Despite its name, Global Touring Challenge: Africa by Rage Software and Majesco is not a game about touring races, like Codemasters' TOCA series, for example. Instead, it's a game about rally racing, and it's a largely forgettable one at that. GTC: Africa isn't a bad game, but almost all of its components are average at best, and unlike other games in this genre, it lacks any one outstanding feature or notable aspect.
GTC: Africa has only a small selection of cars to choose from.
GTC: Africa's mediocrity is evident from the very beginning. The game has only nine selectable cars, and while all of them are licensed vehicles, they include questionable models like the Pontiac Grand Am and the Ford Cougar--not exactly the cornerstones of rally racing. In fact, only about a third of the game's cars--the Mitsubishi Evo VI, the Subaru Impreza, the Ford Focus, and the Ford Escort Cosworth--are actual rally cars. The others seem to have been included simply as favors to the car manufacturers. What's more, while these nine cars supposedly have three separate handling characteristics, there's absolutely no ability to modify, upgrade, or otherwise customize their performance through aftermarket parts. This simplicity also carries over into the game's control scheme. None of the cars handle realistically, though they all perform predictably. GTC: Africa is clearly meant to be an arcade racing game, and for the most part, you can get around most of the tracks with your finger firmly planted on the gas button, though use of the hand brake is required on some of the more winding roads.
Like so many other racing games, this one is split up into several different gameplay modes, the most important of which is the championship option. It's here that you'll get to race across the game's 19 unique African locales throughout three different leagues, though the last one is merely a compilation of the first two. Competing in these races seems straightforward enough at first: You have to beat the competition to the finish line while minding an ever-present clock that will disqualify you if you're too slow. More points are awarded for first, fewer for second, and fewer still for third, and the driver with the most points at the conclusion of the league is crowned the champion. As you move on to the second and eventually the third leagues, the competition gets tougher, and you're given less leeway in terms of time.
It's only after you reach these later leagues that you'll start to take note of some questionable gameplay mechanics in GTC: Africa's championship mode. Specifically, the AI of the other drivers gets inexplicably better as the game progresses--so much so that competing against them in the later stages becomes rather frustrating. Other drivers will simply drive faster than you and won't make any mistakes, and keeping up with them, though not impossible, seems more difficult than it should be. What's more, GTC: Africa has a somewhat confusing team affinity system. The better you race, the higher your status becomes within your team. This is represented as a percentage after every race, and the higher this percentage, the more time you have to complete each race. This whole system seems rather arbitrary: You're never told what that number is a percentage of, and you have to crack open the manual to find out that the status is affected by your placement at the end of each race and the amount of damage that you sustain during each event. This only adds to the confusion, since damage is never visible on your car, nor does damage seem to have any effect on its performance. What's more, if your team status dips below a certain percentage, it'll perpetuate a very serious cycle of problems. Namely, you'll be penalized by having less time to complete a race, which increases the chances of you finishing poorly or not finishing at all, which will drop your team status even further. Most games with automatically scaling difficulty are intended to assist those having trouble, not to punish them.
Despite these problems, you'll likely finish the game's championship mode in a couple of hours, after which you'll be rewarded by receiving a couple of new cars. Beyond that, this mode offers little in the way of replay value. The game does have 11 challenges, however, though they too will wear thin after a few hours.
It's a simple, forgettable driving game.
The game's graphics are also suspect. While it boasts some good use of ambient lighting, little else about GTC: Africa's visuals is noteworthy. The car models, while recognizable, are made up of a low number of polygons and don't show off much detail at all. Likewise, most of the textures on the cars as well as in the environments are washed out and give the entire game a somewhat blurry look. The levels and environments themselves are quite varied, at least, and range from dense jungles to dusty plains, though few really resemble any environment that you'd expect to see in a race. The sound also seems out of place. The cars' engine noises are extremely muted and sound more like vacuum cleaners than any kind of car, and the soundtrack is composed of completely generic tribal beats.
Perhaps generic is the best way to describe Global Touring Challenge: Africa. One look at the driving game section of any software store will reveal tons of similarly themed though better-executed driving games for your PlayStation 2. If you're dying to find out just how mediocre this game is, rent it; otherwise, you're better served elsewhere.