Sega Touring Car Championship is a mixed bag. While graphically it's smoother than a lot of racers out there, with a minimum of pop-up, it offers only an average assortment of options and play modes and doesn't have the variety of licensing that a lot of driving game enthusiasts really go for. Control also leaves a lot to be desired, making for a passable, if uninspired racing game.
The big issue with any racer is control, which is a little odd in Sega Touring Car Championship. No matter how you tweak any of the cars, turning is never very responsive. You'll always need to take curves early and then back off on the controls, as all the cars have a strong tendency to fishtail. It's also easy to fall into the bad habit of hard-braking every turn, no matter how small. You expect an adjustment period with any driving game, but this one just never feels natural. As a result, the game lacks the thrill of driving intensity that other racers have down.
Graphically, many of the standard driving pitfalls have been avoided. The look isn't particularly thrilling, but there's no pop-up to speak of, and multiple onscreen cars never result in slowdown. This puts it a couple of laps ahead of NASCAR 98, although with only seven other cars onscreen, the visual glory of NASCAR's "wall of cars" is never really achieved. Nonetheless, even the smoothest racing games' graphics usually suffer from some amount of slowdown, so the speed of this one is really impressive.
You have your choice of four makes of car, with the customization options that are now coming to be standard for the genre. Adjustments to front and rear suspension, final gear ratio, handling tightness, and tire hardness all impact car performance. The setup screen shows the impact your tweaks will have on stopping time and turning speed, as well as the rear suspension's effect on fishtailing. There is no onscreeen analysis provided for your adjustments' impact (if any) to top speed or acceleration. In addition, the pros and cons of individual makes of car are not rated, so you're on your own in that department.
Sega Touring Car Championship offers the standard-issue variety of play modes. Time attack mode offers unlimited circuits around the track, with your best time displayed onscreen while you race. The "ghost car" option in the time attack mode allows you to race against a replay of your own car's best time on the track. Championship mode offers the standard qualifying lap and set of races. Grand Prix mode is essentially the same as championship mode but with a much longer (20 lap) race. Vs. mode allows for two-player split-screen racing, albeit without CPU opponents. Unfortunately, the game only offers three tracks, none of which boasts spectacular level design, leaving any mode of play with limited replay value.
In all, Sega Touring Car Championship is more difficult than it's worth. There are no real-life tracks from out of NASCAR or the Formula 1 circuit, and Mario Andretti never makes an appearance. Graphically it suffers less than a lot of the competition - hats off to the developers for eliminating the number one enemy of any game based on pure speed: graphical slowdown. However, control issues plague the game, and with only three tracks, even a perfect racer would only be fun for so long.