|In the secret
world of the Midnight Club, urban street racers go head-to-head for pink slips, power, and
glory. You can chose to cruise the streets of New York or London and take on a cast of
eight motley characters from around the globe. Test your prowess behind the wheel while
you race against a friend at home, climb the competition ladder in career mode, or race
"mano-a-mano" in arcade mode in Midnight Club Street Racing.
This game starts out rather slowly, with options for play slightly limited. Its necessary to begin working in the career mode before many of the arcade functions will kick in. But once you get into the meat of the game, things get a lot more exciting. In Career mode, you start your quest driving a yellow cab, but by winning races you can collect your opponents cars. Any car you win in Career mode will become available in Arcade mode, but not vice-versa. There are all kinds of vehicles to chose from (fourteen makes with three models each), everything from low riders, to good old American muscle cars, and both high and low end foreign cars. You can select the type of transmission for your car and can also change your cars appearance.
Each of the cars handles somewhat uniquely and has differing speed capabilities and ability to take damage. I was very happy with the handling of each of the cars overall. My only wish for a better driving experience was tighter turns when flipping a 180. I would also highly suggest changing the default controller settings, as some of the choices theyve made for you (especially concerning the separation of your forward/reverse and your directional controls) are a wee bit annoying.
In each city you compete with a leading racer and three of his "hookmen," as well as a bevy of his faceless homies. Once you have proved your worth by beating the city leader, his name is automatically added to your cell phone so you can call him whenever you want to race. These races are set up with checkpoints (which look like a green light streaming from heaven which turn red as you pass them) at various places around the city which must all be moved through before proceeding to the finish point. The other racers know shortcuts, so when you first race, sometimes theres a benefit in holding back and following the leader.
The races in career mode get more and more difficult, whereas the races in the head-to-head arcade mode dont change. This allows you to pick up extra cars, but doesnt give much longevity to this part of the arcade mode. Other arcade options include "waypoint" challenges, where 4-6 homeboys race against you to hit each checkpoint (in no particular order), and a "capture the flag" mode. You have to win all of your New York races before you can progress to London, but it doesnt take too long, especially if youve seen many of the street "tracks" in career mode. Most of the arcade mode got old fairly quickly, and there was no way to adjust the difficulty level here to increase the challenge. However, one nice function in the arcade mode is the "cruise" selection, where you can drive around New York and London and "sight see" without the pressures of races to distract from the landscape. This also helps to get familiar with the shortcuts, side-streets and topography both levels provide. Besides boning up on race routes, this is where I took most of my time to peruse the graphics before trying them out at high speed.
Both New York and London were very well done on the whole. There were several sections that looked liked tons of time had been spent giving the buildings and streets extra detail. I was especially impressed with the ability in cruise and capture the flag modes to change the weather, time of night (from dusk till dawn), and the traffic and pedestrian density. I only wish this could have been applied to the rest of the game to add complexity and visual interest. Driving through the section that looks like China Town with the rain coming down and the lights reflecting from the puddles on the street was a stellar graphic experience.
The streets and topography had a lot of variety, though I wished that buildings would have taken damage from crashes like the cars did, and that the flora and fauna had been more textured and realistic. The ponds didnt really have a lot of detail as well. What I noticed (when driving in New York especially) was that although the buildings and retaining walls next to the road were very detailed and clear, the buildings above the road level tended to be more nondescript and to have a shimmer problem and a very slight time delay drawing in on the horizon. But most often the landscape was very nice. The pedestrians, in both appearance and movement, reminded me a bit of rag dolls, but this wasnt really a terrible distraction when there was so much else to focus on.
The music for this game worked very nicely. During the cruising sections, most of it was a blend of club music and hip hop, but during races it took on more of the "chase music" quality. The sound effects for cars (and especially their crashes) were solid, but the dialogue from both the other racers and terrorized pedestrians was repetitive and got old quickly. The pedestrians most often wanted an ambulance, although when I ran them over they didnt seem to bleed or need any help getting up afterwards. The lines from other racers generally relied on certain cultural stereotypes and may have been funny the first time around, but didnt have enough variety or complexity to maintain long term interest. The driver taunts and the sexual innuendo in the comments from the female racers also let me know that this game was primarily geared towards males. After the eightieth time Emilio told me he was "right behind me, fairy boy," or "Did yo mamma teach you how to drive?" I was ready to scream. I guess for me the taunts did end up working, as I wanted nothing more than to hurry up and kick my opponents ass so I didnt have to hear their voice any more.
This game was a hard one to give a rating, as I felt that many of the selections in the arcade section were repetitive and lacked the ability to create longevity, and the career mode, once beaten, had marginal replayability. Dont get me wrong, both were fun the first time through, but what the longevity of this game really hinges on is the two player mode. I would definitely rent this game and wade through the first slow section, and if you have some homies of your own to play with on a regular basis, think of adding Midnight Club to your collection.