ToCA Race Driver 3 Challenge PSP
Published by Codemasters
Developed by Sumo Digital
Release Date: Out Now
Codemasters have produced two quality racing series for many years now. Whilst the Colin McRae Rally series has stayed true to its roots, the ToCA series has deviated somewhat from its beginnings. With ToCA Race Driver the series began to offer much more variety in terms of the vehicles you could drive. ToCA Race Driver 2 took an 'everything but the kitchen sink' approach and allowed you to drive all kinds of different vehicles. The sheer amount of choice and vehicle varieties in these games was superb and it's no surprise that they increased interest in was already a very popular series. ToCA Race Driver 3 Challenge isn't the first ToCA game to appear on the PSP (although it's the first one we've played) but it's definitely one fans of the series, especially those who like multiplayer racing, should keep their eyes on.
ToCA Race Driver 3 Challenge offers Quick Start, World Challenge, Free Race, Time Trial and Multiplayer game modes. Quick Start allows you to drive a randomly selected NGT car in a three-race championship. Free Race lets you select any of the vehicles you have unlocked in the World Challenge mode and you can either race a single race or setup your own mini-championship containing up to ten race events. The game supports game sharing and up to four players can challenge each other with a single copy of the game. The Multiplayer mode only supports ad hoc play. The game features 30+ cars and 30+ circuits, which is certainly impressive for a handheld racing title. You'll also get to tweak the cars settings for various modes (Time Trial, Free Race and Multiplayer games) adjusting gears, downforce, tyres and suspension etc.
The main mode, and where you'll probably spend most of your time with ToCA RD3 Challenge, is the World Challenge mode. Here you'll get to take part in five different championships that are situated in different locations around the world. Each of these championships contains a variety of challenges that you'll have to complete before heading off for the races. Steering Control requires that you drive around a circuit as quickly as possible whilst accurately driving through the cone gates. Braking Test is one heck of an irritating event that requires you to drive quickly around a circuit whilst managing to stop in the marked zones. No Damage has you driving a race and the idea is to finish in a top three place whilst receiving no damage. Pit In is a test to see if you can judge your pit stop so that you can finish in the top three. Bring It Home drops you in half way through a race with a damaged car and challenges you to win the race. Naturally Duel puts you in a one-on-one race and the objective is to overtake your rival as quickly as possible. Average Speed requires you to beat the average lap speed. Drive the Line is a challenge where you must stick to the racing line as accurately as possible whilst completing the challenge within the time limit. When you're done with these you'll get to qualify and take part in the races.
There's a lot to do in each of the five championships then given you'll have to do all of the aforementioned for each championship. One of the main problems is that it does become tedious. Most will simply want to get on with the races and not want to do challenges such as Braking Test, which is one of those that can really irritate after a while. You get bronze, silver or gold cups, depending on your performance, for each challenge. Most of the time, you'll simply be concerned with passing the challenges in order to move on to the races.
Graphically ToCA RD3 Challenge is quite impressive with a surprising amount of detail on offer. It's great to see such detailed car models in a handheld title and the damage modelling is none too shabby either. The draw distance is also quite impressive. What is disappointing is the frame rate, which tends to bog down somewhat when there are more than a couple of cars on screen at any one time. I would have gladly traded off some of the graphical niceties for a smooth flowing racing experience. The inconsistent frame rate makes the handling feel heavier than it should do at times, particularly when using the behind the car view.
Deaf gamers won't have any problems with ToCA RD3 Challenge. All of the instructions are given in text so you'll be able to read them at your leisure. As with other titles in the ToCA series you'll see visual indicators that show you when a vehicle is approaching from behind. Your HUD provides a wealth of information such as the circuit map, fuel, speed and gear indicators. Icons will also inform you of the condition of your gears, suspension, steering, wheels and engine. Your race position is displayed in the top left corner of the screen with the lap counter, lap and race times being displayed in the top right corner.
In terms of features and vehicles available to drive, ToCA Race Driver 3 Challenge takes some beating. The variety on offer here is impressive. Likewise the quality of the graphics is also impressive and it's good to see such high quality visuals on offer in a handheld game. However, the high quality visuals have come at the cost of an inconsistent frame rate and this does have a detrimental effect on the game. It's also nice that you can tune your car's settings to a certain extent, which is an option that most racing fans appreciate. Whilst the World Challenge mode is enjoyable (and undoubtedly the heart of the game) it's a shame that the focus hadn't been kept more on races. Some of the challenges will simply be annoying to some who just want an enjoyable racing title to play on their PSP. Niggles aside however, ToCA Race Driver Challenge 3 is definitely one of the better PSP racing titles and fans of the series will definitely appreciate it.
For a handheld racer ToCA Race Driver 3 Challenge is quite impressive in a variety of ways. The frame rate could have been better in places and some of the challenges in the World Challenge mode are tedious but if you're looking for a quality racer on your PSP then ToCA Race Driver 3 Challenge is definitely one to consider.