Go back to TOCA Race Driver

Written by: Rik

Date posted: January 31, 2009

Yes, it’s another side-feature where I bitch about the standard of the script and voice-acting in a game. You’d think I’d been to RADA or something – which isn’t the case, incidentally – or that I at least had an interest in highbrow or critically acclaimed films. That’s not true, either – and I’ve got The Fast and Furious on VHS to prove it.

Ryan McKane: throwing a paper plane around like a real badass mofo.

It’s not like you expect the story in TOCA Race Driver to be brilliant anyway. Although the setup is one big cliché – your daddy was a racing driver tragically killed on the track, your older brother’s also a racer and he’s more successful than you etc – in fairness, when the story’s about racing, you don’t exactly have a lot to work with. It’s got to be about rivalry and the clashing of male egos, trash-talk and homoerotic bonding, an old pit crew chief or driver dispensing some advice to the young rookie, the young driver ignoring it at first and making a rash mistake which nearly kills someone – we know what kind of things to expect.

In this game, though, it’s just not very well done. The major problem is that the player character, Ryan McKane, is such a thoroughly dislikeable little shit that you lose interest in seeing what happens to him the second he opens his mouth. Almost all of his dialogue makes you want to saw off your own ears in protest, and you can’t help thinking he’d be better cast as one of your opponents.

Inevitably, though, the bad guy is British (McKane, the hero, is of course American – which really grates when you consider where Codemasters are based) and sports a goatee beard. Perhaps I’m biased, but even though he’s obviously intended as a smarmy tosser, he actually seems like a fairly pleasant chap, especially when compared with the whiny protagonist you’re stuck with.

The supporting cast, meanwhile are dull-as-dishwater. Your crew chief (supposedly ‘the best in the business’ – if that’s the case, why is he so stuck for drivers he has to offer a drive to McKane?) sounds remarkably like [TV presenter] Tiff Needell, who did some work on the first two games, and while you consider that it might be him, it’s easier to forgive the wooden delivery. It’s not him, though – I checked – and so you can only conclude that he’s a professional voice-actor who sounds like Tiff Needell. He can’t get a lot of work, and on this evidence, nor should he.

Long hair and beards are for evil foreigners.

Tiff (I can’t remember his character’s name) is constantly shadowed by your manager, an overweight I-talian American stereotype whose only purpose is to waddle around and mangle the English language. There’s also a ‘sassy’ (dull) love interest, Ryan’s brother Donny (dick) and a handful of other characters that I can’t even remember, possibly because I started skipping cut-scenes after a while (and when you’re on your 11th attempt at a race, you really aren’t in the mood to try and digest something that you’ve long ago given up any hope of being good).

Like I said earlier, it’s not even as if we need something good – just something vaguely watchable. Driven, for example, is quite a bad film, with cheesy dialogue and an extremely implausible storyline, but it still passes for entertainment on a rainy afternoon. Race Driver, though, is worse. Worse than Driven, written by Sylvester Stallone.