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    Midtown Madness
    reviewed by Ninja

    We’ve all wanted to plow through lines of cones. It’s one of those things everyone wants to do. And mow down mailboxes; floor it on a drawbridge, and various other insane ideas we get when we drive.

    Well Midtown Madness was all these, and had a fun racing contingent to boot. Driving a Cadillac Eldo over a drawbridge at 80 miles per hour with a cop on your tail is really a strangely exhilarating experience. And the game’s good too. But really, the game was just plain fun. Open-ended racing made it far better than the average turning straightforward game.

    Well Midtown Madness 2 expands on everything the original did well. The original cars are there, with a load of new paint jobs. In addition, there are a bunch of brand new cars to play with and unlock, including an Aston Martin and the “Light Tactical Vehicle”. (Cough, Hummer) The good old Windy City is replaced in Midtown 2 with London and San Francisco, which both make for different and fun driving.

    The racing modes are all still there, Blitz, Checkpoint, etc. There is still the most fun of all, Cruise Mode, where you drive freely through the city, smashing your car up and being chased by the police.

    There’s the new mode, Crash Course, which is almost story-driven. In it, you complete certain courses, ranging from jumping a bridge to chasing another car trying to lose you. Themed after a stunt driving school in San Francisco or a cab school in London, you complete the missions and “Midterms” in order to unlock secrets. Some can be tedious, but many are very fun.

    One of the nicest features about Midtown Madness 2 is the variety of cars. Sure, there are probably too many New Beetle variants, but I’m willing to put up with that. Some of the cars that had to be unlocked in the original, such as the Semi or the Mustang Fastback are already there to drive freely. The newer cars must be unlocked though, but with cars like the Vantage DB7 they’re worth the effort.

    Racing, which seemed almost like an afterthought to gain the new cars in the original, is now very fun and more of a joy than a burden. In both cities the courses for all racing modes are original and refreshing. They are well thought out and very fun overall. I found myself trying hard to unlock all the cars, and while this was difficult, it wasn’t overly hard or tedious. The racing covers all sorts of experiences in all three racing modes. Everything from long, twisting street racing, to crowded drag races is there, with each city providing a new and scenic view. When I came over a small hill in San Francisco’s Presidio, I was treated to a clear scenic view of the whole city, with cars driving around it down the hills and pedestrians walking about.

    The graphics have been given a nice facelift, with improvements in the generic traffic cars, your cars, and the pedestrians, who now appear to have a fair amount of detail, despite not really having textures. No matter really, you usually don’t see them until they leap away from your car.

    Cruise mode is something that was great in the original, and has been improved in Midtown Madness 2. No longer are there only a few police cars if you max out police density. Now there’s one on every corner practically if you want. This makes for great chases through the cities, each one making different experiences. The police are also smarter this time around. Flooring it over a hill in San Francisco in my GTR-1, I figured the cops would lose me. Instead, 4 police cruisers came flying over the hill after me, a true sight to behold. Police cars are damaged just like your own car, and are as detailed as your own.

    Damage is an area at which Midtown now excels. Sides get scraped up, fenders break off, cars with low tire clearance get scraped apart on the curbs, and general wreckage is great. Even parked cars can get their tires knocked off. The fire truck is truly a monster. Turning traffic and police to the maximum and hauling around in the Dalmatian painted fire truck is one of the most fun things I think you can do in this game. Speeding around causing huge collisions.

    Multiplayer is a lot of fun too. The various games make for some great experiences. Cops and Robbers is an example of a simple concept and familiar game becoming a fresh new experience. Teamwork seems to lack, however, over the Internet Gaming Zone. There are lots of possibilities, such as blocking for your teammates with the bus, but most of the time it’s not ever put into play.

    The game is not without a few quirks, however. Some of the races and driving courses I found became tedious after a few tries. In addition, the game has quick load times, but loads are rather frequent. You have to load to go back into menus, and load to go into the game. Fortunately, there is no load if you restart a race. Graphically, it’s a nice game. Textures tend to blur up close, but that’s really to be expected. The buildings sometimes seem uniform, as well. But there are familiar landmarks, so that compensates to some degree.

    All in all, Midtown Madness 2 will not disappoint. As long as you know what you’re getting. It’s not a hardcore racing sim, but a fun action packed romp through real-world cities, and an excellent one at that.

    Reviewed by Ninja:

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    Zalman: ZM-DS4F Headphones

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