Midnight Club II probably came out at the best possible time. After having a very popular racing movie just released (2 Fast 2 Furious in this case), the game gives the opportunity for everyone to join the thrill of street racing.
While Midnight Club II might not have the best graphics in the world, they certainly are nice. The detail of the cars you drive is very well done, they show damage, and also explode if you take too much abuse. The damage to the cars is very nice, almost realistic in some aspects. When you roll over your back window shatters and your roof crumples in.
The maps in the game are enormous. This is a mixed blessing in that you have a lot of area to explore, bad because some of the races can get very confusing and you could get lost easily. Fortunately you have an arrow that points to your next checkpoint or objective. There is also a mini-map in the lower corner of the screen; this can aid you since it shows the various streets of the map.
Some buildings and objects have very low-res and ugly looking textures, while others look almost perfect. Although it doesn’t really matter when you are flying by buildings in your car at 150+ MPH, it can become an eye sore if you are actually looking.
The effects in the game are those straight out of a movie. When you blast the nitro you see a flame come out of your exhaust and the scenery around you blurs. When you hit a special kind of nitro, one with your draft bar full, you see it go very blurry and turn into a 'Matrix’ effect; everything becomes slow for a few seconds.
One of the most noticeable things, and perhaps the most annoying, are the cars and pedestrians wondering the streets. While the pedestrians don’t pose much of a threat, they can offer a good laugh when you send one flying through the air, or scare them by burning out. The people aren’t very well detailed, since there are so many of them. They all seem to do their own thing by just walking down the sidewalks and streets minding their own business.
The levels themselves are littered with hundreds of objects, ranging from park benches to street lamps. Most of these objects can be included in the action by running into them at a reasonable speed, and they will fly down the street and hit other objects.
There really isn’t a lot of voice acting in the game, definitely not from the player. Each time you select a racer you see their 3d model talk to you before each race. There is also voice that comes over the radio to give you tips and tell you where to meet people. The voice acting isn’t fantastic, but it is decent for this kind of game.
The in-game sound track, on the other hand, is pretty nice. It offers a lot of music to listen to, most in the same style you would see in movies. But what this game offers is the option to play your own mp3s, much like GTA. Just throw your mp3s in the specific directory and play away.
The sound effects are great. You can hear people scream as they run from you as you barrel down the road. Your tires screech as you burn out from the starting line. And there is that weird noise when you use a nitro. The effects are realistic for the most part, although that nitro sound is questionable. You can hear the glass break and the metal crunch as you run into things.
There are several types of mode to play in this game. You can choose arcade, career, level editor, or online. For career you race a whole bunch of people to win cars, which can be used online or in arcade mode. In arcade you have a few modes to play there as well. You can play cruise, battle, circuit, or career. Most are self explanatory. In battle you don’t exactly race people, you pick up power-ups in an attempt to disable your opponents, all the while trying to capture the flag or grab a bomb. There is also a race editor where you can edit existing races or create your own. You select the race you want to edit and you can place checkpoints around the map. You can also select the time of day, weather conditions, etc. This is a very cool feature to add your own fun after you beat the game.
In the main career mode you can unlock cities and cars while racing people, this is the main objective of the game if you want to try other styles. You start off with a really cheap car and race other people in an attempt to win their car. There are 3 cities to play in, and a lot of races take place in each city. Before each race in career mode, you see a map of the city as well as your checkpoints that need to be hit. You can map out your plan before the race takes part; this is great so you can get an idea of where to go. If you win you get the opponent's car and then continue on to find your next racer. You don’t go to a garage and fix up a car or add more things to it.
In the cities there are tons of places to ramp and crash into. This is my favorite part of the game, and what really sets it apart from the NFS series. Aside from being more than 1 path to your objective, you can jump over buildings and 'fly’ through the air if you go fast enough. While this isn’t very realistic, it is awesome. On some levels you might think you can ramp over the whole level if there were not invisible walls between some buildings. Nevertheless the car physics are pretty good. While you don’t get the feeling of going 250 MPH down a highway, you do get a sense of extreme speed and a very unstable car. One mistake at those speeds can send you spinning out of control and into oncoming traffic. Different cars have different specs, such as handling; this becomes key in choosing the right car for the race.
The controls are very simple, anyone can get pick them up in an instant. While the controls are easy, the game certainly isn’t. If you aren’t very good at racing games, like me, this game might get difficult later on. The races are quite long and the CPU seems to know the best route to take, and when to take the turns. You can get cars with nitrous on them, and you can use these during the race at any time, but they are limited. Although the few nitros you get during the game might not be enough to win, the game really is about skill and luck, knowing when to take turns and slow down.
The multiplayer aspect of the game is very fun. You go head to head with several people across the internet. When you use this option it takes you to a virtual lobby where you can view races to join. You can also create your own game, of various types.
The netcode is pretty good, although sometimes the lag is very noticeable. You can select your car before each race and chat while you wait for the race to start. Once in the game you compete depending on the pre-selected mode.
When you host you can select the type of game, what race, what city, etc. You can select the same options as in arcade mode. The most popular is probably CTF, where you race to get a flag before someone else and return it to the glowing goal. There is 1 flag and 1 goal, so it’s a free-for-all type, also if you hit someone who has the flag they drop it and you can pick it up, this is where lag becomes a real issue.
This game doesn’t only looks great. It IS great. Not perfect, but much better than a lot of recent arcade racing titles. If you’re looking for a realistic racing simulation, this game probably isn’t for you, but if what you want is a fun arcade racer similar to Midtown Madness, Midnight Club 2 is exactly what you need.