Review by FastNFurious
"Pretty damn good."
"The Future of Illegal Street Racing." That's the tagline behind one of 2003's best racing games, Midnight Club II. With three cities and around 35+ cars to race with, it certainly tries it's hardest to live up to that tagline.
Does it succeed? Read on...
Story: You're a upstart LA street racer, cruising the streets in something that would make a Pinto desirable. From there, you must fight your way to the top, dispensing with your opponents, taking their increasingly better rides, and making a couple friends along the way, until you face the world champ. In your quest, you'll go from LA to Paris and Tokyo, as well.
Eh, who am I kidding? This game has virtually no story. You just go from race to race, encountering opponents who, for the most part, have nothing but vicious barbs to throw at you as introductions in their intro cinemas. Occasionally, you meet the stand-out racer who's kind enough to pass compliments here and there. But that's the exception.
Score: 3/10 (the opponent intros are entertaining sometimes)
Gameplay/Control: Yep, this is where it all goes down. First up, the environments. The three cities you get to race in are Los Angeles, CA; Paris, France; and Tokyo, Japan. Each is basically a scaled-down version of their real life locales all featuring their best parts, respectively. Having said that, the cities are quite large and detailed, with pedestrians, traffic, and other random elements to worry about. R* really managed to cram a lot onto this PS2 DVD.
Next up, the cars. You get around 30-35+ cars to fool with, and each has their own quirks and handling characteristics. They range from a junker to tuned imports to sports bikes to a near-100% Saleen S7 look-alike.
You earn each car by beating other opponents soundly. A word to the wise - since each car has their own good and bad points, that shiny car you just earned may not be as good as the car you earned it with. That kind of makes car selection a important bit, especially later in the game.
Now for the racing and the AI. It's a little interesting, really - it's simultaneously its' greatest advantage and its' biggest flaw. First, the good. Each environment is free-roaming, meaning that you can go anywhere. This extends to the races you run. In fact, as the game progresses, you'll find that taking slightly different routes from what the computer takes can earn you the win easily. This livens up the racing considerably, since you could discover, and use, multiple routes to victory. The control is very arcadey, but tight enough so that you aren't ripping your hair out. This is a good thing, especially at high speeds, where reaction time means everything.
Speaking of high speeds, this game moves FAST. The graphics deliver an amazing sense of speed (more on that later) and things happen very quickly, especially with the traffic and destructible environmental elements, so the slow and dimwitted best stay away. The AI is smart, and if given the chance, will forge their own path to the win. This kind of turns the practice of following the best AI car to learn the route out the window, since you can never be sure that they'll actually follow that route next time around.
However, this game has some scuff marks on its' finish. For one, the car control, while superb, is still flawed somewhat. Mainly because you rely on the steering, gas and handbrake so much. I'd highly recommend against using the regular brake much during the racing in this game, since it pretty much stops you cold quick. Not a good thing, since the AI will steamroll you at times if you're not careful. Speaking of the AI, unlike the first Midnight Club, where the comp cars focused on the road pretty much, the comp cars here are all over the place, in a kind of care-free, demo-derby style. In one of the final races, the pack of 7 opponent cars managed to mow down several pedestrians, create a pileup that made the Matrix Reloaded's freeway melee look small, and knocked down about 5+ lightpoles - all in one block. All that happening at once can be distracting, and since the competition is so tough here, you'll find yourself starting over repeatedly because of incidents that are a microcosm of what I just described. Plus, the AI is notorious for taking you out at the most inopportune times. So it kind of makes it frustrating at times. Admittedly, though, I found myself coming back to it after a few minutes or couple hours break, simply because I wanted to try again and beat it. Bottom line: if you're a sim junkie who can't adapt to the arcade controls and/or you're not A) a glutton for punishment or B) patient, this game may turn you off in its'
Graphics: Well, when you have to squeeze in three functional cities, replete with pedestrians, traffic, and other niceties, it's actually quite a surprise that this looks pretty good. I've noticed minimal pop-up, though jaggies are present. It's not as bad as it seems, though. The sense of speed is fast - this is especially evident in Tokyo, where its' brightly lit buildings are quite vibrant at 190 MPH. It's not too much I can say about the graphics. They're better off seen than talked about.
Sound: The game's sound is pretty good, as well. You get a soundtrack saturated with rap and techno from various underground artists, and for the most part, the soundtrack works well. However, the game falters slightly since a couple of the game's best songs are unselectable, and appear only a few times in Career mode. As for in-game
sounds, each vehicle has its' own, easily distinctive engine sounds, crashes sound pretty close to reality, and the ambient sounds (like horns and tire squeals) are clear.
Overall, this is a game that's 100% better than it's predecessor. So many new features, reworked physics, and added interactivity with the environment all combine to create a worthy racing game, and a winner in my book. This is probably a Greatest Hit at the time of this posting, so pick it up. It's well worth the money.
Overall Score: 9/10.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 01/03/05
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