TITLE: Midnight Club II
PUBLISHER: Rockstar Games
DATE RELEASED: 06.03.03
If you enjoy racing games but easily get bored racing around a track, this game is your ticket to many hours of fun. An improvement in many ways over the first Midnight Club, this street racer is loaded with options to keep you engaged even after beating the game in its career mode.
There are 3 main modes of play; career mode, arcade mode, and the battle mode. There are 3 cities to race in; Los Angeles, Paris, and Tokyo. One of the good things about this game is that it steps you through a learning curve as you play. You start out with one city, a slow car, and no “features” for the car like peeling out from a stop, slipstreaming past other racers, or popping up on your side wheels to fit through tighter spaces. Everything needs to be unlocked as you win races in the career mode. This is a good way to do things since it gives you a chance to slowly (as fast as you can win races) learn the city, your car, and what it can or can’t do on turns or in the air. By the time you get to the third city, Tokyo the only thing that should stand in your way is how fast you can memorize the course you should take to get to the finish line and then making a good run at it. During these career races they even have a little story going on that sort of justifies why you need to do these street races if not for the pure fun of it. Though the career mode can get tough at times, especially when you feel the CPU is being “cheap” by having oncoming traffic swerve into you out of no where it still is intensely fun and addicting. The graphics are top notch with glitches few and far between and the controls are, I believe, perfect for this type of game. Using the default controls, though you can edit them yourself, you can quickly pull off flawless turns, turbo boosts, wheelies, etc. without thinking about how to do it. This is a sign to me that the controls fit the game. They are smooth yet sharp enough to maneuver through oncoming traffic especially if you dare use the motorcycle. Anything you unlock in career mode is available to you in any other mode in the game, even online.
The arcade mode is divided into two section, cruise and circuit. Circuit races are a separate set of races within each city that if won, unlock special vehicles for you. Kind of like a bonus subsection of the career mode without the storyline. Cruise is where you can use anything you’ve unlocked with no time limit or checkpoints to hit. Just cruise around the city of your choice to learn a car or the city itself or just have fun hitting jumps or playing your own games with friends.
The battle mode is divided into two games, one called detonate and one called capture the flag. You can play this with a friend on the same team as you or against another team or every car for itself. Both modes are very fun and keep the game enjoyable if you want to take a break from the rigors of the career mode. In the battle mode there are a bunch of icons in the streets of the cities that are not found in the other modes of play. These icons give you abilities that could help you during the battle. Things like stealth, where your car becomes invisible to the other players, or stop which when used on an opponent causes him to slam on his brakes. There are 10 such icons like these used during this mode.
The last part of this game, where its replay value is determined by your imagination is its Race Editor. If you enter the race editor you can choose a city and lay out your own course. Not just the checkpoints for the course but you control and define any option you want. Like whether there are time limits for each checkpoint or whether the checkpoints have to be hit in a certain order. You can set the vehicles the CPU racers can use IF you even want CPU racers, you can set what the weather is like, pedestrians on the streets, etc. anything in the game you have the option to create your own race right here.
Overall this game is great. It has good graphics, a cool soundtrack as well as all the necessary realistic sound effects for the cars, good controls, options galore, and even the “hidden” cheat codes to enter to unlock more. There are, of course, a couple things to improve on…. Their menu interface is not the easiest thing to navigate through. It could be a lot more straight forward. Luckily this doesn’t affect game play but when trying to configure all the wonderful options available to you, you might have to do some digging. Also the AI does seem to be cheap at times. Coming across an intersection and a car seems to swerve to hit you when it normally doesn’t… well. I guess it happens and so you just do the race again. Some of the races require flawless runs to win, one mess up and you don’t have a shot to get first. Also I wish you could further modify your cars. The cars you unlock are the cars you get; there are no further add-ons for them. There are many cars, motorcycles and a good variety of them with some have lots of speed, some better at handling, etc. But I thought it would be nice if you could win or unlock other add-ons for your cars even if they are just appearance changes. Maybe in Midnight Club III we’ll see that.
The last thing to mention is the online play. I’ve saved it for last because unlike other games where online play is the best part of the game, I think for this game it’s a little weak. Probably not the fault of the game because anything you unlock and nearly every option in the offline game is available to you online, but with other humans online the game gets repetitive and fast. Most people will race with one of the two best cars, understandably so, and use a course they are familiar with. This just means if you haven’t unlocked that car and aren’t familiar with the course you really don’t have a shot at winning. Which means you could always host your own games but many times you’ll have trouble getting other racers to join in. This game is fun online if you have a group of friends you already know that you can go online with.
Bottom line, if you like racing games and especially want options and freedom to drive around cool, detailed cities as opposed to a race track, this game will be worth your money.