I always got lost in Los Angeles. I lived there for nine miserable months just after I left college to work in the movie business. After a number of jobs (like driving stars around, delivering checks to movie studios and avoiding the unemployment line by doing boom mic on a Peter North film) I decided that LA was not the place for me. The problem wasn’t the jobs so much as it was “getting to” the jobs. LA is a nightmare of highways and wrong turns. But this isn’t a review of LA, no this is a review of something fun – Midnight Run II by Rockstar Games - San Diego (which is too close to LA for my tastes but we’ll let that go for now).
The game sets you up as a newbie on the international race course. You have to earn respect and as you do, you get more opportunities to race the vets and prove your mettle. You pick up some buddies on the way, some like you, some don’t, but they all see a sucker who drives some nice wheels that they’d love to win off of you. The cut scenes where they give you tips on what to do next are passable with a glimpse into their innermost scheming thoughts and then they open their mouths to give advice for the next level. I got the sense that the lip synching, which isn’t all bad, was too time consuming to do, so the designers opted to let us in on the characters’ thoughts so they could cut some of the workload. Pessimist? Me?
If you’re looking for a similar game experience to compare with MC2 then I have to refer you to Grand Theft Auto 3. Not the entire game, mind you. But imagine the chapters on GTA3 where you raced on the city streets through checkpoints and you have the essence of what MC2 is all about -- with bigger cities and custom details that make car racing exciting. What kind of details? Well, besides the glorious straight-aways on the highways and your fellow motorists/morons who occupy it, there are ramps, landmarks, pedestrians, shortcuts, fellow racers and cops. Those last three are worth elaborating on since they are details of the game that really shine.
What would expansive and well-designed courses be without some nifty-keen shortcuts? Taking full advantage of the fact that the levels take place in huge cityscapes, Rockstar has given you a lot of meat to bite into. If you pay attention and get hooked on the game you’ll notice that you begin to remember the streets, as if they were home. You find back yards that let you cut a dangerous corner out of the race. You find ramps that let you join the highway traffic from above. You find aqueducts that let you tear through bad neighborhoods like greased lightning. I’d recommend using the cruise feature to get to know the ins and outs of the streets. You’ll be shocked at all the shortcuts. Keep in mind, once the race begins there are a number of ways to get to the finish line so the more you know the layout, the better you’ll do. And the more fun you’ll have!
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