Review by ORCA782
"Opposite the Spectrum of GT3."
I played the first Midnight Club pretty soon after it was released, and loved the soft core approach to racing it took. Whereas I'd say it was much more innovative with it's sprawling cities and massive jumps, this game doesn't do away with any of that, but it doesn't really improve on any of it either.
What story? Who? Where? This is a driving game, not an RPG. Who cares about the story. You're an underground racer and you want to be the best. Simple enough?
I'd say for Rockstar these graphics are pushing their best. If you take a close look at all of Rockstar's games, like I have, you'll realize that in this day and age they have somehow managed to put out a ton of games, and even some good selling ones (GTA) while maintaining some of the worst graphics on the market. Anyway, besides all that this game has some relatively good graphics. Buildings are still just cubes with textures on them. The streets are lined with shoddy looking signs and suicidal pedestrians. I can't say much besides it looks plain average. I could probably compare it best to a good looking PSone game.
They've added a bit more depth here, which is nice, in some ways. The controls are very similar to the last game; R1 is handbrake, X is gas. I'm sure there are other commands but those are the only two you'll ever use. Reversing is out of the picture, because 99% of the time you'll just want to hold down handbrake to burn out, while holding down the gas and the direction you want to go rather than driving backwards. You don't utilize the brake with extreme caution like you do in GT games, rather you just hold it down to turn. Or at least that's how you did in MC 1. In this you can tap handbreak rapidly to drift around wider turns, so as not to lose speed. This is useful in beginning races, but towards the end when you either have endless straightaway races, or jigsaw races through tightly packed streets you won't ever be drifting. Ah yes, and one of the obligatory function in a street racing game; the nitrous. R2 uses your nitro, if you have any, for a burst of speed. What's better is that now if you manage to stay behind someone for long enough you fill up your SST (Slip Stream Turbo) gauge which allows you to SST. This is sort of an enhanced Nitro that doesn't use your nitrous. I don't know if this is really possible, but it's damn cool. And vehicles with no nitrous can do it, hence the bikes can really vamp up their speed.
Which brings me to the bikes. They also have the lean function (L1) incorporated into them, where you lean into turns, etc to turn more efficiently. The problem is that if a turn is too tight to lean (as they are near the end) you have to hold down lean, tap or hold hand brake, and then quickly let go of them all and speed off as you level out. Bikes are a lot of fun, but are really hard to control.
Since I'm on bikes, I'd like to note that as fun as they are you fall off of them every time you hit anything, which gives them a large handicap as compared to cars which just ram through most anything like a tank. Motorcycles are faster than 95% of the cars in the game however, so that helps. The gameplay is similar to the first, usually you are navigating through city streets trying to make your way to the next indicator as quickly as possible, while looking down at your little map and trying to find un-mapped shortcuts. All the while you have to watch out for other traffic and city citizens both of whom (traffic and citizens) often strangely steer towards this car traveling in excess of 120 mph (you). Besides the AI being pretty bad in some facets, the minimap is what really killed me. You're trying to race, so you always need your eyes on the road right? But what happens if godforbid you end up first in the lineup of cars, and you're trying to find the next indicator? Sure, you have your little arrow on screen (which by the way I liked better in the last game, it was easier to follow) but that doesn't always do it, as it's just a birds eye path to the icon. So you're usually spending a good amount of time looking at this minimap in the corner of the screen while excitedly looking back on the screen from time to time to make sure you aren't about to ram into anything major. And then when you finally navigate to the next point, the other cars have usually used a shortcut and beaten you anyway. This leaves you a few options to beat races that are complicated as the ones at the end:
A. Play the track so many times you memorize it. Now as tedious as this sounds, this can be fun if you do it in small doses. Maybe memorize one race a day. In MC 1 there were only a few races long enough to warrant this, so it wasn't an issue. But apparently the designers decided to make it more fun that 70% of this games races would be like this, so you have a lot of memorizing to go through.
B. Follow the leader through the entire race, because he usually has the best path, and then at the end vainly attempt to use nitrous and slipstream to zoom past him into the finish first. This is sketchy, and often has problems such as the leader not always having the best path.
So the actual racing can be an issue, but the races themselves are often quite fun. And just cruising the city can be fun, looking for the big jumps. For me personally the jumps are the big payoff in these games. You find some jump out of a museum in Paris that sends you skyrocketing over the city into some rural park in the middle of it all. I love the weightlessness.
Sound: BGM: 9/10 SFX: 6/10
One aspect of this game that blew me away was the music. I'm a techno aficionado, so when I found a ton of the tracks in this game to be just that I loved it. The other few are rap, which I don't mind either. I think some of the artists are fairly high up DJ's too. The sound effects are a problem though. I wanted to hear the music so I set the music indicator to 10, and the SFX indicator to 1, and most of the time the shrill motors still outdid the music. The cars all sound the same, with a few differences in acceleration. The voice overs are fairly good too, but often cheesy.
Once you beat the game, that's just about it. You can beat the circuits, which are a few races just to race that are not part of the main game, but besides that you just cruise a lot. I'm not downing cruising, it's really fun, but it gets old pretty fast. I didn't play much of the multiplayer battle options, but from what I saw that may add a lot of life to the game. Same goes for online play.
Overall: 7/10 (not an average)
The game is fun, but don't plan on spending a ton of time with it. The maingame is pretty fun while it lasts, and after that cruising around is fun. But the depth of the game in non existent in comparison to realistic racers like GT. So if you like the shallow, spin a 180 with the press of a button racing games, you may well like this. If you want realism, wait for Gran Tourismo 4.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 04/22/03, Updated 04/22/03
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