Score: 8.0 / 10
here's a fun racing game! Midnight
Club II brings to you the joys of street racing without the danger.
Leave it to Rockstar to develop a game that once again pushes all
the right buttons with concerned parents everywhere. At least in this
game, running over pedestrians isn’t supposed to be part of the fun or
part of your objectives (unlike in GTA: Vice City).
primarily consoles in mind, PC gamers should make sure to play this game
with a gamepad or racing wheel, either preferably with analog controls.
In MC2, you start off in a modified Ford Escort on the streets of
Los Angeles, looking to build a name for yourself in the illegal street
racing underground. The
game starts off with your character being taught a thing or two by
another street racer named Moses. After
a few races against Moses, you win his car from him, and begin cruising
the streets looking to build your reputation.
This is the only part of the game where you are given a little leeway in determining what path you will take in an otherwise linear single player affair. When you find an opponent you wish to challenge, you will be forced prove yourself to that racer by following them through some tight twists and turns on the streets of L.A. until he or she stops and deems you worthy enough to race against. After accepting your
challenge you will have to defeat that racer and their
gang in a series of up to three different races which are separated by
some cool cut scenes where your opponent is thinking about your puny
skills and trash talking you.
The races themselves are fairly standard fare. There are a series of checkpoints that you will have to pass through, sometimes in a specific order, and other times in any order. The courses themselves are not set
tracks per se but are set
through the streets of the metropolitan city you happen to be in.
(Either L.A., Tokyo, or Paris.)
This means that in getting to a certain checkpoint, there are
many possible streets you could take to get there.
No particular route to a checkpoint is really advantageous over
another so the freedom offered in a race really gives you the sense that
you are racing against others in not only a battle of speed but of wits.
usual shortcuts in any arcade racer are accounted here, but they only
offer a very slight advantage for all but the most precise driver.
A shortcut that may save you a couple of seconds will likely also
lose you those seconds because of the sharp turn you have to make to hit
the checkpoint or because there is a last second obstacle that gets in
your way. The opponent AI
usually takes the path of least resistance through the checkpoints, but
they are skilled enough to make it challenging for any seasoned racing
locales included try to mimic their real life counterparts in theme.
L.A. offers wide long roaming freeways on risers, with grid like urban
streets beneath them. Paris
offers the familiar sights of the Eiffel Tower, L’Arc de Triomphe, and
plenty of narrow winding streets. Tokyo
has a mix of everything and combined with their left hand drive streets,
offers some of the tougher yet more rewarding circuits to race on.
the cars in the game are not officially licensed so instead we get
easily recognizable cars with different names.
The game doesn’t lose much from this though as seeing the name
“Civic” instead of “Citi” above a car in a vehicle selection
menu really doesn’t add anything to the game.
There is also no customizing your car except for the ability to
change the color. This is a
feature I really would have like to seen, but it seems that Rockstar
really wanted to keep this game a pure arcade racer.
While I can appreciate the concise nature of the game, it would
have been nice to see the career mode enhanced a little bit more with
upgradeable parts, especially considering the content of the game.
(Street racing in bone stock or pre-modified cars? How passé.)
cars that you win from your opponents offer the usual arcade differences
between vehicles. As if you
couldn’t have already guessed, these are speed, acceleration and
handling. The real
differences offered by each car is noticeable, and everyone is likely to
find a car that they prefer. This
is a testament to the game in that there is no one ultimate car that
will always win when you are playing through the career mode.
Depending on the player’s driving style, skill level, and
choice of route, it is possible to win in a number of cars although it
will most easily be with the one that is best suited to the gamer’s
The inclusion of motorcycles is also one of the game’s greatest strengths. The bikes offer superior acceleration and handling at the slight expense of its straight line top speed. Riding on the bike does leave you susceptible to some spectacular wipe outs though. Always competitive, the bike has its own unique handling properties and special abilities. Rather than feeling just like a programming afterthought, it really feels as if the bikes are totally different than the cars. While the bikes are always capable of winning, the gamer’s success in driving them will depend on their commitment to using them. While they are quick , they do take some getting used to and require a totally different strategy in driving them.
handling physics of the game leave something to be desired (in my
opinion). The constant
drift turns and stop on a dime handling properties of the cars feel a
little too precise and not quite as challenging as they could have been.
This being said, MC2 is a true arcade racer complete with two
wheel driving, air control, 180 degree turns on a dime and blow-by
drafting passes that would make any Nascar driver scream with laughter.
There is no damage model and if your car takes too much damage
you will simply explode on the next impact and be on your merry way with
a brand new vehicle with no damage, costing you only a small margin of
the career mode is only scratching the surface of the rich gameplay
options available. In the
arcade mode you can race against your past opponents, play capture the
flag, detonate, or just cruise. There
is also a race editor mode where you can create your own circuits in the
cities you have conquered. The
real gem though is the online play mode.
With the ability to host races only in the cities that you have
completed in the career mode this allows the seasoned racers to be
identified quickly by where they race while keeping newbies, and the
inexperienced to the streets of L.A.
Combined with the incredible sense of speed offered by the game, Midnight Club 2 will leave you craving more, and you will likely be up until the early hours of the morning trying to beat those pesky French sisters in Paris. The opportunity to race through traffic at 300 KM/H on city streets against a pack of other cars is not only fun but very addictive. Rockstar can really do no wrong in my eyes, and this game further enhances my confidence in them as one of the premier game developer/publishers in recent memory.
- Mark Leung
(August 20, 2003)
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