Just like never-ending war in the office over which flavour of Space Raiders reigns supreme, there's a massive divide in the world of driving games. On one side you have the arcade racers: these high-octane games aren't too smart but they're all about fun. They've watched The Fast And The Furious far too many times to give a toss about the laws of physics or even the performance of real cars. They didn't even notice that someone's engine failing because a bit of their car's body fell off doesn't make any sense, and they insist on every car in the world being fitted with enough nitrous to make your eyes bleed because their focus is solely on enjoyment.
Then on the other side you have the hardcore driving sims: these are the ones who look down their nose at you in disgust should you fail to know the difference between a camshaft and camber. Obsessed with recreating the real-world experience of driving, these guys couldn't care less if they're not accessible to everybody; after all, they're the closest thing you're ever likely to get to driving some of the world's finest automobiles. Only rarely does a game stumble into the no-man's-land between the two. But now, TOCA Race Driver 3's done just that, and we're here to see if it can survive in this war of the machines.
First things first, let's get to grips with the mechanics underneath. TRD3 features three modes: World Tour, Pro Career and Simulation. In World Tour, you make your way to the top of the racing pile by progressing through tiers, each of which offers a selection of motorsports to pick from. This is basically a rehash of TRD2's Career mode without the storyline, but it has been improved with a larger selection of choices at each tier, meaning that your chances of getting lumbered with truck racing have been greatly reduced.
Pro Career's a new mode that offers the chance to specialise in a particular branch of motorsport, from open-wheel to off-road. Each discipline requires you to win a championship of around ten races in each vehicle (starting with the least powerful), before progressing to the next level. You can also purchase upgrades in this mode, although thankfully they're limited to tuning products rather than letting you add Kenwood stickers to the rear window. In contrast to World Tour, Pro Career allows more time to get acquainted with a certain style of driving and therefore improve your skills in that discipline, and thus will appeal much more to serious driving fans. Rounding out the selection is Simulation mode which simply offers free rides and time-trials with tracks and cars that have been unlocked in the other modes.
Although the addition of Pro Career mode should extend the life of the game way beyond that offered by TRD2, the modes aren't the main focus. No, as every fan knows, TOCA's strength lies in offering enough motorsport to humble both the Goodwood Festival Of Speed and Top Gear rolled into one. The number of different racing genres has more than doubled, and while there are a few dud newcomers, most of the additions are real gems, for example, the legendary Group B rally cars. In their debut appearance, these flame-spitting monsters' combination of tyre-shredding power and serious sliding make for some fantastic driving over the varied terrain of the UK rally stages.
Other brilliant additions include the sexy rides in the GT series, the gorgeous but frail Mercedes Silver Arrows from the 1930s, the infamous BMW Williams F1 car, along with some down-and-dirty Baja Beetles.