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Midnight Club II PlayStation 2

Published by Rockstar Games
Developed by Rockstar San Diego
Released - 23rd April 2004 (Platinum)
Price : £19.99

It's been a year now since we reviewed Midnight Club II and in a few weeks time it's about to be released as a Platinum title after becoming one of the best selling driving games in the UK. At the time of our original review we gave a score of 7.8/10 as the online component of the game couldn't be tested and we felt the single player was a little on the short side. However with the PlayStation 2 online network now in full operation, Midnight Club II has proven to be better value for money especially as it's soon to be released at the lowly price of just £19.99 as a Platinum title.

The game features a Career mode, an Arcade mode and a Race Editor. Arcade mode gives you the choice of cruise (which lets you roam the cities at will in order to learn the shortcuts), circuit races (traditional check point lap races with oncoming traffic and pedestrians thrown in for good measure) and two battle modes called detonate and capture the flag. The idea behind the Career Mode is to become a member of the illegal Midnight Club as you race around three main cities, Paris, Los Angeles and Tokyo. Each city has a number of rivals that you must defeat in order to progress. Of course it's not just about driving faster than your opponents. You'll have to contend with oncoming traffic and other AI opponents (in addition to the ones you have to defeat) that take great pleasure in knocking you out of the race. As the title would suggest all the races are in darkness which gives the game an original feel. In many ways the game reminds me of Midtown Madness on the PC. Like the Midtown Madness series, the races require you to pass through checkpoints but you are allowed to find your own shortcuts and finding the best shortcuts are what adds a bit of strategy to the game.

The controls in Midnight Club II are impressive and it won't take long at all to come to grips with them. As you progress through the Career Mode you'll also unlock slip stream turbo, burnout and in-air controls. Slip stream turbo is basically driving in the slip stream of an opponent and then overtaking whilst using the turbo to give an accelerated boost to your speed. Burnout is accelerating whilst your brakes are on. You release the handbrake once your turbo gauge meter has filled. This can cause damage though. The in-air controls allow you to shift the weight of your car whilst in mid-air which will allow you to adjust your car for a more comfortable landing. It could be argued that these features should be available straight away but they would give you too much of an advantage in the early races. In addition to these you'll also learn to drive on two wheels to get you through those tight spaces in certain races. It also allows you to become accustomed to the basic controls without taking on board the advanced techniques.

Graphically Midnight Club II is a real mixed bag. The framerate, draw distance and reflections are all very impressive but the cars in all honesty are quite poor by PlayStation 2 standards especially when you compare them to the ones in Burnout 2 and Gran Turismo 3. The impressive framerate has to be commented on though as there are times when the roads have heavy traffic on them (sometimes there are even Police cars in pursuit too) and for the framerate not to dip in these instances shows a lot of skill on the developers behalf. What might irritate some gamers though is the fact that there isn't any damage taken to your car. Sure, it might bellow out smoke etc. but there is no visible damage to the car. The cars (and bikes) themselves don't have official names but it's obvious that they have been based on real world models.

Midnight Club II is OK for deaf gamers but there are some omissions. Subtitles can be enabled for speech outside of the races. Any speech inside the races, including taunts from the character that you have to beat for instance, is not shown in text but whilst this means deaf gamers will lose some of the ambience of the game, it has to be said that if text appeared on the screen it would be very awkward to read and race at the same time. The only omission that might prove awkward is the speech that tells you to find another opponent after you have defeated Moses in the opening races as there is no indication to the deaf gamer of what to do.

In all fairness Midnight Club II is one of those racers where you'll either love it to bits or completely despise it. To some the idea of having to compete with oncoming traffic as well as your opponents and having to learn the city you're racing in, in order to find all the shortcuts, will prove too much. For those gamers who loved Burnout 2 and Midtown Madness however then you'll really enjoy what's on offer here. The game is a little disappointing is its length as it's not going to take that long to see what the entire single player game has to offer. However, the game has an online mode which can now be enjoyed as the PlayStation 2 online gaming system is up and running. The chat messages are done in text and you can configure a variety of hot keys with predefined messages so it shouldn't be any problem for deaf gamers.

Overall Game Rating: 8.1/10
Fast, furious and challenging but ultimately short lived. Midnight Club II has proven to be better value than we originally thought especially as Sony now has it's online system up and running for the PlayStation 2.

Deaf Gamers comment:
A couple of omissions but nothing that prevents deaf gamers from enjoying the game.