TOCA Championship Racing is one of those games that was ported over to the US market just a little too late. Not only could this have been a much better title before the release of Gran Turismo, but it also would have been more comparable to other racers in the genre. Now that Gran Turismo has set the mark so high the competition has flared up and TOCA ends up being dated.
The racing itself is based upon the British Touring Car Championship and is more of a racing simulation rather than arcade title and this is the first of many things that may turn off PSX race fans. TOCA has three modes of play, single race, season type race, and time trials. Back when this game was released in the PAL market these modes may have sufficed but now they are too few. TOCA needs more modes such as an arcade type race and an upgrade system. Tracks and cars are on the medium side with eight courses and eight cars. Not an impressive amount but enough to keep the interest there. The single race is standard fare with selection of a car and a one time race around the track. The season mode allows you to actually sim out a season on the racing circuit. In the championship mode you have to follow the rules of TOCA and be careful about your driving or be penalized. Each race you are awarded points on how you finish and depending on how many points you have you either proceed to the next race or not. The championship mode has most of the features you would expect in this mode such as the pits and realistic damage.
Speaking of damage, TOCA does feature some of the most realistic real time damage to the car models since Destruction Derby 2. When you wreck you get dents and pieces of your car fly off. The wrecks are very impressive and the physics to them seem very realistic (especially when in the inside car view).
TOCA's best gameplay element has to be the realistic physics and driving. The braking and turning is very realistic but still doesn't come close to Gran Turismo's. The level of detail is one area where TOCA might actually surpass Gran Turismo. Some of the more impressive details are the in car view with its windshield wipers and shifting of the gears and the accurate depictions of weather. The AI isn't bad either but the computer controlled cars still seem to all follow the same path. Not only that but if you make a mistake say good bye to the rest of the racers since they will easily smoke you and it is hard as heck to ever catch up.
The more disappointing part is the lackluster two player mode that allows two people to race each other by themselves. No other cars to compete with makes the two player mode boring gives it hardly any replay value.
It is a shame that TOCA Championship Racing couldn't have been released earlier, as in before Gran Turismo. As it stands, TOCA Championship's gameplay doesn't offer enough new or even enough fun to make it one of those must have games.