Genre: Sports sim/racing
Mac Port: Robosoft
Mac Publisher: Feral Interactive
System Requirements: Mac OS X v10.4.8, 1.8GHz Intel processor, 512MB RAM, 128MB graphics card, 8.5GB hard disk space, DVD player
Review Computer: 2.4GHz 24” Intel Core 2 Duo iMac, 2GB RAM, 256MB ATI Radeon HD 2600
Network Feature: LAN or Internet (GameRanger)
Processor Compatibility: Intel only
ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+
Availability: Out now
Official Website: www.codemasters.co.uk/tocaracedriver3/
Screen captures via Apple.com.
Racing games have gotten hard—I mean really hard—and ToCA Race Driver 3 is apparently so hard that the first Appletell reviewer who had this game couldn’t quite get the hang of it, and had to turn it back over to me. But this is not necessarily a bad thing. ToCA 3 was the first racing game he’d tried out in a while, and he just wasn’t prepared for the level of detail and control provided these days. I’ve got more experience with modern racing games, so I came prepared, and ToCA 3 still managed to impress.
Understand, first of all, that I’m not the least bit interested in racing. To me, watching a car try to go faster than other cars is about as entertaining as watching an apple try to brown faster than other apples. But I do like a good Macintosh game, and ToCA offers enough variety to keep even a guy like me coming back for more. I don’t know what it is about the Europeans that they can make racing seem so much more interesting than it can ever be here in America. I suppose next they’re going to tell me that the popularity of soccer is justified if it’s being played anywhere outside of the U.S.?
The first thing you should know is that ToCA 3 plays it straight, for the most part. You’re not smashing into other cars (on purpose, anyway) or using Bond-like gadgetry for additional speed. No turtle shells or squid. The variety instead comes from the ability to race on 80 unique tracks with 70 licensed vehicles…including lawn mowers. Yes, lawn mowers (Honda only, though, no Bolens like my dad used to have). ToCA Race Driver 3 really is based on the premise that if something can move, it will want to move faster than anything else.
There are a couple of problems with racing games this complex, and ToCA 3 manages to address a few of them. To begin with, the game gives you Rick, a fellow who offers tips and criticisms of your performance both during and after the races. He’s quite helpful in pushing you past the learning curve faster than if you were left to your own devices. In fact, the very first race you run—a single lap around the track—is done specifically to let Rick know your current skill level. It’s nice to not feel so alone out there.
If Rick’s not enough to get you over the hump, there’s a fairly robust cheat menu that’s very easy to access; just select Bonus in the options menu and choose the cheat you’d like to unlock. Even if you don’t need them, some are pretty fun and should be done just for the bang of it.
When you think you’re ready for a real race (and you won’t be), you can select from four different modes:
- World Tour allows you to set up a career racing in any discipline, unlocking new cars and tracks along the way. This is where you’ll get the most variety out of the game, and it’s where I spent most of my time.
- Pro-Career lets you focus on a single discipline. Within it, you can “…play through each championship in a realistic manner with full race rules, calendars, flags, etc.” This one’s great once you’ve determined there’s a certain style of racing you particularly enjoy.
- Simulation mode let’s you do pretty much whatever you want. Set up your own championship, run a time trial, practice your disciplines, etc.
- Multiplayer racing allows you to go up against up to 11 other racers over a LAN or the Internet via GameRanger. I kind of suck at multiplayer gaming, so I was too embarrassed to try this out. You’re on your own.
I won’t go into detail on the various circuits and disciplines available. Too many to cover here, but you can get the info at the Feral site by clicking the appropriate link in the submenu. The vehicle categories bear mentioning, however, as you can select from classics (prestigious vehicles from the last 80 years!), GT, oval (Indy and stock cars), touring, off-road (Big Foot monster trucks!), open-wheel (my favorite), TMS, and Honda. Why Honda gets its own category, I don’t know, but I drive a Honda, so I’ll take that with pride.
The racing itself is fantastic once you get good at it. I always praise the ability of Robosoft to port games over to the Mac, and they’ve really outdone themselves this time. Not only is ToCA probably the best looking Mac-compatible racing game I’ve ever played, but it also performs the best. The combination of realistic lighting and smoke/dirt effects combined with awesome sound effects makes for a wonderful racing experience. Even the cut scenes look great.
And, of course, between races, you’re given myriad options for customizing your car. This kind of thing turns me off, as I’d rather my racing games not feel like RPGs where I have to level up my character between races. But, yeah, I get that it’s important to die-hard racing fans, so I’ll just deal with it.
ToCA Race Driver 3 is, without a doubt, my favorite racing game since Bump ‘n’ Jump on the Intellivision, and I’m glad this one ended up back on my desk. The racing options/styles are so deep and graphics/performance so great that I imagine I’ll be playing this one for some time to come. Racing fans are going to be thrilled with it, and even those who have no interest in auto racing could get a kick out of it if they can get past the learning curve.
And if not…well, you can always stick with lawn mower racing.