Don't make me simulate a butt whoopin'!
What is a simulation? Webster says it's: "...a theoretical account based
on a similarity between the model and the phenomena that are to be explained."
So in other words, you can only simulate something that has actually happened
or is known to happen. "Shawn, what the hell are you talking about?" Well, young
inquisitors, I'm talking about seemingly educated people completely misusing
the word "simulation."
Games like Gran Turismo
or Ridge Racer R4 are often
lumped in the "sim" category. Gimme a break. Gran Turismo is no
Sim. What the hell is it simulating? Surely not driving! Ok, maybe you're sort
of simulating driving on a track, but there are no crashes. Don't automobiles
crash in real life? And why is it that if a game has crashes it is by default
labeled an 'arcade' style racer versus a simulation? Sheesh. I think I'm gonna
have to hog-tie, tar, feather and flog somebody real soon.
Granted, I am the street racer's biggest fan. So when the finished gold version
of Midtown Madness 2 made it's way through the tight lipped GR security
personnel, I was the man for the job.
Midtown Madness 2 is one of those games that the aforementioned ignorant
label as an arcade style racer. Well, two huge, incredibly detailed, real-life
cities (London & San Francisco), complete with backalleys and freeways, really
provide a good simulation of driving in and around these locations. The
game hasn't changed much from the original,
but that's not really a bad thing.
The frantic pedestrians who dive for cover as you whiz by them make a somewhat
welcome return, although in the Road Rash and Carmageddon
series you can actually hit these poor saps, which would have been a nice feature
to see here. It's just not very realistic to see all the pedestrians avoid my
every attempt to run them down. But at least they're present. Hello Tokyo
Extreme! Hello Ridge Racer!
Adding to the realism of the cities are all the objects you can interact with.
Mailboxes, stop signs, and trashcans are just some of the many items that succumb
to the might of 2+ tons of virtual steel.
New to the series is the Crash Course mode. Here budding drivers build
useful driving skills while training as a Hollywood stunt driver or an apprentice
London cabby. Players can unlock custom paint jobs and special vehicles. Believe
me, this mode really helps a Yankee (such as myself) get used to driving on
the wrong si-...er...left side of the road.
All the old race modes make a pleasant return: Quick Race, Blitz (race the
clock), Checkpoint Races and Circuit Race. Circuit Races are where the lion's
portion of the gameplay lies. Here, you go finder-to-finder against your opponents
as you travel around laps on closed-loop courses around each city. This is fun,
but I would rather not be confined to a course or laps of any sort.
Although MM2 has all the makings of real street racer simulation, I
must admit that the handling is a tad arcady. By no means do the vehicles turn
on a dime, as is the case with a game like Twisted
Metal. But taking time to learn how to drive as far as basic, effective
handling is concerned just isn't necessary. Anyone can jump on and easily get
around London or San Francisco, no problem. This makes driving the multitude
of vehicles intuitive, but somewhat repetitive.
Microsoft has added some good eye-candy to make the arcade style control seem
more realistic. When a car tears around a corner, you will be a happy witness
to some nice fishtails and the occasional 2 wheel balancing act. This is really
cool to see and experience.
New to the list of vehicles are the London cab and double decker bus, Mini
Cooper Classic & new Mini Cooper. Ever wanted one of those new VW bugs? Well,
they too make an appearance. This time you can man the new VW Beetle Dune &
RSi (off-road and racing models of the popular VW Bug). These aren't really
my speed, as I prefer the old American steel that comes from a good daisy-age
muscle car. Last but not least, for the bully in all of us ('cept me. I'm an
angel!) Midtown Madness 2 presents the Light Tactical Vehicle (LTV) for
those moments of much needed road rage therapy.
Of course, this puppy supports multiplayer. She's optimized for full LAN, modem,
cable and Internet multiplayer gaming ala the MSN Gaming Zone. Get in there
with up to 8 racers and go nuts. These multiplayer modes were all seen on the
previous MM and were as fun as all get-out. However, it does seem like
there was room for some improvement - maybe another play mode online or a higher
player count. Something! It's just same-old, same-old.
And in many ways, that's a good way to describe this game as a whole. Midtown
Madness 2 is a really good game, but this feels more like an add-on than
an actual sequel. A really, really well done add-on, but nonetheless an add-on.
This is a solid if somewhat predictable sequel. And whether you call it an arcade
racer or a city driving simulation, I call it good fun.