Midnight Club II Preview
Midnight Club: Street Racing was one of Rockstar Games' first PlayStation 2 successes. Challenging players to various types of races in various locales against various opponents was the name of the game here, with the winner of each race being able to add the opponent's car to his (or her) garage. The visuals were particularly impressive for a launch title, and some PS2 owners will fondly remember such details as seeing reflections on wet pavement (although not quite to the extent that Gran Turismo 3 would later showcase) and the very cool reflections on the racing vehicles.
With the success of Midnight Club, it was only a matter of time before a sequel would come to light. After nearly 18 months, Rockstar San Diego (formerly Angel Studios) is just about ready to put PS2 owners back behind the wheel with Midnight Club II. Aside from a new Career mode, Rockstar San Diego has also tightened up the aesthetics and has added online play, which will definitely be a key addition. These additions will be complemented by the same kind of gameplay that hooked PS2 owners on the original game: arcade-style racing with plenty of shortcuts for the daring.
The Career mode looks to be the meat of the game. Starting in the City of Angels (Los Angeles), players will start with just one contact and one pretty average ride. As players win races, better cars and new racing maneuvers will become available as upwards of 22 different characters will challenge players to races over within various cities and locales—including Paris and Tokyo. Players can look for a decent storyline to accompany the Career mode and give a little more fuel to why players are racing for their lives. Look for over 25 different cars and even a few motorcycles to choose from in Midnight Club II.
Aside from the Career Mode, Midnight Club II's Arcade Mode seems to stand up pretty well on its own. Cruise mode is best-suited to introduce players to the different locales and familiarize them with the roads and layouts of each area. There's also a Circuit mode which includes some longer races for players who can't get enough of the Career mode races. The Race Editor allows players to set their own race parameters, including checkpoints and race conditions, so that a huge list of race setups is possible. Battle mode incorporates multiplayer action and can utilize a multi-tap, i.Link capability, or even online capability. Battle mode has different race options within it, including Capture the Flag and Detonate. All in all, these extra modes certainly look to extend the replay value of Midnight Club II far beyond the Career mode.
Visually, Midnight Club II is looking very sharp. The cars themselves are made up of nearly 5,000 polygons, which will greatly assist in the level of detail and effects that each car can display on-screen. There are also some nice effects tricks with lighting and particle effects, and Rockstar San Diego is looking to try and keep the frame rate as smooth in this game as it did in its prequel, thereby harnessing the PS2 hardware that much further. Many of the locales are already looking a lot like their real-life counterparts, and that's a feather in the cap of the game's designers.
Some questions left at this point involve just how well the online component of Midnight Club II will execute, especially in a narrowband setting. Will lag affect races to a severe extent? Also, with all of the visual effects that are being included here, will the frame rate be able to remain consistent? With the advance in popularity of online gaming, this feature will likely be one of Midnight Club II's strong selling points.
The good news is that players don't have to wait much longer to get their hands on Midnight Club II. All indications are that Rockstar Games indeed has another hit on its hands and virtual street racers everywhere are gearing up to burn some serious asphalt. Look for a full review of Midnight Club II from us here at PSX Extreme in the coming days.
3/18/2003 Peter Skerritt