Oh and it all looked so promising. The classic Ridge Racer series resurrected in all its tail-sliding glory. A modern face-lift with some real-life road and race classics. A storyline to tie the whole thing together. Girls with really big breasts. Bouncing.
Yet this is a pantomime of a good racing game. If only your TV could transmit the smells of burning rubber it would stink. Consider this: it takes elements from familiar and already successful games and does them worse. Does that make sense? It takes a thoroughbred, it takes steak, then combines them to produce... manure. It doesn't make sense.
The steak is the glorious Gran Turismo 3, which this game apes without shame in many ways, particularly in its visuals and vehicle choices. Dodge Vipers, Nissan Skylines, Subaru Imprezas, blah... you've driven them all before on tracks that looked like this. Only better. And when you did the handling was sublime, but here it's a lash up fit only for a rust-sodden Ford Escort with a bent chassis. This game is confused. The old super-sideways cornering style has been dropped, mostly, in favour of a more 'realistic' approach. But it's a half-hearted decision, and the result is an uneasy mix of arcade drifting and simulation apex-clipping.
The rally cars are particularly badly judged, taking poorly to flamboyant cornering and dumping all their speed in the process. Slides often turn into fights for control rather than deliberate arcs, making it difficult to get any kind of rhythm going and many cars seem to demand a neat, wheels-in-line style, which of course isn't rallying. This may well have a basic pace note system (and some annoyingly generic remarks on your prowess from the co-driver, too), and some OK tracks, but the handling is simply not good enough to let you enjoy them. GT3's rallying section beats this easily and of course Colin McRae Rally 4 and WRC3 kick the hell out of all of them.
The thoroughbred this game impersonates is Toca Race Driver, itself the latest incarnation of a long-loved series. The story here involves more cleavage than Ryan McKane's tale, true, but unfortunately it's tits in more ways than that. Your character is Rena, a young girl who drives an ambulance fast enough to impress the boss of a race team (presumably killing the patient in the process). He immediately enters you for an exceedingly boring oval race in a rear-drive classic DeTomaso - note to developers: never, ever create another oval - before sending you off for training. In a front wheel drive rally car. Huh? You then spend forever on various layouts of Suzuka, a track where gamers have done more laps than Michael Schumacher, winning easily, but losing the will to live. It is the first to have the recently reprofiled 130R, though, if you care.