Racing games on a console can be a varied experience, they are either the arcade smash and grab option a la Crazy Taxi or they veer towards the realism of the real thing. Toca has opted for the latter, complete with crash damage, variations in car physics and tracks that won't expect you to simply hold down the accelerator.
The game is broken down into three main components; Career mode, Single player mode and multiplayer action. The first sees you racing across over 31 different championships over 15 different classes as you try and reach set goals each season. Do well and your Scottish mechanic/manager will be happy, happy and doing well means progression through different classes and there are goals to achieve at every stage from getting a podium spot to gain sponsorship.
The skill set is well balanced and the variety of vehicles available will please any racing fan. (there are over 35 including the Ford GT, Aston Martin Vanquish, Jaguar XKR, Nissan Skyline and AMG-Mercedes CLK) Within the first six races for example you've already raced three completely different types of automobiles.
The single player module is a chance for you to practice your skills, complete without the pressures of the career mode or merely improve your time trial skills. Depending on how much of the career mode has been played will depend on how much of the single player tracks are open to you and the area is a good chance to have a quick fix of racing without getting caught up in a bigger storyline.
The actual driving element of the game is very impressive, over rev the engine at the beginning and you'll suffer from wheel spin. Car's, whatever you're driving, can suffer from damage and your cars performance will depend on its state of well being. Crash a few times and your engines speed and capabilities will be affected, crash it enough and you'll be out of the race with nil points.
Car and track physics only help to aid further with different cars being affected by different terrain accordingly. Hit the grass in a formula three and you'll be sliding all over the place, do the same in a Landie and you won't really notice the difference.
Graphics offer the usual features that you find in most racing games and the varying tracks offer plenty of chance to see beaches, cities, mountains and forests. For those who have played any other Codemasters racing games the feel is roughly the same, just updated and improved for the Xbox and that combined with the sound effects make for en enlivened performance.
No two words about it, this is a great racing title that follows and builds on the Toca series. Its balance between career and single player modes offer plenty for the quick fix or story gamer alike and the games AI and vehicle physics mean you'll have to work at it to get the results (a good thing). If you like racing and you've got an Xbox this will certainly be up your street. Top Marks.