OPINION: TOCA is an all-time classic but we may never see it again

When you think of Codemasters' game series, the official Formula 1 games and Dirt are usually what springs to mind.

Historically though, Codies have produced a lot more series, such as the official IndyCar games and TOCA.

We haven't seen a new TOCA be released in a decade and a half now and those that remember the series sorely miss it. So, what was TOCA, what happened to it, and will we see another TOCA in the future?

Humble beginnings

TOCA Touring Car Championship was released in 1997 on the original PlayStation. The first TOCA was a monster success and made Codemasters a household name.

TOCA Touring Cars championship
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GENESIS: TOCA Touring Car Championship started it all for this great series

This was at a time when the first Gran Turismo game was about to be released and developers realised there was a market for racing simulators.

While none reached the heights that GT did, TOCA emerged as the biggest challenger, being the officially licenced game of the British Touring Car Championship (BTCC).

The gameplay was smooth and realistic, and the graphics were impressive for the time. Even over 20 years on, it's a game you can pick back up and enjoy, it's so playable and accessible.

Why TOCA was great

The success of the original TOCA meant that a sequel was inevitable, and it was brilliant. TOCA 2 Touring Cars was a sizeable improvement on the original.

Updated graphics, sound, handling and better multiplayer modes made TOCA 2 brilliant and arguably a better game than even GT2. Let's not forget the damage model either, which was still better than a lot of sims on the PS3.

TOCA 2 Touring Cars tn
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LEVEL UP: TOCA 2 took everything that made the original great and improved it

TOCA had been exclusively around BTCC, but World Touring Cars in 1999 brought the WTCC into the franchise. This shifted the series to a more arcade stance, but it retained a lot of TOCA's sim elements.

TOCA Race Driver (the first TOCA on PS2 and Xbox) even brought story elements into the game, something many racing titles still struggle with today.

TOCA 2 in particular was a truly great racing game and the reason for this was its simplicity. It's a pure racer, you pick up the controller, start the game, select your car and track and compete in the race.

TOCA 2 was a realistic sim while having enough of a fun arcade feel to attract both serious and casual gamers. There is absolutely a place for both GT and Need for Speed, but many GT fans won't enjoy NFS and vice versa.

TOCA was the happy middle ground between racing simulator and arcade racer, something very few series have managed to achieve.

What happened to TOCA?

The final entry in the TOCA series (TOCA Race Driver 3) was released in 2006. Since then, TOCA has eventually been transformed into the Grid series, not dissimilarly to how Colin McRae Rally became Dirt.

The most recent Grid game was in 2019 and while it was good, it wasn't TOCA.

Will we see TOCA return?

As things stand at the moment, it's very unlikely. With Codemasters' success with Dirt and the F1 games, if we were going to see a new TOCA, we'd have seen it instead of Grid (2019).

GRID Shanghai Muscle car
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GRID: is the most recent offshoot of what used to be TOCA

However, the rumours of a takeover by EA aren't going away. In fact, the Codies board are set to vote on whether to accept the bid made by the American giants soon.

It is believed that they will vote in favour of this and if that happens, Codemasters will be changed forever.

EA could decide to win fans over and gain some popularity points by reviving TOCA. However, touring cars are declining, with the World Touring Car Championship having folded in 2017 and many predicting DTM to do the same in the near future.

One thing's for sure though, the classics will be here for us to enjoy forever.

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