Review by AMorgan
Reviewed: 04/12/03 | Updated: 04/12/03
The definitive street racing article, now online
My name is Alex Morgan, and this is my review of the elite online street racing game for Playstation 2, Midnight Club 2.
Midnight Club 2 is a great game that's insanely fun to play. It was developed by Rockstar San Diego and published by Rockstar Games. In this game, you play a lowly street racer who hits the Midnight Club scene and takes on progressively harder opponents until you finally become the world champion of the street racing syndicate.
To initiate races, you drive up to a potential racer -hookman- and flash your high beams. Generally, a street racing circuit (which by that I mean from when you flag down a hookman until you can cruise freely to flag down another) consists of about three stages. The first stage is immediately after you flash your high beams at the hookman you continue to pursue him until he leads you to the starting point of a race. Then, a real race begins and you generally drive through checkpoints to collect them and attempt to win the race by collecting all the checkpoints and driving into the goal before anyone else - you must finish in 1st place to move on. These races are usually collect many checkpoints in any order with multiple paths to use to complete. Sometimes, I believe, they are also traditional collect one specific checkpoint and then another before you can move on to a third (standard route courses). After winning this qualifier-esque race, you proceed to race a hookman for his/her pink slip, which means you get his/her car when you beat him/her. I don't feel like being gender neutral from now on, since it's annoying to type. Once you beat that hookman/racer and acquire his car, you may use that car in the next race, which you attain by repeating the high beam flashing cycle over again. Some may find this repetitive, but they can shut up since it's seriously seriously seriously fun.
Beating races can also unlock a multitude of abilities, such as two-wheel driving that allows you to drive on two wheels (obviously) to avoid potential collisions in tight spots, burnouts that allow you to accelerate much much faster than normal on a start, and the slipstream turbo ability which allows you to accelerate past someone with a nitrous without using one of your own allocated nitrous surpluses simply by collecting draft into a meter. These abilities become very handy and many times essential to being a contender in the races.
The cars and abilities you get offline are needed to be unlocked to be used in the fabulous online mode. Online mode consists of many different gametypes -- Detonate, where one player collects a bomb and races to a detonation point to blow up all the other races, and the other players attempt to debilitate that player before he can do so; Capture the Flag, where one player collects a flag and attempts to return it to another point, and the other players attempt to stop him by taking the flag for themselves by colliding with him and then returning it to that same point; basic Race types that consist of checkpoints just like offline; Cruise, a free roam of the cities online with other players; etc. These gametypes can also be played offline in Arcade mode with up to two players.
Before I start, I jacked this layout with permission from one Mr. Omlette, and his review of SOCOM: US Navy SEALs for Playstation 2.
Let the review begin.
The single player aspect of the game, as previously explained in part, consists of dozens of missions against a large handful of named racers and even more random racers. There are three areas in which you race: Los Angeles, Paris, and Tokyo. While none of these cities is mapped exactly to the real likeness, they all do a good job of portraying famous landmarks to let you know where you are. Each city is chock-full of pedestrians and purposely annoying traffic, so if you've ever dreamt of running down four French people at 200 MPH (and I know we all have) then this is the game for you.
Graphics - 9/10
The polygon count seems slightly low, but that matters naught to me. The graphics themselves are above average, but not spectacular. The particle effects, such as in the visible friction and sparks when cars collide, are very nice to view and the textures are all well done and have a splendid look with all the leet shininess. Shiny things own. The draw distance is great. The amount of things on screen at one given time is great. The framerate is rock solid - I've had only a very few number of drops (with a very minor number of frames actually dropped at any instance), and only in very very hectic situations. The size of the levels is enormous. There is no loading in levels, meaning when you travel around a huge huge city you can travel wherever you want without loading a la GTA3. The levels are about the size of Staunton Island and Portland combined in GTA3, or so they seem to me, and the fact that the loading is very brief at the beginning and there is no loading wait while actually playing is very impressive. The motion blur used when using nitrous, and how fast everything flies by develop a FANTASTIC sense of speed. Very nice, thank you.
AI - 8/10
The difficulty is jacked, a little frustrating, but not hard in a really cheap way like in Dead to Rights or Splinter Cell. The cars just know exactly where to go and all the best ways to get there, which is pretty damn hard to know in cities this huge for the player. The racers are smart in that respect, and will fix themselves if they mess up by going the wrong way, etc. They'll try to knock you out of the way, make you fishtail, and mess you up real bad. The traffic ignores you most of the time, unless you're riding down the lane of an ongoing car - then the driver will maniacally swerve out of the way and hit ten people, four cars, and a bus to avoid you when you're a hundred meters down the road. It's fun to watch. The pedestrians will sometimes dive out of the way of an oncoming vehicle, and just like in GTA3, sometimes dive into the way of an oncoming vehicle. That's also fun to watch. Cars don't always follow the same path, and will sometimes alter their whole route on multiple play-throughs, as well. Very nice, thank you.
Controls - 10/10
There are four or six different control schemes, I think. Three schemes are present for automatic transmissions and three for manual. The manual control schemes move around a lot of the less useful buttons and completely remove the option to quick-change song tracks mid-race. Aside from control schemes, the actual controls are phenomenal. Instant response, as usual. Very, very well done layout for the configurations. All techniques are easy to pull off control-wise, sharp turns are a snap, and the motorcycle controls are quite intuitive. The only way these controls could be better is if they melded with my mind and reacted to what I was going to think before I even thought of it. Very nice, thank you.
Sound - 8/10
There are quite a few songs in this game, but most of the races only allow you to play one during that one race. I base that only on using the quick-change button mentioned a minute ago, you might be able to change to a different song via the options menu, but using the quick-change you can only turn off the one song and turn it back on. Each race has a different song though, and I like most of the songs despite hating rap. The sound effects themselves are grrrrrrrrrrrrreat. Engines whir and vroom like the real things, pedestrians scream and yell like the real thing, and the audio helps develop that fantastic sense of speed that was already noted. When cars fly by, they sound like cars are really flying by you, and hot damn everything just sounds nice.
The voice acting in the game is very well done, however some of it does get annoying. You're consistently pestered every five or ten seconds by a random and lame insult such as - mostly about how your car sucks, your racing sucks, you suck, the insulter is great, the insulter is fabulous, the insulter is a feminist, etc. I don't mind them, but I can definitely see others getting annoyed to hell at them. Also, when cruising around between races, one person also consistently pesters you with gameplay tips you almost certainly already know and useless banter. That and the strange music changing thing are probably the only let-downs in the sound department, otherwise supralicious. Very nice, thank you.
Gameplay - 10/10
The gameplay in this game, if you haven't gathered, is what makes this game what it is. Street racing in this game almost makes me respect real street racers. The crazysexyfast speeds, the selection of cars, the size of the areas, the insane amount of shortcuts/jumps/catacombs/etc., and the overall leetness are leetness indeed. Leetness to the max. If you like flying between traffic on a motorcycle at speeds circa 200, popping wheelies and endos, hitting it on two wheels, nitro jumping off a boat 200 feet in the air, flying over buildings at insane speeds, and having more fun in a video game than any racing game ever then damn you'll love this. If you hate racing games, you'll probably love this. If you like games, you'll probably love this. The gameplay in this game is unparalleled by any racing game, in my eye. Try getting chased by a cop who's right beside you, matching your speed, and pushing him into an oncoming bus in GT3. Bada bing, the gameplay is matrixaplixin. Very nice, thank you.
Online [Broadband Only]
If you have a dial-up connection, stop right here. Due to the very large amounts of data, and to reduce the lag and server stress, Midnight Club 2 is broadband ONLY.
Communication - 8/10 -
Text-only, via a virtual or USB keyboard almost makes me sad. You can talk pretty much anywhere there's another person: in the game, in the lobby, after the race, whenever. The text looks nice and appears in an unintrusive area/manner. Very nice, thank you.
Features - 8/10 -
Just like offline Arcade mode, but with complete strangers, a full screen, eight players instead of two, and ONLINE GOD DAMN IT! Hosts can limit the kind of cars you can use, to prevent noob games getting owned by vets, vet games getting owned by noobs, or all-purpose games getting owned by beached walruses. All the game types can be played with teams, many fun options (such as making the flag in CTF games heavy, limiting the speed of the flag-carrying car to 100 MPH), and all the basic fun of online gaming. You can use all your cars and moves online to test against the rest of the world, and anyone with BB can play at any time. That's great, but also sorta bad since there are so many idiots who go out and buy the game and go right to online with the first/worst car in the game and get owned and then think the game isn't fun. Blah. Other than that, online is the bestestestesticles. Very nice, thank you.
Connection Quality - 9/10 -
Broadband only, not flooded with players, very solid. The lag that SOCOM is plagued with seems to not spread to this game, which is very good. The connection quality of players (based on what the servers say they have) is bad, but I never notice any lag or anything like such in game. Simply put, at the time of this review's release, lag isn't even a close to being a factor. Very nice, thank you.
Single player and online are one with or without the other. If you play online only, you're and idiot since you will be losing every race if you don't go offline and unlock cars, but if you beat offline and then go online only you'll have tons of fun for a long time. If you play single or offline only, you won't be disappointed either (maybe frustrated though). This is a great, great, great, great, great, great, great game that is insane, insane, insane, insane, insane, insane, insane fun. I recommend it whole-heartedly to absolutely anyone, even a baby or a 90-year old woman with Alzheimer's. It's that damn fun.
I give this game a superb 38/42 - or a 9/10.
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
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