PC games: Midnight Club II

Midnight Club II perpetuates the notion that young people like to take to the streets to illegally race each other in souped-up motor cars. Forget the fact that most of these young ’uns don’t even look like they could afford their next meal, let alone a customised roadster, and you’ll be in for an entertaining arcade-style ride.

The PC version of this game has been lazily ported from the console. Nothing has been added to utilise the superior power of current systems and the developers haven’t even thought of including scalable graphics for those with older machines. If you can’t meet the minimum system requirements, don’t even think of buying Midnight Club II.

You’re up against experienced street racers. They’re dressed in baggy trousers and baseball caps, have evil-looking tattoos and wear preposterous amounts of gold jewellery. They speak the language of the street, referring to each other as ‘homey’ and ‘bro’.

Fortunately, they are wise in the ways of driving and it won’t be long before you seek other ‘bling bling’ drivers for different challenges on the roads. This is done by flashing fellow racers with your headlights. Your macho challenges are never turned down because all forms of life in Midnight Club II have the intellectual capacity of a single-cell amoeba. Fortunately, this makes for some great racing.

To start, your vehicle is roughly equivalent to a Ford Capri with go-faster stripes — you’re going to have to drive out of your skin to win any races. As you beat the other drivers you win their respect, although during the race you’ll hear them threatening and abusing you over the CB radio.

The Los Angeles cityscapes are absolutely vast and attention to detail in the backgrounds is particularly impressive given that, in effect, this is only a PlayStation 2 game. The handling of the vehicles is also incredible. Although it differs slightly from car to car, you’ll find yourself sticking to the road even round the tightest turns at well over 160km/h.

Not that this makes for an easy game — you’ll have to squeeze through the narrowest gaps at breakneck speeds. Keep crashing and you won’t win the races, something you have to do to progress. There’s no such thing as second best in this game. This is where Midnight Club II gets difficult — you’ll find yourself repeating the same course until you get used to the layout.

Even then you’ll notice that, regardless of how well you’re doing, the other racers pretty much stick with you all the time, making it virtually impossible to get a good distance between you and the pack. On the good side, this makes the overall driving experience much more enjoyably frantic.

Another bonus for this PC conversion is multiplayer support — it automatically finds other players for you to race against online when you select the Internet option. With several race modes, this is where Midnight Club II comes into its own. Fast and furious, this is a guilty pleasure for those of you who normally prefer dry Formula One racing sims.

Publisher: Take Two Interactive
Developer: Rockstar Games
URL: www.rockstargames.com/midnightclub2

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Ben Camm-Jones

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