Race Driver 2006 - PSP - Review
Having taken us to the dusty outback trails of Australia in a rally racing game featuring Colin McRae, Codemasters really hit gold with its ToCA Race Driver series that felt like a smorgasbord of automotive racing styles mashed together to form the ultimate racing experience. Never mind the fact that the series is a love letter to the dedicated racing simulator fans, it played like a dream and had enough racing series to keep said fans busy for months to come. So imagine my joy when Race Driver 2006 for Sony‘s PSP - basically a portable version of the ToCA Race Driver games - landed in my mail box? So does this game translate well on the handheld? Does a cold beer on a hot June day at NASCAR sound good?
Race Driver 2006 has a limited number of game modes. There’s the thrilling Trans World Cup that places you on a career as an international race car driver looking for his place on the circuit. Then there’s Simulator Modes that comes with Free Race, Time Trail and Multi-Player mode. So why is this game so ridiculously amazing, you might ask? Well, despite the limited number of game modes there are a larger number of racing series that include 15 types of racing. This means that you just won’t be driving the same type of racing car but competing in the Euro Rally (for those rally racing fans) as well as the Hot Rod Street Race (for fans of loud hot rods). Oh my, there’s also the ‘68 Mustang Challenge as well as a V8 Super Truck Racing and the Master Gran Prix.
The Trans World Cup acts as a career mode because here you compete in a number of events around the globe making a name for yourself and to top it all off you start your career during the middle of a race in progress. At first it’s a disorienting experience being placed in the middle of a 12-driver race and you hear the voice of your trusty Scottish racing coach tell you to turn before you total your race car with a barrier. It is here that you realize that qualifying for the next series will not be a leisurely drive around the neighborhood. This is a strict racing series that requires more than just fancy driving and quick reflexes. Win or lose, you continue on your course as you meet everything from racing promoters to a television crew that becomes interested in your racing exploits. These things just make your career all the more interesting as you go for a top ranking.
As I mentioned above, you won’t be confined behind the wheel of the same type of car. As you progress to a different racing series you will get to drive a number of other shiny new vehicles. For example, enter the UK Off-Road series and you’ll be driving off-road vehicles while entering the Super Truck Racing series will put you behind the wheel of an actual supped-up racing super truck. Just about all the familiar racing styles are represented in this game as well as some of the more obscure ones like the Duez Cup and the World GT. You can even get behind the wheel of some vintage racing models in the Vintage Classic Challenge. With over 50 or so cars, you’ll have a blast just trying to pick a vehicle. Will you go for a Buick Gran Sport 455 or a 1968 Ford Mustang? To retro muscle cars to the modern sports car, the automotive industry’s finest are represented here.
One thing can be said about Race Driver 2006: it’s a serious racing simulator that plays like one. The AI opponents you’ll match up against can, at times, makes random mistakes here and there. Then again, they can also seem like they’re operated by robots that easily recover from a blunder and catch up to you no matter how skillfully you passed them. Luckily, the game’s default controls are perfect. You won’t be struggling to make heads or tails of the basic controls and this allows you to concentrate on the actual driving. Still, this doesn’t mean you can keep ramming Number 3 to get a lead. Your car takes realistic damage and slam into a barrier one too many times can cause your car to become permanently disabled (and thus forced to retire from that series). In this game it pays to listen to your coach and drive in a defensive manner while keeping an eye on everything from your suspension to your engine.
Another great addition to the game is the Wi-Fi compatible multiplayer mode that uses the PSP’s Ad-Hoc connection. Unfortunately there’s no online play that would have put this game up at the top but what is featured here will please fans nonetheless. Up to four players can play the game using one UMD, although you’ll be limited to a few cars and tracks. Then there’s the ability to play the game with up to 12 players using their own UMD. There are a few hiccups in games over 10 players but it doesn’t get bad enough that it gets in the way of the racing fun.
As far as the graphics are concerned, Race Driver 2006 is a beauty with sharp details in both the cars as well as the backgrounds. Whether you’re racing on a regulation-styled racetrack or in the dusty flats during a rally race, the backgrounds and tracks look good. You’ll also see your car take damage, the front bumper bending and your windshield will shatter. Even the menu screen is slick as are the cutscenes that play at the end of each series to move the story along.
The game’s sound is another highlight in that you’ll be treated to a decent score and be able to customize your soundtrack to add your own tunes to the mix (a nice touch, although it tends to make load times a lot longer than usual). The real treat here is the sound effects. Each car naturally sounds different and this is represented here. Even the voice acting wonderfully captures the feel of being part of the racing experience.
Simply put, Race Car Driver 2006 is a racing fan’s dream come true and one of the deepest portable racing titles available thus far. Mind you, much like Codemasters’ strict ToCA Race Driver series for the consoles, this racing simulator certainly caters to the hardcore racing fans that don’t mind the tough-as-nails AI and loads of difficult tracks. Trust me when I say that this is the perfect racing game to buy and keep you more than busy while you’re waiting for Gran Turismo Mobile for your PSP.
Review Scoring Details for Race Driver 2006
Taking in consideration that cars take realistic damage and that you can just as easily overheat your engine if you keep an unrealistic pace, this is a true racing simulator and not an arcade-styled street-racing game. There are a number of series to compete in that have you behind the wheel of everything from a rally car to a truck. There’s even a Time Trial mode as well as a multiplayer mode.
There’s nothing sexier than seeing gorgeous cars racing against beautifully detailed backgrounds on the PSP’s widescreen. Race Driver 2006 is a great-looking game that looks sharp and detailed and even better in motion. Even the cutscenes look like they belong on a console.
The music that plays in the main menu as well as replays is nice but being able to customize your own soundtrack is even better. Yet when it comes to the engine sound, the sleeker cars purr like cats while the muscle cars growl like lions - just the way we expect these cool cars to sound on a racetrack.
Classifying in a series is as hard as the real thing if you’re a race car driver determined to qualify for the next series. The opponent AI can be a bit dumb down in the beginning but becomes more unforgiving the higher you climb in your career.
If you love the Jaguar XKR or feel more comfortable with a modernized muscle car classic like the new Dodge Charger you are in for a treat because this game has over 50 cars. The best part, however, is the fact that the game has an abundance of racing series to keep you more than busy so even Formula 1 and rally racing fans are covered. Oh yeah, there’s also a good multiplayer mode.
Despite the lack of online play, this is a multiplayer dream come true. For starters, up to four players can race using a single UMD and up to 12 players if they have their own copy of the game. I’ve played four players without trouble but I’ve experienced just a few framerate stutters playing against 10 players. Even with these minor problems the multiplayer experience is still top notch considering all the cars, tracks and racing series you can compete in with friends.
Race Driver 2006 is, in a few words, an impressive and beautifully stylish racing simulator for your PSP. It’s a bundle of various racing genres that include enough cars to make any racing enthusiast drool and while it’s a strict simulator this is one fun game any racing fan will want to own when they’re looking for a quick racing fix.