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ESRB Rating EveryoneTOCA Touring Car
developer Codemasters publisher 3DO
releasedate 09/18/1998 msrp $39.99
genre Racing #players 1-2
difficulty Hard analog Yes
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.

If you have ever driven a slow to accelerate good handling car then you might be familiar with the way TOCA controls. At first the game plays extremely heavy and sluggish but as time goes on as with most racers you will get more accustomed to the controls. My biggest complaint with the controls is the extremely hard to do power slides (hard to control as well). Most turns will have to be performed very sim-like with heavy braking and concentration. This isn't a problem with the game since TOCA is a sim but it can get boring taking turns at 20mph just so you can stay on the track. Analog controllers help a ton in TOCA making braking and moving easier and more responsive. Dual Shock vibration is barely noticeable. The realistic physics do bring a neat effect into the game. At times when hopes are all lost for a win, you can go backwards and wreck head on into the CPU racers. Or you can play spin the CPU racers around by barely bumping their left rear side. This is very realistic since it is a tactic that police departments use in high speed chases.
TOCA suffers from an overall look of graininess. The back of the jewel case states that TOCA uses high resolution car models yet the cars are very boxy and plain with blocky textures. Where TOCA shines is in bad weather and after a car is all beat up. Surprisingly the cars look really plain until multiple wrecks when windows get broken and metal gets dented. Windows show clear cracks and reflections. The cars still basically all look the same but this does show some effort to make the game look better. Weather also makes TOCA look a lot better, as in when you change to race in the rain. Headlights shimmer off the wet road and rain drops fall to the ground. The headlight effect in TOCA is really amazing and looks very realistic. It is odd, that until you change the weather TOCA looks like a first or second generation racer. TOCA also has some impressive particle effects when you wreck or smash through signs. Another good thing to say about TOCA is that the framerate is constant and doesn't drop when multiple cars are on the screen like other racers. Yet for every good thing to say about TOCA's looks there is something discouraging as well.
Just like the graphics of TOCA for each realistic sound there is one that feels out of place. Now I'm not sure that Codemasters didn't go out and tape some bad wrecks so they could sample them for the game but it sure sounds like it. Yet I have to imagine that they were taping F1 racers for the engine sounds as the high pitched humms just sound out of place. Much of the game's sound effects are a balance between realism and bad synth sounds. Music wise, TOCA has the standard fare techno soundtrack.
Too little, too late could be the motto for TOCA Championship Racing. TOCA isn't a really bad game but it does have its faults and flaws and compared to some of the other games such as GT, it is hard to say that TOCA is worth purchasing. If you like European racing, TOCA is probably the best representation on the PlayStation. However if you are in it for fun there are better choices out there.

(09/18/1998)- by - Joey Gray

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