TOCA Championship Racing for the Sony Playstation is one of the many gems I found through demo discs. I remember playing the demo for this game over and over again and loving every second of it, even with its limit choices. It wasn’t until I was much older that I found a copy of the full version, but it was well worth the wait.
Compared to other racing games on the Playstation TOCA may seem simplistic. An abysmal eight car choices (with an unlockable tank), although they are all real touring cars by real life manufacturers, and eight real life tracks on which to race. Your initial options are to decide how you’re wanting to play: Single Race, Championship or Time trials, all of which are fairly self explanatory but Championship is most likely going to be the main draw in the game.
Once you’ve made your choice it’s time to name your driver, select a car, select your favorite track and decide whether or not you want to qualify for a good starting position, or just start in the back of the grid and muscle your way to the front through fifteen CPU opponents. At the time fifteen CPU opponents was well above the usual count for racing games, usually being limited to eight, due to not being able to render all of them without massive lag, but TOCA does a great job.
Racing against these beasts isn’t easy, and by beasts I mean your CPU opponents. You will crash, or more accurately they will wreck you, and when you wreck there is damage done to the car. Sadly, or fortunately, the damage is limited to strictly structural damage on the car, your car can not sustain mechanical failure that I’ve found and believe me I’ve tried. Body parts will go flying and every pane of glass in the car will blow out so you knew how hard you had raced the car by the time you crossed the finish line.
TOCA was among the first games that really forced me to learn how to line up a corner and how much gas and brake I had to apply at any given time. My, then, teenage mind was so used to Nascar games that never really required logic or any common sense, I just hit the gas and turned a single direction. With so many twists and turns, combined with TOCA’s unique handling, it took a bit of getting used to, but by today’s racing game standards it feels a bit more arcade than it did back then.
Besides being a completely different style of racing than I was familiar with, TOCA also offered a few features I had never seen in any other racing game before. The game adds variable weather ranging from sunny, cloudy, foggy, snow, raining or an all out thunder storm. Another really cool feature is the inside view of the car that puts you into the driver’s seat, which is far more common nowadays, but wasn’t so much back during the Playstation’s life. Finally all cars offer a working horn, and when I say working I mean it makes a noise, I seriously don’t think your opponents are going to move aside when you beep at them.
Even though TOCA isn’t as full featured as its racing game counterparts I still found it to be a very fun game to play. It taught me the basics of how to drive tracks that had many varying twists and turns and it taught me how to keep my tires on the track when there aren’t walls there to do it for me. Even though, due to the aging of Playstation Graphics, I find it hard to play these days, I will always retain the memories of playing the demo over and over again trying to get better and better with what was available.