At this week's Games Market Europe in London (a trade show for members of the videogames industry) Codemasters were showing off an early build of their forthcoming TOCA Race Driver 3 for the PC, Xbox and PlayStation 2. We took a look at all three versions to see how they're shaping up.
TOCA 3 looks to be a bumper pack of racing goodness, with 116 championships, 35 racing classes, 70 fully licensed cars and 98 track variations. Codemasters did a great job with TOCA Racer Driver 2, and they seem to be going one step further with TOCA 3, giving racing fans everything they would ever want in a racing sim. If you want Touring Cars, GT Racing or Rallying, you've got it. Fancy a spin in a Subaru Impreza or a Pontiac Firebird on some of the world's most famous racing circuits with up to 21 cars racing simultaneously? You've got it.
The game is set to offer two main game modes: Pro Career and World Tour. Pro Career mode will give players an in-depth career in a certain racing discipline. Six racing styles will be on offer, with each taking the player through a career, moving from the slower vehicle classes, up to the more powerful vehicles that give the player a better chance of success.
The World Tour mode will give everyone a taste of all the game has to offer, throwing in many racing styles, and moving things forward with a dramatic storyline told through cutscenes. Codemasters claim that this will be a significant improvement over the story mode seen in TOCA Race Driver 2, which was met with some criticism due to its clichèd and rather stereotypical storyline and characters.
While we weren't able to see everything that Codemasters are cramming into the game, we did take a look at the Touring cars and the new and improved Rally racing. Touring car racing is just as good as it was in the previous game, delivering the bumper-to-bumper racing action that the sport is renowned for. However, the AI demonstrated some rather brutal driving skills, often tailgating a little too closely, clipping my backend as I turned into corners, causing plenty of unrecoverable skids that effectively ended my races. While it's nice to see some aggressive driving from the AI, hopefully Codemasters will tech them about racing etiquette before the game's 2006 release.
TOCA Race Driver 2 offered many different racing disciplines, and while most were great, Rally Driving didn't feel quite right. Thankfully, even in this early build (the game isn't due until Q1 2006) Rally driving is a far more enjoyable experience. Racing on a half tarmac, half dirt track in a Subaru Impreza proved to be a lot of fun, and left me wanting more. Frequent return visits to the Codemasters booth quenched my thirst, but we'll have to wait for a more complete build before we can really get into it.
All three versions of the game are looking great, but the PC and Xbox versions currently have a level of polish that is missing from the PlayStation 2 version. Lighting effects are solid on all versions, but there is a roughness to the PlayStation 2 game that is absent in the other two - as was the case with TOCA Race Driver 2. Even with many months of development time left on the project, the frame rate was solid, with the PlayStation 2 version suffering from some minor hitches when a lot of cars were on screen, but nothing that can't be sorted before its release. TOCA Race Driver 2 had an excellent damage modelling system and this remains solid in the latest game, with body parts (car, not human) flying across the track after heavy pile ups. With our short time with the game it was hard to see if this has seen any real changes since TOCA 2, but we'll bring you more details in future previews.
There's still a lot to be revealed about TOCA 3 though. The multiplayer modes and the number of online players supported in each version are still rather hush hush, but we assume that all the standard racing modes will be in there. TOCA Race Driver 2 supported 12 players online, so Codemasters may well be trying to beat that number this time around. We'll bring you more coverage of TOCA Race Driver 3 later in the year.