generally a lack of a challenge in turning, as oftentimes you can overtake a good bunch of AI on a sharp turn. (Although there are some turns that are challenging for a human player as well.) Another point in the AI that is very annoying is how they handle crashes and spinouts. They handle them perfectly, is the problem. When you crash into a AI car, or even if they crash into you, you'll go spinning wildly, jerking at your wheel desperately while the AI easily turns right back onto the road. This happens much more than it should, and is very frustrating at times. If you go onto the slippery grass, it might be difficult to get your car back on track but the AI seems to accomplish it flawlessly. But then again, you really shouldn't be crashing around anyways.

Driving itself is an overall fn experience. When you start dead last out of 20 cars and finish first after a bunch of exciting overtakings, it gives you a nice sense of accomplishment. Especially because this whole game is so realistic.

REPLAYABLE: Did I mention there are 112 different championships to unlock? 112 championships, 35 international circuits, and 72 liscenced vehicles offer a lot to do. Not to mention a decent online mode where you gain points racing with people all over the world. But of course, if you find racing boring, you'll get bored of this game fairly quickly anyway.

GRAPHICS: Car models and textures are dead accurate and extremely pretty. The advertising on the cars is beautiful in itself. Colors are vivid and jump out at you. The real-life circuits are certianly accurate enough, complete with banners, cheering onlookers, buildings, and all kinds of decorations. A few minor points though: trees look a little sloppy and so do the onlookers. But you're really not going to be staring at those while racing. Of course, this all depends on your graphics settings and your computer's capabilities as well.

SOUND: Engine effects are great. You'll definitely notice the difference in different cars' engines. A semi sounds vastly different from a dune buggy, for example. You'll hear the click as the gears shift and all. Crashes and skids sound very pleasureable. Rick's little comments are good to break the somewhat awkward drone of engines. The menu music is light and very fitting. Music while racing is absent, for obvious reasons. The only thing is that the engine sound might get a little droney after a good amount of racing, but you'll most likely be too focused on the racing to notice.

OVERALL: If you're looking for a simulation racing game and you have a steering wheel, ToCA 3 will not disappoint. It doesn't matter if you've had racing experience before. This game has plenty for both newbies and pros.

NAME: TOCA RACE DRIVER 3
SYSTEM: Mac, PlayStation 2, PlayStation Portable, XBOX, PC

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