TOCA Race Driver 2's full career mode is back in Race Driver 2006 and appears basically untouched. It's a story-based affair where you play as a rookie driver on the come-up in the international racing scene. By your side is a Scottish racing-team manager and an ambitious young sports agent. Interactions with these characters play out through CG cutscenes that play between specific races. The story is a neat way to put you through the paces of a typical racing career, with you entering lots of different international events and essentially sampling practically every type of racing along the way, all the while getting some nice bits of story as you go. Of course, you'll only have limited choices in terms of which races you can pick as you progress, and you're always designated a specific car for a race, but that's how the TOCA series has always been, and you probably won't even mind the lack of choice after a few races.
On top of the career mode, you'll also be able to engage in a brand-new single-player mode called the Trans-World Cup. This mode is basically a series of race-based challenges, including standard races, rival races, time trials, and the like. There are even some unique challenges, such as no-damage races and races that challenge you to maintain an average speed count throughout an entire lap. Few of these challenges take much time to play through, which actually makes this mode an ideal fit for a handheld game. They're all pretty fun challenges, if not the most varied, and you ought to find yourself oddly addicted to this clever new mode.
The one thing Race Driver 2006 does not have that its predecessor did is online play. There is ad hoc wireless play for up to 12 players, but every racer would need to have a copy of the game to use this functionality. Fortunately, there is also a game-share option for up to four players. The game-sharing feature only gives you access to a limited number of race types, and the loading times are exceptionally longer than anything in the offline game, but it is entirely functional beyond those caveats. The absence of online is kind of a bummer, given how great of an online game TOCA 2 was, but there is at least a good list of multiplayer features to be had in the game.
The PSP definitely has more than its share of highly attractive-looking racers, but Race Driver 2006 has to be considered in the upper echelon of that group. The game doesn't look like a dumbed-down TOCA 2. The car models are still extremely realistic-looking, with plenty of model detail and nice damage effects. The tracks don't look much lower-res than they did on the PlayStation 2, and despite all the vehicular and environmental detail, the frame rate holds up throughout the game with practically no fluctuations whatsoever. The camera options are a little more limited than what you might expect, in that there's a bumper-cam view, an internal view, and only one behind-the-car camera view (and it's pretty up-close and personal). The ability to zoom out of the behind-the-car view a little further would have been nice, but as it is, it's a workable view. The audio is basically the same as it was in the console versions, with great-sounding race effects and voice acting, as well as a groovy in-game soundtrack that's peculiarly pleasant to listen to. But if the mellow grooves aren't your thing, you'll be happy to hear that Race Driver 2006 supports the system's custom soundtrack feature.
If you already own TOCA Race Driver 2, and even TOCA Race Driver 3, Race Driver 2006 might be a tougher sell for you since all it really offers beyond what you already have is the Trans-World Cup mode and some additional cars and tracks. But that said, being able to take TOCA 2 with you on the go in a form that feels just about as good as it was on consoles is a great achievement, and that it is the only truly simulation-minded racing game on the PSP makes it that much more appealing.