(Pocket-lint) - TOCA. A classic PC driving game range from yesteryear, the last true PC entry being version two eight years ago. Aside from moving into Rally games this was the series where Codemasters' reputation for demanding physics and smashable cars was showcased. Back then Voodoo 1 and 2 cards were being stretched to the limit and Toca Race Driver is exactly the same with today's video boards.
Aside from the modern visual sheen there is the all-important millennial gaming addition - the storyline. And very cinematic it is too; Ryan McKane who you'll play throughout, watches his Dad get rammed off and blown up at the end of the race as a child. Fast forward a decade and young petrolhead McKane and his brother follow in his late father's footsteps racing all the way to the top. Leaving this aside you have a great arcade racer without it, which is a good thing as it's as the story is as hackneyed as Days Of Thunder. On balance it's amusing to see a rival driver expressing dissatisfaction at being run off the road during a race.
You'll go round the world for international Tournaments such as the Lola World Championships and Supercars, but in the story the British TOCA tour is where McKane gets to cut his teeth and that's when good test drives bring the best places, good race driving brings the most points, and you get to advance and become a jobbing driver eventually, racing for whoever you want in the long term. You'll tear around 34 tracks with 42 different cars (although this includes the classics from the mid-20th century as well) and also get to tune up the vehicles in the garage before you set out as well. This translates into more subtleties with handling which varies from car to car anyway.
All of this is well and good, but there was the risk that some retro-style fun may have been lost when resurrecting a venerable series. Not so. If you want to race like it's Destruction Derby, smash other cars off the road, race the wrong way, skittle vehicles and generally muck about GTA style ignoring the career mode, you can. It's every bit as much fun as the predecessors and better looking to boot
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The physics aren't realistic in the style of the McRae titles - that game will turn up later in summer 2003 but it's real enough to demand practice, certainly. Windscreens smash, spoilers and bumpers fly off with speed-blurred realism and stay wherever they fall for the duration of the race.
The game's demanding but fair in the specs department too - it'll assess your machine before you start and also runs at the highest 3D refresh rate your graphics card and monitor can handle, a welcome change from 60Hz hell.
Playing on a sub-1GHz machine with 384Mb RAM and an old GeForce2 MX, I only needed to step down to 800 x 600- still playing at 100Hz and 32Bit colour and staying at 60 frames per second- the price being the loss of rendering detail on the cars, as the sliding speed to quality scale mimics that of a graphics card driver panel in Windows. On the higher spec of an Athlon 1800+, 512MB and a GeForce 4 Ti4600, all the bells and whistles could be left high, and still attain the 60fps peak.
It isn't perfect; hardcore racers may have wanted physics as coldly tough as the predecessors and McRae games, but they are available for a fiver if you miss them that much. In the age of mods it's not inconceivable that someone may adjust the physics as they wish, as some hardcore fans do with the EA and Crammond Grand Prix games.
The root of TOCA was pure fun as well as a steep challenge. If you want cold realism, get McRae first and wait for summer sales or the internet on this one. Anyone wanting a challenge without needing to have actually driven a real racing car can switch their brain off for the story, jump in the driving seat and speed off for months of fun.