Formula One racing may now be only marginally more exciting than watching petrol evaporate, but there’s one area of motorsport that regularly provides thrills, spills and close racing. Touring Cars is it, and much of that action is captured in Codemasters’ sequel to the original Touring Cars game, TOCA 2. The first TOCA title was something of a mixed bag: nice to look at, realistically difficult to play and more of a simulation than an arcade game. The developers seem to have taken the criticism on board, because TOCA 2 is even nicer to look at and far easier to get into.
With last year’s teams (including the moustachioed Nige in a Mondeo), you’re unlikely to be pipped at the post by Matt Neal’s independent Nissan; in this game the big boys are king. You get to choose whether you want to nip around the tracks in a Vauxhall, Renault, Volvo or whatever (the Honda was our favourite), but TOCA 2 doesn’t limit your driving experience to touring cars. By choosing to race in one of the supporting championships, you can play around in a boaty Fiesta or a stiff Formula Ford. Later, you will eventually earn the right to race around in exotic machines such as the TVR Speed 12 and the Lister Storm. Considerable credit must be given to the developers, because the cars all handle differently. Power slides are quite acceptable in the Formula Ford, but uncontrollable in the front wheel-drive touring cars. Suspension geometry, tyres and engine response all play their parts in the game’s realism.
The computer-controlled drivers have been ‘upgraded’, too. They don’t all bunch up and shoot away from you at the earliest opportunity. Some are more skilled than others, and they have different approaches to the racing line, so you can sometimes sneak down the inside. And sometimes not, which tends to result in carnage. As well as tracks such as Donington, Silverstone, Thruxton and Brands Hatch, there are additional bonus tracks that could see you in the Scottish glens or the French Alps.