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This is NOT an ARCADE Racer, nor does it have an arcade mode in it. Touring Car Challenge has been designed to be a Simulation and as such, you should be prepared to spend more time off the tracks than on them until you learn the maximum speed and braking points for each corner of each track.
At first play the cars seem almost undrivable, but take my word for it, after a few hours of racing you will see how perfectly it has been programmed to give the sensation of actually being in the car. Every corner has a pre-programmed maximum grip speed that if exceeded will result in you fighting to regain control of the car. You will quickly respond to the slight understeer around the tight bends, feel it getting very loose at high speeds and just like real racing you will end up using your brakes as much as your accelerator on some of the more challenging tracks.
As anyone who has ever driven a fast car will know to their cost, hitting the brakes hard when cornering at speed causes the weight to quickly transfer across the car and force it to kick out like a mule. Such is the quality of programming in this game that it seems to replicate all of these annoying real-life occurrences, forcing you to wait for it actually drive the car properly..!
A test track allows you to set up the your car for optimum performance. This area is sub-divided into eight different circuits including a skin pan (for learning how to handle your car) and a high speed oval (for optimal speed settings).
Each qualifying session is noYour position on the starting grid is chosen with a Nascar style single rolling "hot" lap, making qualifying a really tense affair.
Each championship race is split over two sessions. The first is the "Sprint" race (usually consisting of about five laps). The second is the longer endurance race which has to include a pit stop for a change of tyres and maybe a quick repair to the car.
The weather can be variable throughout any given race, which means that you may well have to change your tyre compound at any time during the race. Rain on the track has an almost immediate effect on the amount of grip and the braking distances into corners that your tyres will have.
Dangerous driving will be first penalised with a warning before deducting points from your race score if you continue to smash into opponents cars at high speed. This feature has been tightened up quite a bit from the original, meaning that the computer now gives you the benefit of the doubt far more that before.
To progress through to the next track in the championship, you must score at least 15 points which roughly translates to getting a top 4 position in each race. Cups are now awarded for a podium finish and the more cups you get the more cheats you will unlock in the game.
There are three difficulty levels - novice, standard and expert. The novice championship (6 tracks) is simple enough for most gamers to win on their very first attempt. Your opponents travel slow enough for you crash into a few barriers on each lap and still catch them up before the chequered flag. Standard (9 tracks) is a reasonable challenge (apart from the Brands Hatch track, which could take several attempts) and Expert mode (13 tracks) demands perfect driving lines, tactical pit-stops and cunning overtaking manoeuvres.
Before each race the cars can be fine tuned by altering the brake balance (front or rear biased), Downforce settings (high or low), Gear ratios (1st-6th) and suspension (4 different wheels). Each of these options generally have between 5 and 10 settings, which is enough to add to the game without making it stupidly complicated. As a bit of a tip for new drivers I would consider setting the brake bias 2/3 of the way to the front as this seems to make the car far more controllable under braking.
To increase the lifespan of the game, Codemasters have added several support car championships. As anyone who as ever been to a race meeting will tell you, there is always a few extra events to keep the crowd excited before the main race. Touring Car Challenge has embraced the feeling of a complete day out at the races by including SEVEN additional support races.
Each support championship is raced over 4 tracks and 3 laps by 10 identical cars. Each of the cars is equal in performance making it a true challenge of driver skill.
The support races feature the following type of cars:
TVR Speed 12
None of the cars feature the amount of detail shown in the Touring Cars, but each feel very different to race, meaning that you will need to re-learn the braking points on each track all over again.
There are several different modes of play which compliment the championship option nicely:
The CHALLENGE mode is an against the clock race around a number of tracks, with the idea being to get to the checkpoints before the timer runs out.
SINGLE RACE allows you to race on any of the tracks that you have previously unlocked in Championship mode.
TIME TRIAL gives you the option of learning each of the tracks, without the interference of other cars.
For those of you who enjoy racing your friends you will be delighted to know that they have included a two player SPLIT SCREEN or four player LINK UP mode. Better still, two of you can even race against the computer drivers as well as your mates well done Codemasters..!
Two players can also enter the championship together in the same race team and help each other to win the constructors championship, while battling to win the drivers championship.
The only slight niggles we had about this game were the highly sensitive nature of the analog control (it kind of made the cars seem like they were on ice at times and so you may want to revert back to the good old fashioned button pressing method) and the fact that on-screen messages often distracted you at vital points on the track.
This is a 1 disk game for 1 to 4 Players (2+ Requires the use of a link cable conected to another PlayStation running a copy of the game). It is compatible with the standard (digital) joypad and the analog stick controls of the dual shock joypad. Games can be saved via memory card (1 block per save).
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