Touring Car Challenge: TOCA 2
Touring Car Challenge: TOCA 2 is one of those niche games that either finds its target audience or becomes lost in a sea of obscurity. It focuses on principles set by the British Touring Car Championship; whereas traditional racing features sports cars and fast machines, the league focuses on mass-produced vehicles. Much like K-1 Arena Fighters, this game will only appeal to gamers familiar with the franchise.
Graphically, TOCA 2 features nicely detailed cars (although they look awful on the vehicle select screen) with realistic advertisements littering the body. There are also five unique camera angles including the chase camera, a hood perspective, and a first-person viewpoint from within the car. The latter is my personal favorite -- it's like being in the driver's seat! You can see hands turning the steering wheel, a dashboard, and fortunately, the road.
The cars have differing statistics and strong points, meaning you'll want to test-drive a vehicle before racing in an official tournament. While some are good at handling and navigating tight corners, others excel in the areas of speed and acceleration. Some will even fly around the track with no regard for the boarder between an asphalt track and the grass and dirt! For the armchair mechanics out there, you can tweak your car by adjusting gear ratios, downforce, and suspension.
While the track designs pale in comparison to vehicular detail, they are adequate enough in their own right. They're also quite difficult; even the beginner courses will give you a hard time. With a series of sharp turns, difficult curves, and expert layouts, a novice player will feel like a fish out of water. There is an extremely high learning curve that should have been balanced by Codemasters in the production stages. Staying on the tracks is near impossible at times and once you've landed on the grass, you'll spin around so much that you'll lose your position and move into last place.
You could also chock this one up to the controls, which are a bit too fickle for my tastes. Tapping on the brake almost always sends you flying off the track and into the grass. This makes the brake button pretty much obsolete as I'd advise players to simply lay off the acceleration. Unfortunately, many turns are too narrow to do this. The only thing you can do is pray for the best. It is simply impossible to stay on the road without adequate and tight controls. While purist fans of the BTCC may find some enjoyment out of this, it's a little on the frustrating side.
As for gameplay options, most of the time will be spent in the Championship mode. With two races per meeting, you'll need a certain amount of points at the end of the day (points are awarded by finishing a race). If you do not meet the quota, you're out of the tournament. Staying in the top 10 isn't as easy as it sounds. Although you're given an unlimited supply of chances to get back in the race (thanks to the not-so-unforgiving AI), one false move will significantly set you back.
In conclusion, Touring Car Challenge: TOCA 2 is a very difficult game. If you've got the willpower and skills to master the controls, you'll find it an enjoyable racing game. Many gamers will probably give up much earlier than that (frustration is never fun). At least the graphics are good. ~ Mark Kanarick, All Game Guide
The graphics are quite impressive. The vehicles are beautifully done with damage detailing and advertisements; some of the best you'll ever see on the PlayStation! ~ Mark Kanarick, All Game Guide
The sound effects are adequate with engines sounding as they should. ~ Mark Kanarick, All Game Guide
Because the controls are difficult to master, you'll most likely find this game frustrating. I sure did. If you can master the controls and get used to the challenging course layouts, you'll find a very enjoyable game under those pretty graphics. ~ Mark Kanarick, All Game Guide
The Championship mode is addictive and there are lots of multi-player aspects. ~ Mark Kanarick, All Game Guide
The manual adequately covers gameplay options and controls. ~ Mark Kanarick, All Game Guide