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GB_Simo View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote GB_Simo Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: ToCA Race Driver 3 impressions
    Posted: 02-24-2006 at 5:14pm

I understand that there's been some sort of problem with the US release of the XBox version so I don't know how many others can chime in immediately, but there've been no such problems in the UK so I thought I'd throw a few initial impressions out.

The first thing that strikes you is the sheer size of the bloody thing.  Somehow staring at a list of the cars and tracks doesn't do enough to convey just how many championships there are to scroll through in the menu screens.  Most of them are locked to start with, made available by progress through the World Tour and Pro Career modes - those with a TRD 2 save floating around somewhere will receive exactly one extra unlocked series by way of reward.

I've only had a couple of hours with it so far, but here are a few early thoughts:

- On first viewing the graphics don't seem massively improved over those in the previous edition.  They're still perfectly serviceable and the engine does a fine job of shifting a full grid of cars, but you wouldn't necessarily show ToCA to someone you were desperate to convince of the power of your console.  Sound is largely unchanged too, though I'm not sure there's too much more you can do when all you're working with is engines, tyres and the odd collision.

- The first few series in the World Tour mode (like the career in ToCA RD 2) are almost offensively easy.  The Baja offroad buggies in tier 4 are almost offensively hard.  It seems that the occasional difficulty spikes of the last game have returned, though as always how difficult a category is depends entirely on where your driving talents lie.  You do get a choice of series in every tier of racing up to the final few races, so you can pick and choose according to your strengths and avoid making the sort of selection boo-boo I've clearly made.

- The cars seem to have a bit more weight to them than previously.  This is particularly noticeable in the DTM series, where it was previously possible to throw the cars around almost at will.  Now, much more consideration must be given to where you're going and how you plan to get there, lest you find yourself departing the Tarmac at speed.  If you do that, you'll find that...

- ...the warning flag system is broken.  Hideously, desperately screwed up.  The idea is that you receive the black and white diagonalled flag for unsportsmanlike behaviour if you rough someone up on track or take a shortcut that benefits either your track position or lap time.  The roughing someone up flags work fine, even if they're quite harsh on occasion.  The leaving the track ones, however, don't.  I've been penalised for running wide and spinning through 90 degrees, running wide and then hitting the brakes to make certain I can't be seen to gain from it (then again, you're running wide, there's nothing to gain there), missing my braking point for a chicane, going off and then purposely braking to a stop, putting an outside wheel on the kerbing...

The best one of all so far was a test I ran.  Run wide into a chicane, kick the car back towards the ideal line, apply the handbrake and spin backwards just inside the inner kerbing of the second part of the chicane, lump the car over the kerbs backwards, stop, turn round, carry on.  It cost me, at a rough estimate, 7 or 8 seconds.  I was given a black and white flag.

That's my only concern so far, but it's a very big concern.  If anyone has any thoughts on the game or general questions about it stick them here.

Cheers,
Adam

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Post Options Post Options   Quote TedSGN Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02-24-2006 at 5:25pm
That is a big concern as I tend to leave the road quite a bit.

Adam, can you address the indy cars?  They were supposed to be carried over into ToCA from ICS 2005 since that series is gone now.  I still ove ICS and if they are good in ToCA 3 I'll probably get this game.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote GB_Simo Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02-24-2006 at 5:36pm

Ted,

I'm hoping the careless driving flags can be turned off but all other flags left on - that would probably suffice at the moment since there are some series where your qualifying (ah, yes - you can qualify in Career mode now too) only lasts 3 laps and with this flag system it's quite conceivable that you could have all 3 times taken away from you.

I don't know about the IndyCars at the minute - I've still got ICS 2005 and I'm hoping the physics are carried over.  I've seen the cars in action in the intro sequence but I've got no idea about the actual gameplay yet since they're locked.  I'm hoping to arrive at them in the next day or two, though, so I'll keep you updated on that.

Cheers,
Adam

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Post Options Post Options   Quote TedSGN Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02-24-2006 at 6:06pm
Thanks, Adam.  Great impressions also.  Keep them coming as I would enjoy hearing more about what you think.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Zeppo Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02-25-2006 at 11:53am
I'm really happy with this game.  The first thing I keep noticing, however, is that the Xbox is past its best days.  This game, sort like Far Cry did for me but for different reasons, really demonstrates that the time is right for a new generation of machines.  The 'jaggy' thing, in terms of the white lines on the racetrack, can be very distracting to me.  Otherwise, the visuals are clearly improved, particularly in the car models.  The detail is much greater, and they are pulling off some slick tricks with the refelctions and such.  Overally, the graphics are as I would expect of a ToCA title: crude but effective, very smooth moving, but not pretty in stills.  I love the cockpit view, as it is very minimal in how much it obscures and gives just enough immersion, but I notice that I prefer the hood view for the open wheeled cars.  For some reason, the hood view is higher than the cockpit view in most cars, but in the open wheeled cars it is lower.

Online is where it's at for me with this game.  The World Tour seems to be very easy early on, but that's fine with me as I want to open up all the cars wihtout too much hassle.  The Pro Career mode, now that I've figured out how to save mid-Championship (have to turn the machine off or eject the game, as it auto-saves but doesn't give you a way back to the main menu without retiring from the series), is where I would do challenging races.  World Tour is like a light buffet.

Online, so far this thing rocks!  The flags are maybe a little too strict with the penalties for off-road stuff, and the penalties for contact.  We had one driver last night get d/q'd and have to sit in the pit lane while we all drove by!  But the problems with the flags don't seem to be gamekillers, at least so far.  You can pick which rules you want enforced.  The additions to the online setup, with practice and qualifying, etc. make me really happy.  They have rolling starts for those events that are supposed to (last time, online was always stading starts, even on ovals!), and they give you info about the real series which is cool so you can set up the qualifying the way it should be.  Tire wear seems to be better than last time, you can set mandatory pits for races more than 5 laps (it starts you with limited fuel), damage seems more diverse, pits are functional so you can pick and choose what to have fixed, and there are just so many damn cars!

Best news last night was that my connection seemed solid with maybe 8 or 9 in the room at one point and no one complaining about lag.  We ran these Palmer Caterhams or something, aand it was awesome to see guys flipping them on several turns.  So many fun cars to drive and race with.

I don't expect the rally area or the trucks to do much for me.  World Tour is not the end-all be-all of this game for me (as it seems it is for most reviewers).  As an engine for online racing, this thing has just about got it all covered.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote GB_Simo Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02-25-2006 at 12:39pm

Zep, this is the first game I've played in a good couple of years that's had me throwing my pad to the ground in frustration.  The flag penalties are really getting to me - at Donington in the British GT series last night I put my outside wheels onto the kerb and absolutely no further coming out of the Old Hairpin and got penalised for it.  There should not be a penalty for maximising the available track, that's absolutely ludicrous.

I agree completely with the assessment of the main game modes - World Tour seems more like a chance to see what the game has to offer in terms of cars and tracks.  A display of wares, if you like.  Pro Career is more like the sort of thing you'll keep coming back to.

Speaking of Pro Career - Ted, I played through some of the Oval career to get to the IndyCars for you, and there's no way I'm advising you to buy the game just on the strength of those.  Played on normal settings there's not a whole lot of difference between the ICS and the American 1000 cars (I think that's what they were called, the blatant ICS copy) in TRD 2.  Put the Pro Simulation settings on and it's better, with more of the feeling of weight I referred to in my first post, but still not massively removed from the American 1000.  Certainly there isn't as much depth in the handling model and the transitional stages of the car during a long run, and in the name of accessibility some of the details are left out - for example, 6th is a racing gear, not an overtaking one.  At least in this mode, there are only 20 cars with some big players missing, and only Nashville, Indy, Gateway and Dover to race on.  I have to say that it's still enjoyable.  It just bears absolutely no resemblance to the Codies Indy games you enjoyed so much.

I wouldn't want to dissuade you from buying - in fact, if you got any mileage at all out of TRD 2 then this game is a must have - but don't buy it just for the IndyCars.

Something that I thought was nice is that while there have been a few developments in the physics engine - on XBox, since PS2 and PC owners got Pro Sim last time around - you don't have to use them if you don't want to.  If you're like me and enjoyed TRD 2 but wished the cars had a bit more heft about them, switch the Sim settings on and you're away.  If you're after more of the same, leave them off.  It might be a bit of a stretch to say the game caters for everyone in how it handles but there won't be too many who can't find a nice balance.

I do like this game.  I like it an awful lot - it gives me a competitive race, it feels good to drive and more often than not it gets the fine details right.  I don't love it just yet - there's not a lot in it that annoys me but the few things that do are really, really hacking me off.

Cheers,
Adam

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Post Options Post Options   Quote GB_Simo Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02-25-2006 at 1:10pm

A quick check reveals that depending on which mode you're playing in, the 'careless driving' flags can be disabled.  I'm very much hoping that'll cover my But Look I'm Still On The Bloody Track situation.

I posted at DSP a few seconds ago and the first thing I wrote about was the DTM cars at Spa Francorchamps, Pro Sim handling enabled.  It's absolute, pure driving bliss from start to 20th place finish.  Everything about it just feels right.

I'm beginning to think that all I need is a couple more hours with this game and I'll fall in love with it, but then immediately countering that by reminding myself that the ICS was disappointing and the sprint cars aren't exactly a triumph.  It's such a good game when everything comes together - what I don't know just yet is if it comes together often enough for it to be a great game.

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Post Options Post Options   Quote TedSGN Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02-25-2006 at 3:40pm
The Sprint Cars have problems too?  Please inform.  And keep them coming if you guys want to.  These are some nice weighty impressions; quite different from the fluff I'm seeing elsewhere.

Sorry to hear that the ICS is pretty much the American 1000 from last year.  I didn't like those cars much.

Can either of you adress the offline AI?  I really only played online after I discovered that the offline AI, was pretty much just 1 driver controlling 8 different cars, e.g. I used to see just an eight car pack snaking through the course and I was either in the middle of it, at the front, or at the end, depending on the class and difficulty.  I never saw the AI battling among itself for position.  It was as if it every driver was content finishing in the position where it started.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote GB_Simo Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02-26-2006 at 2:06pm

Ted, the sprint cars are just dull.  Two tracks, one a longer dirt oval and one a shorter, narrower one, and just the one skill to learn.  If you can turn into a corner nice and slowly, wait for the slide to begin (it's a very slow, progressive slide so there's not really an awful lot of skill involved in holding it), keep the car just barely drifting through the corner and then drive off, you're done.  It's a problem specific to the oval series in this game - if you're making a game based entirely around sprinters, or ICS, or NASCAR or whatever, then you can create an engaging simulation of the sport.  If you do it as part of a multi-series game, then you start leaving out the details and what you're left with is a few left turns.  I can't abide people saying that where ICS 2005 or WoO Sprintcars is concerned, but in TRD 3 not a single one of the oval series holds your attention for more than a few minutes.

As regards offline AI, from what I've seen so far they seem to race each other as well as you.  In the Formula Palmer Audi cars last night I was able to profit more than once from AI cars racing each other and slowing each other just enough to let me close up and get involved.  Naturally you see a lot more of this if you start mid-grid and have to fight your way through on lap one, but it seems as though they keep racing to the end.

Cheers,
Adam

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Post Options Post Options   Quote GB_Simo Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03-01-2006 at 9:56pm

Those bloody flags...

Run wide and onto the kerbing going through a tight left hander at Hockenheim and you'll get a warning flag.  Take too much kerb on the inside of the turn into the stadium and the same thing will happen.  Run wide and clean off the racetrack, with the entire car in the tarmac run off going through the final two corners, and absolutely nothing happens.

It's actually not a huge issue once you learn which parts of which racetracks are problem areas and start to run within the limitations of the system, but the system is screwed up whichever way you look at it.  Also screwed up, it seems, are Bathurst (some very incorrect cambers in evidence) and Oulton Park, whose layout is exactly as Oulton Park's would be if it was 3 times wider, opened up the radius of every turn dramatically and modelled at least 3 corner entries on the north face of the Eiger.  It's a bit much when you're following a British GT field into Old Hall and every single one of them takes off over the hump on the way in.

However, even despite all that it is a lot of fun.  Reading through the impressions you'll notice I've devoted a lot of time to a small number of complaints, and if the balance seems off that's only because as with Pro Evolution Soccer, it's not that easy to convey in words exactly why ToCA is so entertaining.  It feels right, in general, and where it doesn't feel right I've mentioned it in here and tried to say why.  The only other series I have any complaints about are the off-road ones, where you're apparently driving through treacle in every corner since no matter how hard you throttle on, the revs refuse to increase.  Even those classes are fun, though, because whatever limitations you're subject to don't disadvantage you against the CPU, and as long as you play fair you can really have a race with them.

Believe it or not, I reckon there's more mileage in this thread yet, so I'll probably have some more in a day or two.  As always, questions, comments and brickbats are welcome.

Cheers,
Adam

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