Reviewed: April 21, 2006
Released: February 24, 2006
Driving Simulation is about the cars and the tracks, whatís under the hood and where to race. Now you can race in almost any race type on over 80 tracks around the world with over 70 licensed cars, and I donít mean licensed for street driving. Codemasters has released their third racing sim and they have done a fantastic job. TOCA Race Driver 3: The Ultimate Racing Simulator is not just a few racing types on many racetracks. Itís all the major racing types from around the world with some extras thrown in for more fun.
TOCA Race Driver 3 features Career and World Tour modes, realistic damage, online play with up to 12 people, true mechanical effects and up to 21 cars on the track at one time. This game has about any kind of racing you could want in all kinds of different cars and trucks and even one I have never heard of except on Home Improvement, lawnmower racing.
TOCA Race Driver 3 starts with you in the driverís seat after you load the game, make some settings choices and choose your name. It will setup any racing wheel you have connected and put you in the middle of a circuit race to get you introduced to your pit crew chief with the very noticeable Scottish accent. I would say this game requires a steering wheel but you can play it without one, itís just really hard without one. Your pit crew chief will be guiding you through your career and helping you along the way with suggestions and comments during and after races.
Advancing through your career in World Tour mode you move from a basic car to better ones as you win races or at least finish in good standing. You unlock races when you complete ones and you have to watch out for everything during these races. You not only have to stay on the road and compete with the other drivers for a good position you also have to worry about your car. Damage to your car takes its toll and you get a rougher ride or even totally break down when the damage becomes too extensive. Transmissions start to skip or your engine will loose power when they overheat and other damage is quite evident.
The cars all handle very differently just like in real life. The Formula One car tires wobble noticeably until you hit about thirty or forty miles an hour and then start to settle down. The smaller tires like on the karts and even the lawn mowers donít hold the road as well and steering is harder for these. Skids on pavement are not so bad but when you hit the gravel or dirt you can tell the skidding is worse and have to work with it.
All in all Race Driver 3 is an excellent simulation with different types of racing, cars and tracks that this will keep you busy for quite some time just trying to make it through the career mode. Then you have the Pro Career mode and can choose any type of racing and try to earn cups in the various races you choose from. Once you complete a race you advance to the next one and try to earn more cups and unlock more things. These bonuses are things like boost, impervious car or even some extra forms of racing like Slot and RC cars.
The cars are very customizable once you start to unlock things. You get the chance to use different types of things on your car just like in real life. Brakes, transmission types, engines and any other important things on your car that would improve driving in a race are customizable. But when you get better on one thing you sacrifice other parts of the car so balance is important. All these choices mean you get to play around with customizing your car and using the various better car parts to your advantage.
With the games AI behind the wheel the cars are almost perfect, turns taken exactly to keep the cars in the lane, no skids except where needed, all that kind of stuff. When you put real people behind the wheel and race against them you get crashes, bumping into fenders and skid outs. The online play is another portion of TOCA Race Driver 3 that is great fun. I have to give credit to the players online who put up with me. This is the first racing sim I have played and the people online who play are really good. This is one part of the game that has a huge difference in how the game plays only by changing the players with the AI.
But that is the major difference and the fun part, racing against real people and finally seeing others who skid out and bump into things just like me. The online play seems to be exactly the same with the exception of the drivers. The games AI works well and controls the cars with great accuracy. But when you get real people behind the wheel itís more like real racing and lots of fun. The interface to get online is simple and works well.
As you zoom past spectators watching your race you see the flashes of their cameras as they catch a snapshot of you hurtling past at 100 MPH. Howís that for realism in a video game. The graphics in TOCA Race Driver 3 are really well made and the scenes are great. One thing I noticed quickly is the added realism like small things in the scenes and with the game overall. On the rally tracks you get nice countrysides of England and Europe with some country estates you go zooming by. The tracks around the world have the usual things you would expect around a racetrack.
The damage during play is fantastic and the gravel and dirt you kick up looks real. When you hit one of the many cones or signs for the pits and turns they go bouncing around and flying every which way. Then on the next lap you can see the cone or sign lying just where you bounced it. Even in the pit after races you get to see the girls with, well, little outfits prancing around when Rick is telling you how your driving went.
I found no glitching worth mentioning during gameplay and even the online play went well. On a few races you will get bad weather and rain, which is also done well. Your car will even have windshield wipers when you have the view on the appropriate setting through the windshield. The spectators even have umbrellas during the rainy races. Itís all these little things that make up such a great whole game that is very well made.
In almost all of the races you can change the view from third person to first person with several choices for the first person. You get the usual driver position behind the wheel and several closer to the hood and then ground views. Many people like the bumper cam, which is very close to the ground so you get a better feel for the car on the track. In the slot car and RC car racing you cannot change the views, of course. The cars for these two are smaller and a very neat addition to the game, they work just like you would expect.
Cars revving at the starting line, the throaty roar of a Formula one racer or the electric hum of the RC car. Take your pick from any of the races or the modes and the sounds are great. You get what you would expect in a race game and no problems from any of it. The surround sound is great with the racing and sounds almost like real cars. The crowds roar at the finish when you do place well and Rick your Scottish Crew chief makes a unique addition.
This is about the only area of TOCA Race Driver 3 that was not over the top or so well made that I could find no fault with it. The games sound was very realistic but not quite as good the rest of the game components that make up a very good complete package. I enjoyed the cars sounds like the revving and changing gears but they did not quite sound like the real thing.
In TOCA Race Driver 3 there are so many different types of racing with all the different kinds of cars to race that you will be busy with this game for a while. The World Tour will keep you busy trying to unlock all those other races. Then you move onto the Pro Career to unlock all the bonus items and extras like the RC and slot cars. You have free races to just have fun racing against the AI and time trials to beat your lap times from races unlocked in your career.
The multiplayer online is a whole other area for hours of racing fun. Race Driver 3 pits you against other racers from around the world and they are on the net playing all the time. I never had a problem finding a race to run in and had no problem with others not wanting to race with a new racer. You can also setup a race against others over a LAN and have fun that way.
TOCA Race Driver 3 is about the best complete game I have played for PC games. I rarely come across a game that meshes so many different parts to make a complete game so very well made and fun to play. The game starts you off racing and then explains how the whole thing works with your very own Scottish crew chief. You can race in Classics, GT, Oval, Touring car, Off Road and Open Wheel racing with a bunch of other special types like Honda and toy cars.
I have read about other racing simulation games that concentrate on one type of racing with a huge variety of cars or have several types of racing but not the selection of cars. The Honda lawnmowers, RC cars and slot cars make for even more added fun along with all the racing types, varied tracks and customizable options for the cars. Itís all this wide variety of racing elements and making sure it all works well in a total package that makes TOCA Race Driver 3 an awesome game.