Midnight Club II
is the best racing game available on the PC right now. Depending on how
much you love Formula 1 or rally racing you may think differently, but
for most of us Midnight Club II is the best way to satisfy the need for
speed. MCII offers just about everything a racing fan could want: Lots
of cool cars, three huge cities to race in, great graphics, tight
controls, and the option to race people online. Add to this fast paced,
fun, and addictive gameplay and you have a racing game that will keep
you busy for a good long while.
really any story to speak of, but that is probably a good thing. You
start out with a pretty standard car in LA and then work your way up the
ranks by beating the best the city has to offer. When you beat the city
champion, you move on to Paris and then Tokyo. You earn new cars and new
special moves as you win races, but the game starts out fast and just
keeps getting faster, so there isnt really a feeling of waiting until
you get the "good" cars. In between races your opponents will talk smack
about how crappy your car is compared to their car, but since nothing of
any importance is said there isnt any story to concern yourself with.
The way you
start a race is by following the marks on your map until you find an
opponent. Once you find them, you flash your high beams at them and then
you have to follow them as they tear through the city. Once they have
determined that you are good enough, youll enter into a series of
several races with them with the end result usually being that you have
won a car or two from them. The races usually consist of driving through
a series of checkpoints while trying to stay ahead of a pack of as many
as eight other computer-controlled opponents. Some races are
point-to-point races while others present you with a large number of
checkpoints that you can go through in any order. There are also one on
one races as well as scenarios where you have to avoid the police before
you cross the final checkpoint.
In all of the
races there are several different ways to get through the checkpoints
due to the open nature of the cities you are racing in. The AI drivers
all take different paths and it is up to you to figure out which one is
fastest and capitalize on it. Usually the best way to figure out a new
course is to follow the other drivers and learn just what to expect.
Memorizing each new course is essential but, like I said, you can learn
a lot by watching the AI drivers so starting a new race never feels too
The cities in
Midnight Club II are all very different, and that makes learning the
layout of each of the three cities a fun and interesting experience. Los
Angeles is your first stop, and it doesnt have too much traffic on the
roads and most of the routes through the city are fairly obvious.
Something especially cool about LA is that there are actually roads that
take you up into the hills away from the city. That is cool and shows
you just how big these levels are. Paris has a lot more traffic, and the
streets are a lot narrower. There are also a lot of back alleys and
hidden passages to keep things intense. Tokyo features long, straight
sections of road where it is easy to get up to full speed. The police in
each city behave differently as well. In LA the cops arent much of a
threat, but in Paris they will spin you out every chance they get, and
in Tokyo they like to just get in your way and try to drive you into
telephone poles or into traffic. All three of the cities are huge and
detailed, so it is a thrill to explore each one and try and find hidden
passages or just drive around to see the sights.
To help you get
through all of the races, you learn a few special moves along the way.
You can perform a burnout at the very start of a race to help you get up
to speed as fast as possible. You can use a limited number of nitrous
boosts as well, and using them the right way usually means the
difference between winning and losing. Another very useful move you
learn is the slipstream turbo. When you follow closely behind other
cars, you build up what amounts to a free nitrous boost. Other moves
include the ability to shift your cars weight in midair, and you can
also get your car up on two wheels so it is easier to fit through narrow
gaps. All of these moves are easy to pull off and are vitally important
if you want to win.
The cars in
Midnight Club II arent licensed, but it is pretty easy to tell what
real world car each one is supposed to represent. MCII does a better job
than the first game of giving you more Japanese-style import cars (you
may call them rice burners if youre an ignorant twit) to play with,
which is what most of the whole illegal street racing scene in this
country revolves around, but there are still Porsche and Ferrari
look-alikes as well. Despite the arcade theme and jumps where you
literally fly a mile, the cars really feel like they should. They grip
the road and handle like they have some weight to them and feel like a
car should feel.
that were added to Midnight Club II are a nice idea, but they are too
much work to really be worth using. They accelerate faster and generally
have a higher top speed than the cars, but they are a pain in the butt
to control. You have to press the button for weight transfer whenever
you want to turn sharp (which is almost always) or when you want to pop
a wheelie to pick up more speed. The camera shifts whenever you use the
weight transfer button, so trying to dodge traffic or make a simple turn
around a corner is made much more difficult because you are seeing it
from below and to the right of the bike. When you get used to them, the
motorcycles are fun to play around with, but I found myself using cars
through just about all of the races.
The races are
difficult, though, so some people may be turned off by the fact that the
game punches you in the face with difficulty from the third race onward.
This isnt the bad kind of "impossible odds" difficulty, though. This is
the kind of difficulty where you know what youre doing wrong so you
know exactly what you need to do in order to win. That is what makes
MCII so addictive. You know you can win so you just keep playing, and
before you know it, several hours have passed. The later races in Paris
and almost all of the races in Tokyo are very difficult the first couple
of times you try them, but the game is so fun, and it is so easy to
learn what youre doing wrong, that hopefully people wont get turned
off by the difficulty too quickly. The pure satisfaction of winning
races and beating the game is completely worth all of the swearing and
controller throwing you have to do.
Just like its
console cousins, the PC version of Midnight Club II features an online
mode. Playing online is a fairly smooth experience, and the battle modes
and capture the flag games are very fun. There are the standard races,
and you can also run your own custom courses. While I was playing this
game for review, finding servers was a bit difficult, but that should
change the longer the game is out and the more people that play it.
Playing online rocks, simple as that.
keyboard in MCII will get the job done, but I highly recommend using a
controller with an analog control stick instead. You get much tighter
handling with a controller and performing all of the special moves is a
lot easier. It seems as if there are almost too many controls in MCII.
You have to assign a button for weight transfer, nitrous boosts,
acceleration, brake and reverse, camera control, headlights, emergency
brake, and a button to switch your music. Every button on my Logitech
Wingman was used to play Midnight Club II, but the controls become
second nature after a while.
Midnight Club II is outstanding. The cars are nice and shiny and
detailed, and the city environments are realistic and have a lot of
little details. The only bad things are that the people walking on the
street (which you can run over, by the way) only have about four frames
of animation, so they look pretty weird. You are usually driving by them
too fast to notice, though. Also, there are some frame rate issues when
a lot of stuff is happening even on my machine, which has more than
enough power. It doesnt slow down enough to make the game unplayable,
but it does slow down enough that you definitely notice. Make sure you
have the newest drivers for your video card, though. If you dont, the
city streets will look like absolute crap and you get a funky
checkerboard effect as textures flicker in and out or some textures are
brighter than others.
The sound in Midnight Club II is fairly well done, but it isnt
spectacular. The engine sounds are pretty good, and the "whoosh" when
you use a nitrous boost is great. The music, however, is absolute trash.
It is all techno and trance and trip-hop and it doesnt mesh very well
with the action on screen. The music they chose is repetitive and
annoying and I cant stand it. Luckily, you have the option of importing
your MP3s into a special folder and then you can listen to them and
switch between them in the game. This made the game a lot more bearable.
Overall, Midnight Club II is a great racing game that is definitely
worth a purchase if you havent already played the Xbox or PS2 versions.
Most of the problems I had with it at first were forgotten by the end.
Those problems were funky graphics due to not having the newest drivers,
crappy music, and difficulty finding servers online. But all of those
problems are easy to solve, so there really isnt anything to complain
about with Midnight Club II. Online play is every bit as excellent as it
is on the consoles, and this game is well worth the money just so you
can play online. If you havent already played it, Midnight Club II is
worth a purchase. At the very least, try out the demo.