Review by NeoTS

"Mmmmm... Nitrous"

 My first racing game for the PS2 was Midnight Club. After I adjusted to it's relatively steep learning curve, it quickly became one of my favorite racers, rivaling even Gran Turismo 3. I unlocked everything that could be unlocked, and then I played even more. It was a truly unique game, especially for a PS2 launch game. So, now Rockstar brings to us it's sequel, Midnight Club 2. Does it live up to the name that the first created? It does indeed. The fast and furious gameplay returns, while some nifty extras have been added. The result is a racing masterpiece, one of the best racers ever created.

The gameplay and control seems to have been overhauled. The later races are still extremely difficult, and will take some finesse to win, but practice makes perfect. It will feel very similar to the first game, as the control set-up is the same. It isn't so touchy this time around, so you won't over steer quite as easily. The nitrous is another story. Just hit that button and watch your car rocket down the street at a sickening speed. This is where absolute knowledge of the control comes into play. Hold that analog stick for too long and you're off the road and out of the race. This is the games charm though, where it really delivers. There aren't many more exciting experiences to be had in any other game, in any genre. This game will really get the blood flowing when you're swerving through traffic, side by side with the leader and doing over 150 mph. Its really an experience only to be had in this game. If I were to street race, I'm sure it would be something like this.

So while the feel of the game will be familiar to veterans, there are some notable additions. Upon winning certain races, you are able to acquire new skills for use in races. For example, unlocking and using Burnout will get your car off the line faster. You can use Weight Transfer, which allows you to balance off your car. This is extremely useful, especially if you fly off a jump a little off-centered and you know you won't make the landing. My favorite new skill is the Slip Stream Turbo. It is a very powerful move when put to good use. It allows you to draft an opponent. Just get behind a racer, and wait for a red bar on the side to fill up. When it is full, you can press the nitrous button and rocket past other drivers. This is extremely useful for passing the leaders in the last leg of the race. Another addition to the game is motorcycles. Instead of going with the norm and driving a car, why not hop on that speedy crotch rocket and swerve in and out of cars? The bikes can be ridiculously fast, and it's extremely fun to lose opponents in traffic they can't get through. You can also pull off a variety of tricks, like wheelies. Just be sure not to crash, or it'll take some skill to get back in the race.

The races are usually done in checkpoint fashion, similar to the original. Career mode allows you to race through 3 different cities: Los Angeles, Paris and Tokyo. You race against other drivers, earning their pink slips and respect. At the end of each city, you must race its current champion. Aside from career mode, there is an arcade mode. This allows you to just cruise around the city in your latest ride, or do some extra circuit racing, which loses none of the intensity of career mode races. The online mode is a very welcome addition. Players all over the country can face off on custom made tracks, or the races already in the game. The best part is the cruise mode, which allows you to do whatever you want. See that dude waiting at the red light? Pull up next to him and smoke him. See that dude barreling down on you? Go up on two wheels and embarrass him in front of his friends. Voice Chat is lacking from the game, and it would have fit right in. Trash-talking is the norm in this game, so it would have been nice to be able to do that with your online opponents.

The graphics are unbelievable. They aren't realistic like Gran Turismo 3, but why should they be? This is an arcade game, not a sim. The cars are as hot as they come, from the tinted windows, to the shining rims and the racing stripe down both sides. The cities are beautiful. At night, all the street signs and buildings are lit up, and the stars are out. It's almost an otherworldly experience, watching the lights fly by you. Hitting the nitrous is a surreal experience. The lights all blur together, including the car lights. Everything blurs, you can even see the trails coming from your speeding car. You've never felt speed like this before. Cars grind along guard rails, sending sparks flying into the air. A racer flies out of control and into a gas pump. Isn't that explosion pretty? Better watch for that guy spinning uncontrollably across the rain-soaked pavement. This is all happening at once, and there is no slow down of any kind.

The music is top-notch. Just don't expect any '80's rock and you'll love it. Most of the music is rap and techno, which is perfectly fine by me. It fits this type of game more than other kinds of music would. Even this adds to the excitement. The score in the first city is less than dramatic, but it really picks up in Paris and Tokyo. The cars themselves sound sweet, from that muscle car revving up on two wheels to the crotch rocket narrowly avoiding a collision with a semi. Everything about this game is just pure excitement, it all adds to the adrenaline rush it creates when the light goes green.

Every PS2 owner should have this game. Even if you don't like racing games, please give this a try. It's not your typical racing game, and it really creates a genre of its own. It's king of the street racing world, and it's king of the arcade world. The only game that could possibly top this is Gran Turismo 3, and it does. If there were to be a third Midnight Club, it would have to only add a few features, like the ability to customize your car, and it could be the best racer ever. As it stands, its only second best. It's one of the most exciting games I've ever played. Midnight Club 2 is dripping with style, and it pays off. This is what ''The Fast and the Furious'' movies wish they could be.

Gameplay- 9/10
This would have been a perfect 10 had it not been so difficult towards the end. They don't come more exciting than this.

Graphics- 10/10
They are beautiful in their own way, not many other racers can compete with this game.

Sound- 9/10
In my opinion, it is perfect, but I realize that there are a lot of racing fans who may not like rap or techno.

Replay- 9/10Midnight Club 2 will take you awhile to beat, and then you can fool around with the arcade and multi-player modes.

Final Score- 9/10

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 05/04/03, Updated 07/07/03

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