Midnight Club II Review
The original Midnight Club Street Racing was a PS2 game that I had always gone back to for a quick session every now and then. It had a grip on me like few PS2 games did. While some found the PS2 launch inadmissible (read: lacking a killer app), it still had its share of highly enjoyable PS2 titles -- Midnight Club was one of them. It's been a dreadful two-some year wait for a sequel, but Rockstar San Diego (formerly Angel Studios) has delivered the follow-up to one of the most exciting racers the PS2 has to offer. Vastly different than Gran Turismo 3 or even Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit 2, Midnight Club 2 is an off-the-wall racer that defines illegal street-racing, much like its original counterpart.
Visually, Midnight Club 2 is a good looking racer. While it may not be as extravagant as Burnout 2 or Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit 2, Midnight Club 2 certainly holds its own. For starters, MC2 boasts three moderately large cities: Los Angeles, Paris and Tokyo. To put things into perspective, the cities in MC2 are in no way on a similar scale with games Grand Theft Auto III/VC and The Getaway. If you look at Vice City's first open portion, it's about the size of each city in Midnight Club 2, perhaps a little smaller, but that still gives you a decent idea of the MC2's scale. Though, the difference with MC's roads is that they all feature shortcuts and jumps that will send you soaring hundreds of feet into the air. There are many shortcuts and jumps in each city, so you'll continuously find something new.
On a more technical side of things, Midnight Club 2 is a pretty sharp looking racer. For one, it has some pretty detailed roads, which is a rather nice departure from the casual flat and smooth asphalt shown in most other racers, excluding Burnout 2. The cars in Midnight Club 2 are mock-ups of actual vehicles, including Honda Civics, Honda S2000s, Dodge Vipers (the new redesign), Porsche 911s and even Mazda RX-7s. There are nearly 20 vehicles in the game, all of which are aesthetic similarities to cars you'd normally see on the roads. The vehicles are all textured well and even feature reflective surfaces for extra eye-candy. On that note, the lighting effects in Midnight Club 2 are superb. The game is well lit and does a great job of setting its targeted midnight environment. Midnight Club 2 runs incredibly smooth. The frame rate is solid and keeps the furious speed of the game intact. In addition to a solid frame rate, Midnight Club 2 doesn't suffer from any pop-up or draw-in of any kind, so you'll be able to see the whole environment as you travel around it. In the end, when you get down to the very bottom of it all, Midnight Club 2 is a fine looking game.
Visuals aside, I can wholeheartedly assure each and every one of you that MC2 delivers in the gameplay department. MC2's primary focuses are speed and fun, and thankfully both are pulled off superbly. You will start Midnight Club 2 much like you started out in the original. You are given a rather mediocre vehicle that you'll have to use for about 3 races before you move on and acquire a more competitive vehicle. The career mode is pretty straightforward in how it all pans out. Each city has its respective racers that you will have to conquer. You'll find that in all three cities as you get closer to the end, the races become more frustrating and more challenging -- this is not necessarily a bad thing. With its challenge, MC2 is quite the worthy title. Good chances are that you won't just breeze through the career, and you'll find yourself looking for different driving routes to ensure yourself a speedier victory in a particular race.
That said, Midnight Club 2 is a game that is chock full of features. As already mentioned, there are 20 vaguely realistic vehicles in the game. In addition to that, MC2 features a boastful amount of game modes. Aside from the career mode, you can choose the arcade mode and either cruise around, replay old challenges from the career mode, battle (capture the flag and detonate), or race on your edited track. The race editor allows you to create your own race layout, so it isn't anything like a custom track builder or anything of that sort. Lastly, we have the online mode, which provides a ton of extra replay value. If you have a Network Adaptor and a broadband connection, by all means, join in on the fun. What's especially great about Midnight Club 2 is its boastful set of car tricks. You'd never expect it, but in MC2, you can actually drive on two-wheels, adjust your vehicle in mid-air, gain turbo by slip-streaming, accelerate quicker by timing your take off, and more. As you progress through the career mode, you will be gradually granted with more and more car tricks, all of which are incredibly handy. Midnight Club 2 is a game that does pretty much everything right. It plays superbly well, and is most importantly addictive beyond words. Rockstar San Diego did a brilliant job with the game.
In terms of sound, it looks like a vast majority of the time was spent on the voice acting, rather than the soundtrack. The soundtrack is dull and incredibly unimaginative. It consists of a handful of hip-hop beats, and a techno beat here and there. It's not quite the presentation we've come to expect from a Rockstar game, seeing as how both Grand Theft Auto games had superb soundtracks, but that's another story. The voice acting in MC2 is pretty straightforward. Your opponents talk some trash before you race them, and talk some more after you beat them. Standard stuff, though decent, regardless. That about it covers the sound. The soundtrack is terrible, to be blunt. And the voice acting is nothing to complain about or write home to.
The controls in Midnight Club 2 are pretty solid, overall. The game feels like a cross between Grand Theft Auto's and Burnout's controls, which is a pretty good thing. The game's layout is very finger friendly. The analog sticks control the vehicle's acceleration, turning and braking. Meanwhile, the shoulder buttons can be used for nitro, tricks, looking back, and handbrake. If it is to your concern, you can use the face buttons (X, Square, O, Triangle) to accelerate, brake, handbrake and change the camera perspective. The controls are tight as hell, so I can't draw any real complaints there. But, I will say that the GT Force/ Driving Force controls are absolutely terrible -- or at least they are on my side. I can't seem to get either wheel functioning properly. There is far too much sensitivity in the handling, too much for me to actually believe Rockstar San Diego made such a drastic mistake. Either way, I'm rather peeved with that result.
When it all comes down to one thing, all you need to know is that Midnight Club 2 is a great game. It took over 2 years for the follow-up to hit, but Rockstar San Diego did a fantastic job. Midnight Club 2's three cities are all built for excitement, as they're all complete with jumps, various secrets, and overall great design. MC2 is chock full of features. There are nearly 20 cars, 3 giant cities, car-tricks, an assortment of gameplay modes, and even a frivolous online mode. The controls are very tight, though GT Force support is questionable. And unfortunately, the sound presentation leaves some to be desired for. But, to make up for all of that, Midnight Club 2 sports some pretty snazzy visuals. All in all, MC2 is a game no fan of the racing genre should be without. This is a highly recommended purchase.
6/18/2003 Arnold Katayev