If you play ToCA Race Driver 3, don't expect to purchase any other racers in the near future. Codemasters' have really hit their mark in this release, with the insane numbers of licensed cars and tracks, highly realistic simulation that includes plenty of damage variables, all spread across over 30 different styles of racing.
ToCA 3 features a 32-tier world tour with a manager named Rick, a burly Scottish man with plenty to say. Each tier has an average of three events to choose from, place on one of the three and unlock the next tier. Rick guides you through each event, updating you on your heads-up-display, the history on each event, and all the other tips and tricks to racing like a pro. He's not only featured in the countless pristine cut-scenes before and between most events in each tier, he is also in car with you, hinting on your progress, dangers, and any else you'd want to know, for example, your tire temperature. ToCA 3 will probably hit the 25% completion mark before you hear something twice, so Rick, as much as he may seem to sound like a nuisance, is quite the opposite. The World Tour is a progression in a racing career, and you will race everything from Baja Buggys to UK Rallys.
As mentioned, ToCA 3 flairs from the competition (including Codemasters' other top-selling series Colin McRae Rally) with its over 30 different styles of racing. It includes the obvious choices such as Euro-Rally, 4x4 rally and off-road, Indy, Formula, GT, stock, and open-wheel. It doesn't stop there, as you proceed through ToCA 3, you'll find less popular racing disciplines such as Supertrucks, Go-Carts, Monster Trucks, Baja Buggies, Muscle Cars, and Historic Cars. All in all, there is over 70 licensed vehicles, from Subaru 4x4 Rally's all the way to Formula BMW's. These are all spread on over 80 licensed tracks, including extremely popular tracks such as Laguna Seca, the UK Rally, Norisring, Barbagallo, Castle Combe Circuit, and Nurburgring. The tracks are selected appropriately compared to the statistics on the vehicles being raced, and very seldom seem out of place. So does this wide selection place ToCA 3 in a thin quantity over quality situation? No.
This wide selection only improves the possibility for quantity with quality. The quality begins with the smooth, impressive AI. Very rarely will you catch all of the racers taking the exact same lines with the exact same speed. It's hard to tell, but it even seems an intimidated racer will make more aggressive moves. When a player is 'intimidated' too much, you may get an unsportsmanlike penalty, or you may just get a face full of anger in the cut-scene that appears after the race ends. The handling of each vehicle is quite different, but always realistic. Muscle cars with lots of rear-end torque will swing out and low to the ground, high down force cars such as open-wheel racing will hug the road no matter what. The traction on different surfaces is perfect, and although the weather does not play a role very often, it is still done well. Overall, the physics are spot on.
What the ToCA Race Driver series has been known for is its realistic damage system, and ToCA 3 is no different. Your gears, steering, suspension, engine, wheels, and tire wear all come into play. You will feel and hear the damage in ToCA 3. If your suspension lets loose, you will start to bounce around, thus losing traction. If the gearshift has taken a knock or two, you will hear the transmission struggle on difficult shifts and see your tachometer jump in relation to the struggle. Knocks to the engine will bring down your overall drive power, slowing your acceleration and top speed. If you end up blowing it by revving it on the red too much, it will actually blow, leaving you with a gurgling, smoking hood. The steering can take knocks, leaving you with wobbly tires, pulling you to a certain side, or even just violently shaking your car. Wheels can also come off completely, blow, be cold or hot, or just right. Keep on the track, keep to the best lines, keep off the other racers and off the walls, and nothing happens, simple as that. Most complaints lie within the damages happening too easily or too quickly, those racers with damage aspects before ToCA 3 have always been subject to these complaints with me and I dreaded hearing ToCA 3 had a damage aspect, but now, I am intrigued, impressed, and challenged, not overwhelmed.
The quality continues in the visual department. Even with 80 tracks, 70 cars, effects, menu's, and assorted other visuals, ToCA 3 is extremely visually appealing. Even on lower graphic settings, ToCA 3 produces a crisp image with great effects. Higher settings bring in the more impressive shines and shadows, which adds to the overall realism. The HUD displays your speedometer and tachometer, which is necessary for perfect starts and stops. It also has race and lap times, and of course, damage meters. The car models look amazing with even the right feel of textures. The tires hold a lot of fine detail, including smoke, grass and dirt markings, and standard wear and tear. The aforementioned damage system always makes drastic changes to even the smallest of things such as taillights or spoilers, showing the damage like it should be, whether it is a little or a lot. Smashing glass will actually shatter, parts will actually smash or dent, even to be thrown into the air. Race replays will give Gran Turismo a run for its money, as you'd swear you were watching the real thing. The glare, shine, shadows, and small details really come out in the replay, as do the physics. The replay includes a fast forward button, so you can skip ahead to see that brutal crash or that huge air one more time.
There is no difference when it comes to the sounds of ToCA 3. As mentioned before, Rick is actually an asset and never becomes annoying. He has a wide range of info and will almost never repeat himself twice. Each licensed car has unique engine, shifting, and brake sounds that put you right in the drivers' seat every time. In events such as off-road, you will hear and see the rocks and sand fly up and ding off the grill. The impressive detail is, once again, in the damage. The scrapping of a bare rim is not a pretty sound, and neither is that bash into a rock barricade. A burnout however, is always a pleaser, and high revs will never sound the same in different vehicles.
Aside from the World Tour, which has 32 tiers, each tier having about three events, and each event having about three races, ToCA 3 also features an obvious set of free trials, championships, multiplayer modes (online, network, etc.), and a Pro Career Mode. The Pro Career mode consists of choosing a racing style and dominating throughout all possible events. As far as multi-player goes, online on PC and Xbox supports up to twelve players, and PS2 supports up to eight players. The network racing is an arcade experience in your own home for sure.
ToCA 3 is an excellent racer, and a must for any fan of any form of racing. It replaces and raises the bar in all categories, mixing a huge amount of quantity in styles, cars, and tracks, with a truckload of quality. Simulation fans will get their fix, but arcade fans (like me) can still enjoy this impressive assortment of styles and challenges associated with them. ToCA 3 always has that fun arcade way out by including Go-Carts and Monster Trucks, and the damage can actually be taken right off. In the end, ToCA 3 has reached podium position, and looks as if it will be there for while.