Midnight Club II

Having wrung every drop of gameplay from Burnout 2 – and then some – and being pretty disappointed with the papier-maiche gameplay of Midtown Madness 3, I picked up Midnight Club II on a whim this week, hoping to get a fix for my city racing jones.

I’ve finished LA and I’m working through Paris, but so far, I’m very impressed. I like that the cars have a feeling of weight to them. There’s a sense of heft to the driving, similar to Project Gotham, which I would have loved to have played in a more traffic intensive enviornment. The cars you hit in Midnight Club can really slow you down and plowing into a jack-knifed bus is something you definitely don’t want to do during a race (unlike Midtown Madness 3, where traffic blows up and over you like so much confetti). Also, there are some solid obstacle to avoid and the city is really busy, again unlike Midtown Madness 3, where you can pass through trees and there’s no traffic in multiplayer games.

I also like the car variety in Midnight Club II, although I still haven’t gotten used to the motorcycle. A friend and I set up a race on the freeway ringing LA. We set it to light traffic and took the motorcycles head to head. Really nice stuff. I’d love to try it 4-player, but I’m afraid the split screen might be too small for such high speeds. One of these days, I’m going to have to hook up my Xbox Live…

Anyway, as a fan of racing games, I was very pleasantly surprised at Midnight Club II. I’d have to say it’s the best driving game I’ve played since Smuggler’s Run 2. Go, Rockstar, go!

 -Tom

MC 2 is on my list of games to pick up after I get out of the Madden crunch. Right now I’m playing Burnout 2 and really enjoying it. I picked it up based on the recommendation of some guys at work and without reading any reviews, but I must say that it’s a really solid game. It strikes me as a more forgiving version of Need for Speed; but it’s not as pretty. The AI is strikingly human, rarely taking the perfect line through corners, so even when I plow head-on into a city bus I never feel like I am completely out of the race.

The crash mode is a fantastic return to my electric car set days when I would see if I could get the little corvette and the little cop car to crash into each at the exchange on the figure 8.

It sounds like you dug it too, Tom. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys arcade racing.

Apparently, the PS2 and XBOX version don’t have lag, which is odd considering a racing game is usually “internet-not-so-damn friendly”

The PC version is coming out July 3rd (EB source), so we’ll see if PC gaming can handle racing online as well.

Tom, which version are you playing? I’ve played through a large chunk of the Xbox version, and am enjoying it a lot.

I’m really looking forward to the PC version this week, which is supposed to support 8-person multiplayer over the Internet. When Midtown Madness 1/2 were around, we used to play Cops 'N Robbers all the time here at GameSpy HQ; I’m really hoping the online stuff works well.

(Coincidentally, we just posted a preview of the PC version today. The game looks pretty sweet.)

  • Sluggo

With regard to Burnout 2, it’s not that the AI is human, it’s that the game has some of the strongest handicapped “rubber-band” AI ever. Drive as poorly as you’d like the first half of the race, it really doesn’t matter. Opposing cars will simply not get that far ahead of you. And should you drive fantastically for the first half, start driving conservatively, because all the other cars are right behind you, and when you crash you’ll be in 4th. It’s a real shame, because that mechanic discourages the use of boost until the final stretch, which is the most fun part of the game. Getting your 4th and 5th burnout in a row is one of the most purely exhilarating feelings that a video game can give you.

Additionally, I found the cars to be all substantially the same. The game is polished and very fun, but I grew disenchanted quickly after 15-20 hours or so of playtime.

It’s a great rental, but I wouldn’t buy it unless it was like $5.

Hey Sal, I’m playing the Xbox version. Glad to hear they’re doing a PC version, but I’m pretty attached to driving with an analog gamepad these days. I look forward to seeing how it’ll handle on a PC (bopping over to read the Gamespy preview now…).

Ben, Burnout 2 is a very forgiving racing game, not just in the rubberbanding AI (which Midnight Club seems to have a bit of as well), but also in terms of the physics. Banging into things – well, scraping them really hard – just doesn’t have that much consequence. One of Burnout’s greatest assets, though, is the crash mode as a sort of party game. I’m pretty sick of it, but the guys at Shoot Club almost invariably end up running through that thing for hours on end when they’re not on the PCs.

 -Tom

I love Burnout 2. You’re sorta correct about the rubber band AI, but I generally found that if I got off to a great start, I could still wreck (once) and be in first place. And if you wreck 3 or 4 times early, it was generally very, very difficult to catch the lead car, though the rubber banding does hold them back some.

It would be nice to have some elementary control over the AI in the options, though.

And Tom and I are apparently the only people on Earth who really like Smuggler’s Run 2.

And Tom and I are apparently the only people on Earth who really like Smuggler’s Run 2.

Dude, seriously. Why aren’t more people singing that thing’s praises? What a phenomenal go-anywhere slash racing slash car battling slash mission-based slash multiplayer slash bot skirmish freakin’ game with a super-cool terrain engine and some great levels. Seriously, WTF?

It’s one of the few games – Burnout 2 being the other – that I’ve played so much I unlocked every goddamn thing it had to offer, and not necessarily because I was trying, but just because I liked it so much I kept playing and eventually everything got unlocked and then I wept because there were no more worlds to conquer…

 -Tom

I’ve had more fun playing MM3 online than any game in a while. It may wear off, but right now it’s a blast. The SP game is not much, but the Live experience is well worth it.

Good lord, I HATED Midnight Club 2. After all the hype and great reviews it had garnered from both print and online publications, I was sorely disappointed when I bought and played it for the XBox.

I hate the idiot drivers that try their damndest to lose you as they randomly dodge and weave in and out of lanes as they’re supposedly LEADING YOU to the race starting point (they take moronically twisty routes to the race point, switching back multiple times on the same path, then TAUNTING you for not keeping up with them, as if it were YOU who were trying their hardest to avoid the actual race). I hate the fact that you can knock down traffic poles with a slight nudge, or simply plow through multiple ones at 90mph. I hate the fact that you have to spend more time focusing on the minimap than the actual driving if you want to win a race without losing and restarting. I hate having to blindly flail around trying to find an onramp to the highway for the next checkpoint. I hate that you can handbrake-and-powerslide your way through every turn. I hate the constant chatter from your racing rivals, especially when they taunt you EVEN WHEN THEY’RE LOSING BADLY TO YOU. I hate that they don’t let you actually compare the stats of your newly won car with your old one unless you QUIT THE FUCKING GAME and reload it.

Overall, I think Midnight Club 2 is just a collection of horrible and annoying design features coupled with an average-at-best arcade racing game. I still don’t understand the incredibly positive reviews it’s gotten to date. Need for Speed Hot Pursuit 2 is a better arcade racer, and Tokyo Extreme Racer (Tokyo Highway Battle) is a better “underground racing club” racer. Midnight Club is just mediocre.

I hate the idiot drivers that try their damndest to lose you as they randomly dodge and weave in and out of lanes as they’re supposedly LEADING YOU to the race starting point (they take moronically twisty routes to the race point, switching back multiple times on the same path, then TAUNTING you for not keeping up with them, as if it were YOU who were trying their hardest to avoid the actual race).

This is such a minor part of the game, this padding between the races, that I didn’t even notice. I’ve spent most of my time actually racing. I do appreciate that it lets you explore the city at will before racing.

I hate the fact that you can knock down traffic poles with a slight nudge, or simply plow through multiple ones at 90mph.

At least the traffic poles are differentiated from trees and telephone poles, which will stop you cold (exception: some French trees seem to collapse willingly and without incident, go figure). You might as well complain about the fruit stands and garbage cans in alleys not slowing you down. It’s eye candy, balut.

I hate the fact that you have to spend more time focusing on the minimap than the actual driving if you want to win a race without losing and restarting.

Hmm, I can think of very few racing games, and no gratifying racing games, where you don’t have to learn the course before winning. Sounds like you don’t want to have to do any race more than once, which is fine, but no wonder you don’t like Midnight Club II.

I hate having to blindly flail around trying to find an onramp to the highway for the next checkpoint.

What’s blind? There are signs. They’re marked on the map. Have you noticed that big arrow pointing the way to the next checkpoint? :)

I hate that you can handbrake-and-powerslide your way through every turn.

Umm, how would you rather go through every turn? At full speed with no skill required?

I hate the constant chatter from your racing rivals, especially when they taunt you EVEN WHEN THEY’RE LOSING BADLY TO YOU.

You might have been too busy hating the “constant” chatter to listen, but when they’re losing, the taunts are things like, “No fair, I think we should start over”. But this is right up there with complaining about how the graphics flash like telephone poles and newspaper dispenders don’t slow you down.

I hate that they don’t let you actually compare the stats of your newly won car with your old one unless you QUIT THE FUCKING GAME and reload it.

I’m with you on this one. Which makes the ratio of spurious complaints to substantive complaints 6-1!

Seriously, balut, it sounds like you rented it, didn’t get very far, and wrote it off. Have you seen how different Paris is from LA? Do you like the way the cars handle differently? What about the physics of traffic? Have you seen some of the clever race layouts? Have you found many of the shortcuts that make some of the races really easy? Have you tried multiplayer? Have you tried to motorcycles? Do you like the way it gradually layers in the more advanced controls?

I haven’t tried Hot Pursuit 2 and Tokyo Extreme Racer, so I’d love to hear how they stack up. And I don’t just mean whether knocking over a street light will slow you down.

 -Tom

Hot Pursuit 2 blows Tom. Avoid it.

While the game has good graphics, great track layout, and multiple paths/shortcuts in each track, it just sucks for one big reason: Physics.

The physics are so unrealistic and so easy that it makes racing with skill pointless. If you hit a wall, obstacle, or car, you can go back to the race easily without much loss. The ‘turning’ is rather lousy and I feel like I am driving a brick with wheels instead of a car. Lets not forgot the police helicopter that rains flaming barrels at you.

If you want a good street racer, Midnight Club 2 is your thing. I would love to see how NFS Underground comes out though, since they will be authentic cars instead of the made-up cars in MC2.

Hot Pursuit 2 blows Tom. Avoid it.

While the game has good graphics, great track layout, and multiple paths/shortcuts in each track, it just sucks for one big reason: Physics.

The physics are so unrealistic and so easy that it makes racing with skill pointless. If you hit a wall, obstacle, or car, you can go back to the race easily without much loss. The ‘turning’ is rather lousy and I feel like I am driving a brick with wheels instead of a car. Lets not forgot the police helicopter that rains flaming barrels at you.

If you want a good street racer, Midnight Club 2 is your thing. I would love to see how NFS Underground comes out though, since they will be authentic cars instead of the made-up cars in MC2.

Loved this game, played it through to entirety, some of those final ‘world champ’ races are obscenely frustrating though no doubt.

The trial and error need to memorize a course layout is certainly a valid complaint though. Most races involve several early attempts to plot, plan, and memorize the best course of action to succeed, some of the longer and difficult ones can force a gamer to really invest more time finding the best route to victory moreso than honing whatever reactive skill that may eventually help come out on top. Though once you get the hang of things and have a good grasp of the feel of driving, it actually really surprised me how often one can make a comeback to instant victory on a single attempt despite.

LA and Paris were rough humps I felt I was slowly climbing, and although Tokyo dwarfed the races offered in those cities as far as direct pathways and distance are concerned, by that point instinct sort of took over alleviating much of the need to rely so much on GPS pathfinding. Trial and error still exists no doubt (“Ok, gotta remember to take the hard right alongside the wall after passing tokyo tower to hit the alley and THEN bank a soft left into the intersection avoiding the telephone pole on the left before reaching that onramp straight ahead!”) but the course layouts are very imaginitive and a blast to figutre your way through, not to mention complete at blinding speeds all the while slipstreaming that fool whom keeps talking smack to you.

Bottom-line is that the game brought big-air, big crashes, insane speeds, massive environs, and an ample dose of personality and vehicular selection to the mix. Online play didn’t quite have the same appeal as the career mode I felt though.

Hot Pursuit 2 wasn’t too shabby I thought. I mean I actually enjoyed the Spy Hunter-esque chases through pristinely detailed environs with all sorts of multiple routes and forks in your path. I really loved the layout of the career mode, in that progression wasn’t so vanilla as other racers, giving you a massive non-linear event tree to work through with the varying challenges for individual cars and goals. Physics were unrealistic sure, but dodging/losing the fuzz was a complete rush, and much like MC2, the game was built around speed and thrilling takeovers.

I had little difficulty with the controls, much like many of these other racers, each car has individual strengths and weaknesses on the road. Analog support was surprisingly fluid and tight I found, just gotta learn how to negotiate where weaknesses lie. I recommend it personnally, at least the PS2 version. Supposedly the Xbox and GC ports weren’t up to spec?

Tokyo Xtreme Racer 1 or 2 on the Dreamcast are the street racers for me. I love the whole fighting game as racing game thing. You won’t find a racing game that makes you want to STAY in front of the other guy like these. TXR2 still looks pretty amazing even now. It’s only lacking the licenses for real cars.

–Dave

Disclaimer: I just finished typing up a long response and then accidentally hit the damn thumb button on my mouse and went back a page. So now I have to try to remember my reply and retype it.

It’s hard not to notice this part when it’s required just to get to a race to both find another driver (easy) and then follow them (not really hard, but annoying) as they switchback and weave and hairpin turn randomly through traffic. It’s unnecessary, and serves to give you the impression that they REALLY don’t want to race, otherwise they’d take a straightforward route to the race point.

[quote]I hate the fact that you can knock down traffic poles with a slight nudge, or simply plow through multiple ones at 90mph.

At least the traffic poles are differentiated from trees and telephone poles, which will stop you cold (exception: some French trees seem to collapse willingly and without incident, go figure). You might as well complain about the fruit stands and garbage cans in alleys not slowing you down. It’s eye candy, balut.[/quote]
Eye candy or not, it’s annoying because of its inconsistency. You can tear full speed through 5 straight streetlights, knocking them yards away, but hit a similarly-sized telephone pole and you stop cold. I’m annoyed because of the trial-and-error nature of objects you can or can’t plow through.

[quote]I hate the fact that you have to spend more time focusing on the minimap than the actual driving if you want to win a race without losing and restarting.

Hmm, I can think of very few racing games, and no gratifying racing games, where you don’t have to learn the course before winning. Sounds like you don’t want to have to do any race more than once, which is fine, but no wonder you don’t like Midnight Club II.[/quote]
In most racing games where you have to learn the track, you’re allowed a dry run or at least a qualifying run to learn the track unhindered.

Because MCII doesn’t allow you a dry run through its assembled checkpoints, you’re forced to spend most of your time staring at the minimap to find the best route to your destination. This, in turn, diverts your attention from the road in front of you, causing you to miss any shortcuts through buildings or alleys not shown on the minimap. Therefore, MCII annoys me because it expects you to fail one or more times regardless of how hard or fast you race, simply because you get no chance to learn the track without failing and restarting.

[quote] I hate having to blindly flail around trying to find an onramp to the highway for the next checkpoint.

What’s blind? There are signs. They’re marked on the map. Have you noticed that big arrow pointing the way to the next checkpoint? :)[/quote]
Despite that smiley, the big arrow only gives you a general indication of the next waypoint. You can wander for minutes trying to find an onramp to the highway, take the wrong one and end up on the wrong direction of the highway, find it impossible to force an easy u-turn because of the impassible highway divider, and waste more minutes exiting the highway and trying to find an onramp to the right direction. Annoying.

[quote]I hate that you can handbrake-and-powerslide your way through every turn.

Umm, how would you rather go through every turn? At full speed with no skill required?[/quote]
My complaint is that MCII encourages you to race full-speed and handbrake/powerslide through every turn. IMHO, it generally takes more skill to brake properly and take a good racing line than to hold down the accelerator and powerslide through every twist in the road.

[quote] I hate the constant chatter from your racing rivals, especially when they taunt you EVEN WHEN THEY’RE LOSING BADLY TO YOU.

You might have been too busy hating the “constant” chatter to listen, but when they’re losing, the taunts are things like, “No fair, I think we should start over”. But this is right up there with complaining about how the graphics flash like telephone poles and newspaper dispenders don’t slow you down.[/quote]
Sure, sometimes they complain that you’re winning, but in almost every race I’ve won, the idiot opponent will taunt you as if THEY were the one winning, even though you’re far ahead of them in the race. That’s just sloppy.

[quote] I hate that they don’t let you actually compare the stats of your newly won car with your old one unless you QUIT THE FUCKING GAME and reload it.

I’m with you on this one. Which makes the ratio of spurious complaints to substantive complaints 6-1!

Seriously, balut, it sounds like you rented it, didn’t get very far, and wrote it off. Have you seen how different Paris is from LA? Do you like the way the cars handle differently? What about the physics of traffic? Have you seen some of the clever race layouts? Have you found many of the shortcuts that make some of the races really easy? Have you tried multiplayer? Have you tried to motorcycles? Do you like the way it gradually layers in the more advanced controls?[/quote]

I bought it based on the numerous, entirely favorable reviews, and played it daily for a week in single player. Then I tried it for a week in multiplayer. Then I got so annoyed at the game that I traded it in for MotoGP2 for XBox, which I’ve been enjoying MUCH more.

Maybe I’m more disposed to “sim” style racers, althought I admit I thoroughly enjoyed the pure arcade-racing of Hot Pursuit 2. The rush of racing 180mph through traffic while cops drop exploding canisters and set up spike strips is just fun (hah, take that, Chick!).

I haven’t tried Hot Pursuit 2 and Tokyo Extreme Racer, so I’d love to hear how they stack up. And I don’t just mean whether knocking over a street light will slow you down.

Tokyo Extreme Racer is different from a standard racer. There’s only one track, the highway around Tokyo, although it’s very long and has multiple branches. You cruise around the highway, looking for other racers to battle (you flash your highbeams to signal a challenge, similar to MCII). After a few seconds to line up your two cars, the race starts and a fighting-game-style power bar appears for both you and your opponent. To win the race, you have to reduce your opponent’s power bar to zero by being ahead of him long enough - the farther ahead you are, the faster your opponent’s bar decreases, and vice versa. When you win the race, you earn money to upgrade your car or buy a new one. In a somewhat original twist, most of the racers you encounter belong to one of a hundred or so racing gangs; beat all the regular members of a racing gang, and the gang boss will track you down and challenge you to a much harder race. The racing fun of the game is involved in weaving through traffic and down various branches of the highway while trying to force your opponent into other cars or highway barriers to slow him down long enough to win the race.

There is a city/freeway racing game in arcades that is surprisingly popular right now called Initial D. Based on a manga that I haven’t heard of before. I can’t really see the appeal just by watching it; it doesn’t have knockout graphics and I can’t tell what separates it from other racing games. Yet nearly every time I walk past the arcade both machines are being played.

Has anyone played this? Can anyone tell me what would account for its popularity in the face of arcades everywhere necrotizing into withered DDR machine parlors?

In most racing games where you have to learn the track, you’re allowed a dry run or at least a qualifying run to learn the track unhindered.

Because MCII doesn’t allow you a dry run through its assembled checkpoints, you’re forced to spend most of your time staring at the minimap to find the best route to your destination. This, in turn, diverts your attention from the road in front of you, causing you to miss any shortcuts through buildings or alleys not shown on the minimap. Therefore, MCII annoys me because it expects you to fail one or more times regardless of how hard or fast you race, simply because you get no chance to learn the track without failing and restarting.

If there’s one thing I learned from Mafia, it’s that I absolutely fucking hate orienteering as a gameplay mechanic. Hated it in GTA3, hated it in GTA3:VC, hated it in Mafia, and I have no reason to believe I wouldn’t hate it just as much in MC2.

I mean, shit, reading a map and desperately trying to figure out a route while pressed for time? If I wanted to do that, I’d go on vacation. Isn’t this why we invented computers, people?

The PS2 version is generally regarded as the better, and only, version worth playing. I played it and it was fun, if frustrating at points (a given for a racer IMO). I can’t slag the physics because it’s an arcade racer, not a Gran Turismo wanna be. If you’re referring to the non-PS2 version, I can’t speak to that.