Gamestyle Archive Intro: a really fun review from Dan Kelly of the Rockstar Midnight Club title that locked into the growing popularity of boyracers. A really early review dating from around December 2000. I know its an old piece as the bold and italic html code is inserted within the text and has to be taken out for this restoration!
Its midnight, its always midnight, your alone sitting in your car. You’ve got your compilation of your most bangin “choons” thumping out of your speakers. Your window is down so you can hear the menacing growl of your finely tuned engine as you squeeze the accelerator. But all of a sudden your ears twitch as you hear an unfamiliar bass-line. You know it’s not off one of your carefully selected tracks. You look right and you see the spoilers, lowered suspension, bad boy bonnet and tinted windows. In your eyes you are THE boy racer. You both know what happens now, you’re just waiting for the go.
Welcome to Midnight Club, if this is your first night, you have to race!! Rockstar Games, responsible for the crime infested Grand Theft Auto series, bring you yet another game where you can freely cruise around the city mowing down pedestrians. Except this time you don’t steal the cars, you win them. One of the first things you’ll notice about Midnight Club as you cruise around New York and London, is that the cities are pretty accurate to the real thing. You’ll drive around, you’ll point at familiar landmarks, and you’ll take photos. But accurate as it is, the buildings which aren’t the centre of attention in these cities, can seem bland and very similar to one another, and the cities themselves don’t quite achieve the level of realism compared to what we’ve so far seen of The Getaway. But despite that it’s still a damn good effort.
The second thing you’ll notice after mincing around for a few hours is, where the hell is the friggin sun? Well, the truth is you’ll never know, because urrrm it never rises, ever! The main aim of the game is to drive around New York City, searching for fellow Midnight Club members. When you find one, you’ll be challenged to a way-point race against the leader and his homeboys. A way-point race mainly consists of pelting it around the city, going through checkpoints in order. If you make it to the designated finish before all the others you’ve won. The leader of the opposition gang then gives you his/her cell phone number, and you’ll be given the chance to win their car by calling this number, and challenging them head to head. Each racer has three cars, which you win one after another, each car better than the previous one. When you win all the head to heads and way-point races of most of the other members around the city, the boss type character will appear. After you’ve spent hours trying to catch the bugger he’ll eventually challenge you and all the other members to a race where you have a finish, a lot of check points which can be done in any order, and a time limit.
You’ll spend about 4 days trying to beat him, and when you eventually do you’ll be given the opportunity to go to London. Here the cars are faster, the races are harder, and the roads are, well, stingier. The same chain of events pretty much occurs here till eventually the very mysterious World Champion shows up and beats the living hell out of you and everyone else, leaving you wondering how in god’s name are you gonna beat this person. You will, one day, I promise.
Graphically it’s nice. The cities are accurate, the rain effects make you pull your hood up, and the vehicles are sleek and shiny. You will easily be able to recognise which real life cars the ones in the game are based on. There’s the Mini’s, the Evolution’s and the muscle cars. Roughly, there’s about 30 cars to attain. But it all seems a bit bland, nice, but bland. Also there’s the occasional pop-up in two-player mode, and it looks a bit PSOney. Despite all these problems in two-player, there’s nothing that brings a bigger smile to your face than thrashing your mates, or proving that his car will get destroyed before yours as you reinact those Matchbox car head on collisions. And that’s another nice thing, unlike GT3 running your car into a lamp post or wall brings a tear to your eye as your beautiful new car’s bodywork is buckled, scratched and crumpled beyond recognition.
Enough of this kind of pitiful driving will eventually cause you to write-off your car. But don’t worry, a brand new one will appear from the night sky above. Riiiight. Real boy racers amongst us will be able to recognise all the familiar company names which are plastered all over the cars. There’s the likes of Dimma and GReddy along with many others.
The musical score fits well with the fast pace of the game and will put you in the mood for driving at rediculous velocities around Trafalgar Square. It mainly consists of drum and bass with the odd bit of house, mint! Its very arcadey in the way the game handles. The cars are fun to drive, and you’ll be able to pick up the controller and perform 360-degree spins over the finish line in no time. Much satisfaction is gained through tapping the handbrake, sliding into the turn and counter-steering the car as it perfectly fishtails around the corner as gracefully as a Russian ballerina. It’s much like SSX in that you can go anywhere during the race, and also due to the fact that finding the right shortcuts is the key to success.
Although the cities are big, it won’t take you that long to finish the game. There are quite a few races, with the odd one here and there taking a bit of time and effort to win. But other than that most of the races are relatively short and easy provided you select the right car. And although I know its midnight, the streets often seem empty and a lot of the time you can feel lonely. It could’ve done with more people to run down, and a few more cars and buses to get in your way. I mean these are two major cities in two pretty economically developed countries, the streets will be non-stop hustle and bustle no matter what time it is. But if you’re a bit of a boy racer, then this might be a game worth checkin out to fulfil all those fantasies.
Gamestyle Score: 6/10