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First Byte: An ace in the race car pack.

Byline: with Barrie Mills

DOES the world need another driving game?

Are there not enough ways already of driving everything from a forklift truck to a Formula 1 car around your TV screen?

In truth, there probably are. But if, like me, you're obsessed with all things automotive you might as well be asked if you really need that extra cream cake.

However, when a new driving game is released by Codemasters even vegetarian cyclists with beards and open-toed sandals want to have a go.

Since the first Colin McRae Rally game way back when on the original PlayStation, Codemasters have been the masters of realistic race action. Now, with TOCA Race Driver, their work has finally hit the PS2.

If you've played their previous TOCA-licensed games (TOCA is the body which controls Touring Car racing, a series based on versions of production cars like the Vauxhall Astra coupe) you'll be familiar with the format of racing round-by-round for honours.

This time, you begin by chasing job offers from competing teams and driving in test sessions for them before being set an objective for the season.

Starting in Britain, you must score enough points at tracks like Silverstone, Brands Hatch and Oulton Park to progress to championships elsewhere in Europe, America and Australia.

The designers have tried to develop the career progression aspect of the game with a dubious plot that casts you as the son of a racing legend who was killed on the track by a rival's stupidity.

Whether this become important later on in the game remains to be seen - I have to eat and come to work occasionally and the editor won't let me take time off to finish games - but it's easy enough to skip through the video cut scenes if you bore easily.

The most important thing, of course, is the racing action and this is virtually as good as the previous TOCA games. I say ``virtually'' because I think TOCA 2 from 1999 was about as realistic as it gets, ignoring the poorer graphics of the PS1.

But TOCA Race Driver certainly looks the part and the ruthless artificial intelligence of the other drivers was clearly designed by Dick Dastardly himself.

Graphically, the game looks great and the cars' handling is as good as you'd expect from a Codemasters title, although you need the difficulty turned up above beginner level to appreciate it.

Like real Touring Car racing, this game might exist slightly in the shadow of Formula 1.

But I'll bet you Michael Schumacher's wages for a week you'll have more fun playing this.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Sep 14, 2002
Words:432
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