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Why not perfect? Well, there are some problem areas and, in this case, many are visual. Don’t get me wrong – the graphics are frequently excellent. Sliding around a wet Hockenheim in a Renault Clio is a great experience, while pushing high-speed Chevy trucks around a sun-drenched Oval circuit gives the game plenty of opportunity to show off its lovely specular lighting effects. However, there are always bits that spoil the illusion, whether it’s the flat, unanimated spectators, the distressingly blocky walls of tyres or the oddly dated-looking off-road vehicle models. One minute you’re speeding around Brands Hatch in an Impreza and everything’s great, the next you’re in an odd kart-like vehicle on a dirt track and you’ve travelled back in time about four years to a world of ugly textures and clumsy-looking models. The contrast can be rather disappointing.
On the plus side, the audio is top-notch, with raucous engine sounds and a host of mechanical clicks, weird in-car noises and crunchy blows when you hit something that really do add to that gritty, realistic feel.
And it’s a sign of the game’s rugged charms that you’re prepared to look past the rough edges and just enjoy the racing experience. Perhaps TRD3 hasn’t got the cars or the awesome tracks of GT, but it probably delivers more satisfying racing. Maybe Forza matches it for competition, but it certainly can’t match it for variety. And while TRD3 won’t unseat GTR: FIA GT Racing as the sim-head’s choice, it’s arguably the better balanced, more straightforwardly enjoyable game. Perhaps it’s not the first driving game to buy on any platform, but it certainly deserves a place in any racing fan’s collection. If you’re from the UK, think of it as a patriotic act – buy British, buy TOCA, and be proud.
Despite a few rough edges on the visual front, this is amongst the most downright satisfying racing games around. It’s an approachable game with plenty of variety to tempt the more casual fan, but there’s more than enough depth for the petrolhead crowd.