Game Over Online ~ Midtown Madness 2

GameOver Game Reviews - Midtown Madness 2 (c) Microsoft, Reviewed by - Pseudo Nim

Game & Publisher Midtown Madness 2 (c) Microsoft
System Requirements Windows 9x, Pentium 166, 32MB Ram, 400MB HDD, 3D Accelerator, 4x CD-ROM
Overall Rating 61%
Date Published Monday, October 2nd, 2000 at 08:44 PM

Divider Left By: Pseudo Nim Divider Right

I've played many games over my gaming lifespan. Good ones, bad ones. Mostly bad ones (since there's always not enough good things in this world). Usually, regardless of how bad a game is, though, there's at least something to keep you playing. Contrary to my traditional War and Peace-like essays on the Good, the Bad and the Everything Else in a given game, I cannot bring myself to write anything like that about Midtown Madness 2. Put simply and colloquially, this game sucks. Bad. There is extremely few good things about this game (and I'm being open-minded about it - *I* haven't found any good things about the game whatsoever). Now that I believe I got the main point across, let us examine the specifics.

First off, the most important "feature" that made me hate Midtown Madness 1 in the first place, and which has been diligently transported over to 2 with little or no modification: car physics. I do realize that this is an arcade game and thus isn't supposed to be realistic. But there is a limit to how far the un-realism should go. When you're playing a game along the lines of San Francisco Rush 2049 on the Dreamcast, the point of the game is to be completely off the wall whacked out. They don't pretend to have real cities, they don't pretend to have real cars, they just go off on a limb and make a game where you move about in a thing which appears to be a wheeled vehicle, and that's where anything you're used to stops. That's fine. If it's a game like that, it can do whatever it wants with physics. MM2 is supposed to at least be partially realistic, since it employs authentic cars, authentic cities, and otherwise tries to provide an impression of realism. So what am I ranting about? Why, the completely impossible calculation (and application) of momentum and collision modeling. Without going too much into physics of motion, let's boil it down to this: when a body strikes another body of a much larger mass, it's not supposed to affect it as it would a body of a much smaller mass. What that means in the game? Simplified, you can drive a VW Bug and flip over trucks, buses, and double-decker buses. You don't even need that much speed, either. Examine some of the shots - I tried to capture that.

Next comes the AI. If you've played Driver, you might argue it was realistic or not realistic, bad or good, but you would, perhaps, agree that the cops in the game were fairly good. They were persistent, but not unrealistically so; it was possible to lose them; and their roadblocks, while faulty, were at least *there*. In MM2, you don't have roadblocks; and the cops are the most retarded creations I have ever seen in a computer game. They PLOW through objects as if they were driving bulldozers. On the San Francisco level, there are quite a few limos. Sometimes you will plow into them and turn them around, blocking the road. What do the cops do? They plow into the limo and drag it along the road for a very long while, until it hits something and somehow disengages. I'm also unclear about what exactly their purpose is. Technically, assuming you're a high risk to public safety, I would imagine they would try to tactically plow you into a wall or a light pole. Light poles just fall down in this game (with a shattering glass sound - not sure if they mean the pole is made of glass, or the lamp is under so high a pressure that you hear it explode from a few meters away), so I would expect that they will try to run you into a wall. They do, indeed, do that - albeit with completely inexplicable frequency and with no logic behind it whatsoever. Frequently, they would just drive happily behind me, bunched up as 2 - 3 cars, and not attempting any sort of maneuver or any sort of tactic. Forget roadblocks! With the cop AI that this game has, the roadblock would probably go on the sidewalk.

So what goes else? Let's pull a random topic out of a hat. Say, graphics. The graphics in the game are almost good. An exception: every single car (other than yours and the cops) in the game. Have a look at some close-ups in the shots, and you will notice that every car appears to be a flat-shaded unit made of about three polygons. The background scenery is not bad, and all the major "attractions" of both San Francisco and London are present - the Golden Gate Bridge, Big Ben, the Westminster Tower and all those. In a poorly done twist, every bus carries either a or a Angel Studios logo. It's fairly common practice to carry the designer's logo in the game (though I'm not sure how much I empathize with that idea), but I'm sorry, that is slightly overboard. Next thing you know, there will be billboards and TV screens in games advertising actual products. Another semi-graphics-related issue is camera angles: more precisely, the absence thereof. There is a "Thrill Cam", which is an incomprehensible camera angle which appears to be pointing from the most useless direction, and you cannot move it. As well, you cannot look back while you're driving - not unless you're in the "cabin" view (which is an overstatement, because there is no hud or any sort of a dashboard). If you go in reverse, then the camera will shift - but that sort of defeats the purpose.

Yet another issue I ran across was inconsistent world geometry, to put it broadly. One time, I drove into a little pond with ducks or swans swimming around. "Aww," said I, "how cute. Let's see if we can drive them over." So I tried. To my utmost surprise (actually, not quite - I've been playing the game for some time by then, and learned to not be surprised by anything), the swanduck swam right through my hood. The second world geometry issue arises when a big vehicle is raised into the air, but when it descends back to earth, space is no longer available for it. Then it starts to jump. Literally. I saw a truck propped up on a railing one time. It was jumping very hard, attempting to get off the railing. Quite a good jumper it was, too - I estimate it performed several vertical 6ft jumps, perhaps more. Buses like to do it, too, especially if they're propped up on top of passenger vehicles. There were other minor clipping problems, too - mostly when plowing into traffic at high speeds. Geometry gives way to "noclip" mode at that point - you just sort of drive right through. The last glitch that comes to mind is completely inexplicable. I encountered it only on the London level. When I plowed into some of the cars, whether parked or in motion, their wheels fell off. Quite literally. On parked cars, the wheel would stay in place while the body of the car moved off; and on moving cars, there was no real pattern. Is that an insult to British car manufacturing? I have no idea, but that was quite strange.

There are several modes of playing the game, most fairly common and seen before. There is the Cruise mode, the race against time, race against opponents through checkpoints in a non-sequential mode, and a full-blown race. None of these will probably hold you for any amount of time. Cruise is only good to explore the city, and grows mindbogglingly boring after that. The races aren't very enjoyable, either, since you can't pick the opponents' cars, and so are stuck driving either the same thing as them or something better, if there is a choice. Speaking of car choice: this game has the most uninventive car license selection since… since Midtown Madness 1. The cars selected are the most mundane and uneventful cars ever made, and I have not the slightest idea why they were picked for the game. Let's examine the choices: a Mini, a few Beetles in different attires, a London Cab, a Cadillac Eldorado, a Ford F-350 truck, a couple of Ford Mustangs, a bus, a double-decker bus, a Panoz Roadster, a Freightliner Century truck, a Hummer, an Audi TT, an Aston Martin DB7 Vantage, a Panoz GTR-1 and a fire truck. Roughly half of these (i.e. all the buses and trucks) were easily available in games like NFS as *cheat cars*, i.e. cars you access with a special code, and that weren't even advertised as being part of the game. I'm not sure who would buy this game with the intention of fulfilling his dream of driving a F-350 truck, or a bus. Or any one of those many Beetles. There isn't even any proper damage in the game, so the sole reason - bulldozer driving - is eliminated. The only cars you will probably even think of driving are the Panoz, the Audi, the Aston Martin, and maybe, if you really stretch it, the Ford Mustang Fastback, just 'cause it looks cool in chrome. Quite frankly, rather than licensing these unimaginative vehicles, I believe they should have used pseudo-names and used resemblances to real vehicles - like Tokyo Xtreme Racer 2 does for the Dreamcast. Sure, they carry no brand names - but any car enthusiast recognizes them, and any non-enthusiast just happily drives them.

Maybe the only redeemable part of the game will be multiplayer. I found that in other games that were pretty horrible, multiplayer often saved them - if you have a good opponent. If you're playing against someone who's good, most of your attention goes to beating him, rather than noticing all the horrible, glaring omissions in just about everything. Then, it might become a little bit more fun.

In closing, would I recommend this game? If you've read this far and are asking that question, then I must be losing my touch, whatever little of it I had in the first place. If you liked MM1, then you will probably like MM2 as well (though I am at a loss to imagine what there could possibly be to like about it). I would suggest grabbing Driver and trying that instead. At least cars felt like cars there, and collisions actually sort of worked nicely. And it gave an extremely good feel of what a high-speed chase felt like. This game doesn't. you can drive in the cockpit mode looking back all the time. It'll work just fine. You won't have any trouble going in a straight line, regardless of any obstacles. And that's precisely why I say - avoid this game by all means, and wait for something - anything - else to come out. Play Freecell in the meantime. I think it's better.


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