The game itself runs amazingly fast, and there are no traces of slow downs even when you’re going over 200 miles per hour. It’s awfully hard to pick apart the graphics when they are doing so much. And really, when you’re playing the game you’ll probably never notice any of the detail issues anyway.
The good news is that Midnight Club 2 controls like a dream, with precise control, and a unique style that gives it unexpected depth. As is to be expected, in the beginning you take control of the worst car, the Cocette, a knock off of the Ford Escort. But all things considered, it’s actually a pretty good car, and manages to teach you some of the basics going into illegal street racing.
But where things get interesting is how you slowly, over time, learn about the various tricks you can do with you car. For example, early on you learn about burnouts, which give you a faster start from the gate. You’ll also learn how to take your car on two wheels (handy when you want to make it through traffic jams) and even control your car in air, so that you can preserve a good landing.
But the most unique technique, is the use of the slip stream turbo. While you are given a certain amount of nitros from the start, it is the ability to literally tail somebody building up a turbo gauge and then speeding around them is one of the best ideas I’ve seen in a racing game recently. It’s also extremely frustrating when it happens to you, but manages to even up the playing field, and is a good step away from the handicapping that other racing games have put in to assure close matches.
Even though the bikes lack nitros, they manage to have their own way of picking up speed. Popping a wheelie will have your bike speeding past your opponents, but also making it extremely difficult to control. Without a doubt the bike takes the most practice to master, but when you do, it is hard to beat even with the fastest cars. The bikes can do a lot of those really cool jumps, giving you just a little more incentive to get back up off the ground and try again.
Some of these tricks may seem silly to the illegal street racing purist. The game is set up to play like an arcade game, almost as if it were a bigger version of the San Francisco Rush series. And it is definitely not a simulator in any form, which if fine by me. Of course, I’m not sure there is such thing as an illegal street racing purist, so may be safe.
The game does require a fair amount of patience and perseverance, though. You’ll find yourself racing the same levels over and over because you simply don’t know where the checkpoints are located. Your eyes will have to wrestle between looking straight ahead and watching the map on the lower left-hand corner of the screen.
This style of game playing isn’t for everybody, and some people may just not see the fun in racing through checkpoints, but I after a few races, I didn’t have a problem with the set up. Towards the end of the game, though, I did get the feeling it was being a tad unfair. But playing the game so many times only made me better when I took the game online, and played it with friends.
Midnight Club 2 is separated into a couple of different modes, each similar, but offering their own challenges. In the arcade mode, gamers will race against other cars in a lap-based, first to the finish line race. For the most part the paths are defined, and it’s easy to pay attention to where you need to be.
It’s the all-new, revamped career mode that is the real meat and potatoes of this package. It plays a little like the original Midnight Club, only with some Grand Theft Auto influence peaking through. You start out with one car, and a set of missions. Soon enough you will be hunting down cars to challenge, hoping to take their cars. You don’t have to challenge people in order, though; you will have to beat certain people to progress.
The nice thing about this mode is that it doesn’t force you to challenge people without you already knowing the city. You are able to drive around getting accustomed to the cities personality before doing anything, which can be extremely useful for seeing what your car can (and can’t) do. The challenges also show you where everything is, helping you piece together the best routes when you get into the harder levels. The game starts out simple enough, but by the final challenges it is one of the hardest racers you will ever play.
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