|Midnight Club II|
|Developer: Rockstar San Diego
Release Date: Out Now
Players: 1-2, 2-6 online
If street racing isn't the most exciting form of videogame motorsport then I don't know what is. Whether it's in your Midnight Clubs or your PGRs or Vice Cities, screaming through the streets of a believable cityscape beats nice, safe purpose built circuits any day if you ask me. Revisiting Midnight Club 2 now it's been re-released as a Platinum title just confirmed this to us Gamecell lot…
Illegal road racing may be dangerous and umm... Illegal, but it certainly makes for a fun videogame. Most recently Need For Speed: Underground and of course the wonderful Burnout 2 have had most of us at it, and here's another chance to go nipping down alleyways, doing insane jumps and avoiding cops.
The original Midnight Club had kind of sudden and arcade-like handling, and II has clearly had a lot of work done on the handling and physics; the cars now slide, jump and bounce as realistically as some more 'serious' racers. The unrealistic part comes when you hit one of the many jumps and sail through the air - some of these jumps take you so high that you'll see parts of the city you didn't know existed…
Visually, MC2 comes across as a hybrid of the original Midnight Club and Vice City's smoother, more detailed look. The game has all the speed of Burnout 2 (and even more traffic) and sees you racing across geographically inaccurate but visually evocative renditions of Los Angeles, Paris and Tokyo. You go for a cruise, find another street racer, flash your headlights at them and then follow them for a while. They'll try and lose you by throwing you a few 'dummies' but if you keep on their tail they'll allow you to race against their gang in a series of races. Win the races to win their car - simple as that. The races are mostly checkpoint type races, and this is where MC2 beats Burnout 2 hands down. MC2 allows you to find your own way, search out your own shortcuts and win the races via hundreds of different possible routes. Every race genuinely seems different, and what at times can be vicious opponent AI makes races competitive and a joy to win. Another delight is the fact that you'll regularly see your opponents mess up and have minor scrapes with the many destructible roadside objects, horrendous head-on crashes and get hassled by the Cops. There's no dopey drone-like AI or cops that only pick on you here.
Win in LA's nice wide streets and storm drains and you'll be off to Paris with its bridges and tunnels. Tokyo has a nice mixture - motorways, overpasses and even train lines to race along. They all have conveniently placed ramps (some less obvious than others) that allow huge jumps (and I mean HUGE), which can be the difference between winning and losing.
The cars may not be licenced real models or be made up from 20,000 polygons each, but they're all look-alikes of many of the cars that you'll have been driving in games like GT3 and Need For Speed. I've won cars that look extremely similar to; the Ford Puma, Escort Cosworth, Golf GTi, Motorsport Clio, Porsche 911, RX7, Dodge Viper, Lotus Elise, NSX, Skyline, Supra….. Mercs, BMWs - they're all there and have body damage and can catch fire too.
There are a section of street bikes too, and they handle in a similarly responsive and insanely quick fashion to Vice City's PCJ 600, the difference being that you can shift weight and pull wheelies or turn quicker by holding L1. As you progress you unlock various special abilities for the cars too - Nitro boosts, mid-air control (similar to Smuggler's Run's), two-wheel driving and burnout starts are just a few.
In all, Midnight Club II is probably the most fun I've had since Burnout 2. Some fun battle modes (Detonate & Capture the flag) add some variety and the race editor that allows you to set up your own courses with up to 64 (yes, 64!) Checkpoints. The game also supports online play via the PS2 network adapter - online the game works exceedingly well and it's still easy to find games full of both experienced and newbie Midnight Clubbers.
Although not the prettiest of games, the graphics are clearly pushing the PS2 to its limit, giving you expansive and convincing cities to race around in and an immense feeling of speed. This game supplies a much needed adrenalin rush to a genre that seemed to be losing its way. It's easily the PS2's best online racer and a substantial offline game too - at a budget price it's a hard game to ignore.
- Fantastic speed, mad stunts and supercars.
- The freedom to cruise 3 huge cities.
- Fun sub games and online capable.
- Smart AI gives some real competition.
- Now out as a Platinum title, this is still the PS2's fastest and most fun online racer.
- Sometimes feels like no more than a GTA3 or Vice City mission.
- Occasionally indistinct graphics mean it's frustratingly difficult to see where you're going.