Review by Gruel

"Oozie Machismo, esse?"

I have not been the biggest fan of racing games lately. There are too many of them on the market, and most of them bring nothing new to the table. When the first Midnight Club arrived on the PS2 launch, it was a breath of fresh air for the racing genre. It’s open-ended street racing was like nothing before it, and it went on to sell quite well and become a PS2 Greatest Hits title. Now the sequel has arrived, and it features the same street racing that was pioneered in the original, with the addition of online play.

The whole street racing genre was popularized with the release of Fast and the Furious into movie theaters. Now lots of more street racing titles have hit the market such as Need for Speed 2: Hot Pursuit and Acclaim’s Burnout 2: Point of Impact as well as Wreckless. These three games alone have all received their fair share of praise from the media. Midnight Club II’s new features hopes to diversify itself from the rest of the pack. One thing that will go noticed is the lack of the license of a car dealers license. This is a gigantic blow against the game, and I would’ve thought the publishers would’ve learned their lesson after the first time around.

The same thing that made the original Midnight Club so great was the open-ended racing. It’s still here in all its glory in the sequel. You can literally go off track in any direction. The good thing is that this can lead to shortcuts, then again you can also get lost from the main course just like that. Thankfully, there is an arrow that points to the direction of the nearest checkpoint, and you can pull up the onscreen map with a quick press on the direction pad.

Midnight Club II controls just like many other racers on the market, but there is a lot more than meets the eye. Besides doing your entire standard driving techniques you can also perform tail slides with the handbrake, and activate nitrous boosts. New in this game is the addition of driving motorcycles. This opens up a whole new department for game play where you can do sweet jumps, wheelies, and front ends on the killer 2-wheelers.

The heart and soul of MC2 is the career mode. It all starts off with cruising the streets of Los Angeles, and finding a fellow street racer to challenge. Once you find one that is highlighted, flash your brights at them and they’ll drive like crazy across town to see if you can keep up with them. Once they saw I was at their level, I was thrown in a race with them. After beating them I got their vehicle unlocked for use in the other game play modes. After that I just keep repeating the process over and over until I move on to the two other cities (Paris & Tokyo) that are featured in MC2. Thankfully, there is enough diversity between each main race so things don’t get repetitive. Each race had me glued to my seat as I’d blaze through intense traffic and dodge huge big rigs at intersections. The only downer to each race in Career mode is that you must finish first each time to proceed in all difficulties. Anything else simply won’t do, and this can make matters frustrating after leading a race for a while and the computer just manages to pass you near the end of the race. The computer AI is made up of that cheap “catch-up” techniques where they’ll always be on your tail when I was ahead of the pack, and they’ll be as slow as molasses after a crash and I’m a bit behind.

There are a couple other ways to play Midnight Club II. There is the Arcade which is perfect for learning the ropes of game play and going against the computer or a buddy in split screen match ups. Besides regular racing, you can also go at it in Capture the Flag and Detonate match ups. While CtF is self explanatory, Detonate is pretty fun where you have to grab a bomb located on the map and drop it off at another random point of the map. Once you have the bomb you can only top off at half-speed and can only take a few hits before blowing up. This is a fun and intense mode, but it’s too bad the developers skimped out on multi tap support for up to four players.

But this is where the online play comes in hand. Just like SOCOM: US Navy Seals, this title supports Broadband-only, so people with fast speed internet connections are the only ones that can enjoy the online play. And after all the online sessions I had I can assure you that I seldom ran into lag and the experience was a blast going up against up to seven people simultaneously. While MC2 does support USB keyboards for on the fly chatting, it does not support the Logitech Headset that came with SOCOM. It’s kind of pathetic too, because this would’ve been a blast with live voice chat instead, and it would of been a hell of a lot more provocative then just typing my trash talking.

The graphics are a bit of a disappointment. It looks like the developers tried to cram as much in as possible, and the graphics had to be downgraded as a result. Everything still looks the same from the original with very little upgrades apparent. Most of the textures for the vehicles and buildings are washed out and don’t look all that impressive. The overall graphics are sub-par to the crisp visuals found in Burnout 2 and Wreckless. There are some cool special effects such as sparks flying across the screen whenever a crash occurs, and a cool “blur” effect when you activate nitrous bursts. And at least the frame rate stays at a quick pace so things never slow down one bit. So while there are some bright spots to the visuals, it could’ve been a heck of a lot better with some more effort.

When I first heard the selection of songs on MC2’s soundtrack, I never really cared for them that much. Most of the 15 songs are techno and trance beats. I thought a more hard rock selection would’ve been perfect for the street racing genre, but after a few races with these tunes in tack I was proved wrong as these tunes definitely helped immerse me into all the heated races. There is plenty of voice acting from all the drivers you go up against in Career mode, and their quality is pretty damn good for video game standards.

The career mode will take a while to beat and you’ll be hard pressed to beat it so you can unlock all the vehicles for use in Arcade mode. Also, you can only use what you unlock in online play also. The online play is fabulous and I spent hours there in that area alone. Again, if it would’ve supported the headset for voice chat then it would’ve been perfect, but it looks like I’m going to have to settle with a keyboard for now.

RATINGS

Graphics: 6.0
Sound: 7.3
Game play: 8.4
Replay Value: 8.2

Overall: 7.4

Midnight Club II is a great racer that barely manages to stand out from the plethora of them available on PS2. The addition of online play is one of the main factors in this game, and if you want to make good use of that network adaptor, then I guarantee you’ll like the online experience here. However, MC2 isn’t as good as it could have been. The graphics are ugly when compared to the competition, and I’d slightly recommend Burnout 2 or Wreckless more simply because of the better game play experience. Not to take anything away from Midnight Club II because it is already a great game, but you just might want to rent it. Because just like your opponents in the game, you’ll want to see if MC2 is worthy enough of investing your $50 into it.


Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 04/22/03, Updated 04/22/03


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