Codemaster’s latest stacks up surprisingly well to the more well-known games on Microsoft’s big box by bringing a great deal of variety, quality, and a healthy dose of online play.
Most modern racing titles have their own spin on the career mode, and ToCA jumps right in the mix with a long, varied, and satisfying career mode of its own. Throughout the course of your career, you’ll participate in multiple race types, including Street Racing, Stock Car, Supertrucks, Rally, and more. This awesome variety spills over into the tracks as well, with fifty international tracks to choose from. The ability to switch from standard stock car or rally racing to racing 18-wheelers all in the same game definitely adds to this game’s appeal. However, the fact that there only thirty-five games might turn off some players.
Novices to the genre may also be a bit put off by ToCA’s intense realism and sim-heavy play. This is one game that you won’t be able to jump right into and begin dominating from the get-go. Taking damage to your car by colliding with another vehicle or a rail will not only put a dent in your fender, it’ll also effect the way your vehicle handle. This is a very cool feature to the game, but inexperienced racers may have a hard time reconciling the controls. I mean, in how many other games is it possible to lose due to mechanical failure? Damage icons indicate when you’ve taken damage to your gears, suspension, steering, wheels, or engine.
But once you’ve sharpened your skills in the single-player, ToCA 2 is also Xbox Live compatible. While not as detailed and thorough as, say, Project Gotham Racing 2, ToCA does allow you to go online and test your skills in standard races against up to twelve other players.
There’s no questioning that ToCA 2 is indeed a very pretty game to look at. The photo-realism of the cars and the amount of detail put into the tracks is quite impressive. While games like Project Gotham Racing 2 still have set the bar a tad higher, ToCA definitely stands on its own with its intensely real damage effects. Slam into a concrete barrier and you’ll see bits of your car fly off in every direction in precise detail. This amount of detail also effects how the sun reflects off of your vehicle.
The environments are very well done, but sticklers will notice a few shortcuts taken on some of the backdrop objects, which appear to be just very simple textures.
The sound effects here are top-notch and add to the visual realism already noted. Pump this game through your surround sound speakers at top volume and you’ll hear the shattering of glass and pounding of metal when you slam into a passing vehicle. The voice acting is also very well done, and you’ll rarely find any annoyances in that category.
One thing we did find to be a bit strange was the fact that there was no real soundtrack to be heard during the races. Most modern racers shell out a few bucks to license a nice soundtrack, or alternately stick in some wanky guitar-rock soundtrack. Not ToCA. And while this certainly cannot be marked against it (most of those soundtracks suck anyway), it is a bit of a curiosity. Luckily, ToCA does support the Xbox custom soundtrack, so you can just rip your favorite tunes to your machine and listen to them while you play.
Bottom Line - It seems there are more and more racing titles every day competing for your Xbox cash. Luckily for gamers, most of them are well above average, even if only a handful are must-haves. ToCA comes very close to landing in that elite category by adding a level of racing realism generally not found in an arcade-heavy genre. And at $30, it’s a steal.
However, its realism might also be its downfall. Some gamers may simply find it too challenging and to be too much of a simulation. But those willing to give it a chance will come away with a deeply satisfying and well-made racing title.