"TOCA 2" is without doubt a highly impressive game in many respects. It makes many signifiant improvements over its' predecessor, particularly in terms of graphics and immediate playability. However it is not without its' faults, which are sadly too numerous to merit giving it a top mark.
The main problem is that the game is too easy. I'm not trying to be boastful or anything, but compared to other racing games (Such as "Colin McRae Rally" by the same development team Codemasters, or the benchmark racing simulation "Formula One Grand Prix 2" by
Microprose) it is too straightforward to sail through on any difficulty level. The reasons for this are twofold: Firstly, there appears to be no option allowing Championship mode to be played with races at real-life length. Considering the developers have gone to the extent of replicating the new-for-'98 'feature race' pit-stop system, having races that are less than half the length they should be is bizarre. Secondly, the much-touted opponents' AI is not as agressive, defensive or realistic as it should be. It's far too easy to stick the car on pole and disappear off into a 30-second lead in a couple of laps.
The game appears to be grounded in reality, but the appearance is only skin deep. The cars, tracks and race systems (including penalty points for dangerous driving - an excellent idea) are very accurate, but other factors of equal or greater importance are omitted, such as a realistic damage model. In real Touring Car racing, cars can break down, windows tend not to smash, and gravel-trap excursions more often than not mean retirement. Perhaps the most stupefying fault concerns the Championship system, where in addition to the standard method of accumulating points, you have to earn 15 points in one meeting to progress to the next. If you fail to do so (which is unlikely) you very often face the ridiculous situation of having enough points to lead the Championship comfortably, yet be thrown out for 'not making the grade.'
If it weren't for these niggling faults at the core of the game, then "TOCA 2" would easily take full marks, as all the other components are in place. A set of bonus tracks are included, plus an enjoyable support car Championship. Multi-player racing through split-screens is possible, though it demands a slightly higher specification PC than that capable of running a single-player game. The graphics and sound are sublime, and the use of pit crew communication is very well executed, though it would be nice not to have information barked at you as you negotiate the trickier corners on some tracks.
I often think that the closer a game is to being brilliant, the more frustrating it is to find after a week or so that it just doesn't have then longevity. I find this is also true of Gran Turismo 2. There is nothing wrong with "TOCA 2" that a quick patch wouldn't help, but none seems to be forthcoming. Sadly it appears as though Codemasters do not plan to release their new International Touring Cars game on the PC. This is a shame, considering what "TOCA 2" could so easily have been...