Is TOCA 2 underrated?
Many years spent throwing a Vauxhall around Thruxton, Oulton Park and Brands Hatch had me reminiscing about Super Tourers.
Remember the late 90's? Liquid drum and bass? Super Touring? What a time to be alive. Tiff Needell on the commentary and sometimes in the cockpit. Your average road cars like a Ford Mondeo almost at GT3 spec. Road cars pimped out with so much technology, the costs went beyond what's feasible for a simple touring car series.
Also, Jason Plato. What a name. One of the best names in motorsport, full stop. Punkt.
Today I was reminiscing about TOCA 2, perhaps one of my favourite Playstation titles of all time. This game gave me an unhealthy obsession with at the time, a booming BTCC. At this point, arguably between the DTM and BTCC, there was no higher level for touring car drivers. You could even legitimately see ex-F1 drivers pop up, Sir Nigel for starters.
However, the sheer excitement of the series and the racing it produced was up there with other top level motorsport series of the time. For a while, it seemed like the BTCC was on par with F1, WRC and Le Mans. TOCA and it's follow up TOCA 2 (the better game) then, spurred me into the series. It should also be noted, it is one of the first motorsport series beyond F1 to understand the importance of a presence in the video game market would have huge marketing benefits.
Whether it was the sleek liquid drum and bass soundtrack or the fact that you could even play with support series cars like a Formula Ford or the Ford Fiesta series, TOCA 2 for a console game was quite complete. In ways that other titles of the time really just weren't.
Arguably, it set the template for a lot of modern day racing games with some sort of story based career mode. No surprise then, that in the modern day, the developers of TOCA 2, Codemasters are pumping out F1 games with fully fledged and immersive career story modes. Being one of the first games you could put your name on the side of the car and play through an entire championship season, it was quite innovative. In the same way that V-Rally 2 broke the mould for customisations with its stage builder.
The fact that you could take a Volvo S40 or a Vauxhall Vectra to the title was quite the appealing thing. On harder modes, the AI even gave decent punchy racing ...for the time! I spent so much time on this game as it was such a departure from Formula 1. As much as I love F1, the fact that even the points system had higher numbers was pure excitement for a 12 year old me. Weird child, I know.
A game that would go on to become the template for many successful console racing titles since, such as the F1 series, GRID and even the TOCA Race Driver titles in the mid-00's. It cannot be understated how important this game was into bringing a new dynamic into racing games. Previous to this, you'd load up a game, select Michael Schumacher and GO GO GO. While that's well and good, those of us discovering "sim racing" in the late 90's always itched for that little bit more. This was the first game, perhaps alongside Colin McRae Rally 2.0 that really delivered the pre-cursor of things to come.
You just have to look at the ratings given out by the authorities that be in video games to see what a fantastic title this was. You also have to consider you could select Tim Harvey and slam John Clelland off the track at Silverstone.
Too soon? 👀
Growing up the UK, this game also introduced me to the variety of tracks we have! Due to this game, I ended up going to Oulton Park, Thruxton and Brands Hatch to see various forms of motorsport, pestering my dad endlessly until we were in the car to Brands to see other British series like BSBK and British Formula 3.
One thing we're famous for in the UK is our 'famous rain'. Though this is somewhat of a myth, TOCA 2 can be considered one of the first games to have proper wet weather racing. Drive Tribe summarise this well, noting that the headlights of all the Super Tourer's reflected off the surface when there was torrential weather. For 1998 graphics capabilities, just wow.
It should be mentioned that TOCA 2 was also ahead of it's time for graphics, perhaps only outmatched on Playstation by the visually sublime Gran Turismo series. But then again, most games lose on looks to Gran Turismo.
This game will always hold a special place in my heart and I for one think it's criminally underrated. I've always wondered if others felt the same!
Before I wrap this up, I also want to shout out the PC title (and only other Super Tourer title I know), STCC - Swedish Touring Car Championship. This was also a fantastic game, but perhaps not as complete as the TOCA series.
Full of nostalgia after this post!