TOCA Race Driver 2 Xbox Official Website
Developed by Codemasters
Released - 23rd April 2004
Price : £39.99
The Xbox, despite being only available in the UK for a little over two years, already has some impressive racing games. One publisher (and also developer) that has provided more than their fair share of great racing games is Codemasters. Colin McRae Rally 03, Colin McRae Rally 04, TOCA Race Driver and Indycar Series all came from Codemasters. However this time Codemasters have managed to surpass themselves and have created a truly special game that many will argue is the best racing game on the Xbox, TOCA Race Driver 2 Ultimate Racing Simulator.
If you played TOCA Race Driver you'll recall that the heart of the game was story based career mode that centred around the rather arrogant and very irritating Ryan McKane. This time around the game still has a story based career mode at it's heart but you simply play as yourself which is much, much better. The career mode is where you'll unlock everything such as tracks, vehicles and competitions. Believe me there is a lot to unlock. The game includes 31 championships which is comprised of 15 different motorsports. There are 31 different race locations with 52 tracks (some being shortened or lengthened versions) and there are 35 different vehicles for you to drive ranging from the Aston Martin Vanquish to the AMG-Mercedes CLK.
Variety is the key word with Race Driver 2. Formula Ford, Grand Prix, Stock Car, Ice racing, DTM, Rallycross and Super Truck Racing are all here and all are great fun. That is except the Rally driving. It seems very strange to say this but out of all the different vehicles I've driven the only one that didn't handle as expected were the rally cars. I was expecting the rally cars to handle exactly the same as they do in Colin McRae Rally 04 but they don't and the cars feel like they are floating and have little grip on the roads. Still the rally cars are an exception and everything else feels spot on. The Super Truck Racing feels very heavy and it's a real effort just keeping on the Racing line whilst the Formula Ford cars seem to stick to the track which allow for high speed laps. It's not just the vehicles which have bags of variety though and the many tracks, off road, road and circuit races, really add to the quality feel of the game. Brands Hatch, Laguna Seca and Pikes Peak are just three of the many official circuits that you'll find in the game and they all look great.
The AI actually seems quite good and can put up a strong fight. What you really have to consider is that your car can and will take damage if you drive aggressively. That's not to say your vehicle can't withstand a knock or two and it's possible to pick up a few places by driving aggressively early in the race. However you have to consider the vehicle that you're driving. You'll be able to take more knocks in the Super Truck Racing than you will in Formula Ford for instance. In the one Formula Ford race I was shunted from the track and in to the barricade and one of my front wheels came off which meant it was the end of the race for me. The level of damage you've taken is shown on your speedometer and it uses icons to show you what parts are damaged.
Anyway back to the career mode. The career mode spans eight seasons. Each season has a number of championships for you to take part in. To move from one championship to another you'll have to complete your objectives. These usually are to finish first or second or to acquire a certain amount of prize money or to place within so a certain amount of places of a rival driver. What I really like about the career mode though is that more often than not you can choose from two championships which are usually of a very different nature. This allows you to not only drive in your preferred championships but also, in effect, will encourage you to drive through the career mode a second time choosing the championships that you didn't take the first time. Regardless of which you choose both will be unlocked for the simulator modes (more on that in a moment). What might irk some gamers is that during the career mode you don't have any qualifying or practice sessions. Your grid position appears to vary from race to race. Of course it could be argued that you don't have chance to have a test drive on the circuits and that this will give you a disadvantage. This isn't really the case though because as soon as you complete a championship all the circuits that you'll be racing on (and vehicles you'll be driving) in the in the next championships become available in the simulator modes so in effect you can practice the circuits before you race.
When you've finished the career mode then you'll head for the simulator modes. The simulator modes contain free races, time trial, multiplayer, system link and Xbox Live races. Free races aren't just single one-off races and you can even construct your own 10 round championships. You have a choice of picking the AI difficulty and you have a choice of Normal, Hard or custom (which allows you to alter the difficulty with a percentage slider). Unlike the career mode you can also switch on pit-stops, vehicle setups and qualifying if you want to. Time trial is the usual pursuit of the fastest lap on a circuit of your choice with the added incentive of having to beat your own ghost. Multiplayer is racing for two players only on a split-screen. System link allows you to race against another gamer on their Xbox and is a mode that will be welcome at Xbox LAN parties.
The main multiplayer mode though has to be Xbox Live. Races can have up to 12 players and the usual format of Quick Match, Optimatch, and Create Session apply. Thanks to the Xbox Live system being upgraded this week (of all weeks) I haven't had much chance to play the game and in fact because it's not released yet in the UK most of the races have been against German and French opponents. The way it works is that you begin with a rating of 1,500 and this score will either reduce or increase depending on you performances. I would say it's going to be very popular however there is lag. The races remain smooth but you'll notice your opponents appearing and disappearing in front of you and initially this can be off-putting although the race itself runs very smoothly so in theory it shouldn't affect your driving. The races I've been in all have at least 11 drivers so this may not be the case though when you create a game of your own, with a smaller amount of drivers, and you can invite your friends to join you. You can limit the amount of racers and can also add AI opponents if you want to so if you only have two friends for instance you can pad out the grid with AI drivers which is a nice touch.
Graphically Race Driver 2 is very impressive. Races can contain up to 21 vehicles and not once does the frame rate waver and it remains at an exhilarating 60fps throughout. The circuits all look good and the car models are impressive. I wouldn't say the graphics are on the same level of excellence as in Project Gotham Racing 2 but then you don't get 60 frames per second in PGR 2. The races can be in a variety of weather conditions too which is good to see. The damage modeling is quite impressive and probably the best of any racing game on the Xbox at the moment. You'll also notice impressive environmental reflections on you vehicle whilst driving which is great to see.
Race Driver 2, unfortunately, is no more deaf gamer friendly that TOCA Race Driver. The numerous cutscenes that tie the stages of the career mode together are not subtitled. This is unfortunate as they are much better than those in TOCA Race Driver and can actually be quite funny. Also during a race you'll receive messages and these are not subtitled either. Thankfully though is a blessing as some are rather stupid. I really hate it when you're third and you get a message, which is stupidly obvious, telling you that if you overtake the two in front you'll be first. These issues aside though there isn't any other problems for deaf gamers.
TOCA Race Driver 2 is one heck of an impressive sequel and has to be the most varied racing game of all time. The first Race Driver was a good game but Race Driver 2 is a lot better in every department, especially the handling of the cars which now feel more natural. Aside from the portions of the game which aren't subtitled and the lag issues on Xbox Live (which might not be an issue with fewer drivers in a race) this is an absolute top notch racer and is one of the best driving games that Codemasters have ever produced. Along with Project Gotham Racing 2 this is a title that all Xbox owning driving fans must own.
Game Rating: 9.2/10
An absolute corker of a racing game that betters the original Race Driver in every department. A must own game.
The career mode cutscenes are not subtitled and the messages you receive whilst driving are not subtitled.