Currently scheduled for release in February, TOCA Race Driver 3 is an ambitious motorsports game currently in development at Codemasters. The game will boast no fewer than 35 distinct racing disciplines, around 116 different championships, and
TOCA Race Driver 3 will feature two main gameplay modes, titled Pro Career and World Tour. The Pro Career mode will task you with working your way up through the ranks of a single racing discipline, while the World Tour mode--which is what we played on this occasion--is a story-driven affair that affords you access to many different types of racing every time you progress to a new championship.
Before starting our World Tour career, we checked out some of TOCA Race Driver 3's gameplay options, which are clearly being designed to cater to players of all abilities. Novice players, for example, will want to switch off the "pro-simulation" settings for gravel traps, vehicle handling, and realistic damage. The experienced racers among you, on the other hand, might choose to switch all of those on and then tweak your controls by assigning a number between 1 and 100 for the saturation and deadzone settings of your steering, accelerator, brake, and clutch.
Like the career mode in the Codemasters' previous Race Driver game, TOCA Race Driver 3's World Tour mode throws you in at the deep end by tasking you with completing the latter stages of a fiercely competitive race already in progress. This not only gives you a chance to familiarize yourself with the controls before your career proper gets underway, but also to get acquainted with your mechanic, Scotty, who'll give you advice (among other things) over the radio whenever you're behind the wheel. Scotty is also the star of the majority of the rendered cutscenes that you'll be treated to between races. The cutscenes in TOCA Race Driver 3 are all viewed from the first-person perspective of your driver, and although we've only seen a handful of them to date, we can report that they're noticeably superior to those in previous games--which is no small accomplishment.
The World Tour mode is divided up into tiers, each containing a number of different championships for you to choose from and getting more difficult as you progress through the game. The two championships available to us on the first tier, for example, were the Autosport Clio Cup and the Global GT Lights competition, both of which feature vehicles with quite forgiving handling characteristics. By the time we'd progressed to the fourth tier, though, we were taking the controls of supertrucks, Baja motocross buggies, and high-end Japanese sports cars, which were noticeably more challenging to drive. En route to the fourth tier, incidentally, our championship options included 4WD track challenges, an MG Team rally competition, off-road buggy nationals, Formula 1000, and the US Muscle Car Tour. Every time we completed a championship, its content was unlocked for use in the game's free race, time trial, and multiplayer modes, which should give the World Tour mode a decent amount of replay value given that you'll be competing in only a fraction of the available events on your first play-through.
Unsurprisingly, all of the championships that we chose to drive in had a very different feel, both in terms of our vehicles' handling and the tactics required to succeed. Before climbing into a supertruck for the first time, for example, Scotty pointed out to us that drafting other racers is often a useful tactic in those particular events. Scotty's remarks during our time with TOCA Race Driver 3 also gave us a pretty good idea of how our occasionally aggressive overtaking maneuvers would be received in the current championship. It wasn't just Scotty who'd let us know when we were being overly pushy on the track, either; we got to see cutscenes of angry rival drivers storming into our garage after a race on more than one occasion.
The cutscenes looked equally impressive on both the PlayStation 2 and the Xbox, but the in-game visuals are significantly smoother on the Xbox at this point. Eye candy aside, the only noticeable difference between the two versions of the game is that the trigger buttons are the default accelerate and brake controls for the Xbox game, while the PS2 version defaults to the X and O buttons. We look forward to bringing you more information on TOCA Race Driver 3 after we've spent more time with the game.