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Product: Midtown Madness 2
Company: Microsoft
Website: http://www.microsoft.com/games
Estimated Street Price: $39.99/£29.99
Review By: Byron Hinson

The Features

Midtown Madness was a runaway hit back a year or so ago when it was first released, its mix of crazy driving and non stop action was a big plus when it came to both single player and multiplayer gamers. Now we have the follow up to try out, but does it have enough new features and improvements to warrant you paying out more hard earned cash?

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  • Two New Cities to Race & Explore! Midtown Madness 2 features two all new fully-living and interactive cities each with accurate street maps and accurately rendered landmarks: London Tear across Hyde Park and take a snap-shot of Buckingham Palace as you race in the twisting streets of ole' London town! Or dash your car into the 'Tube' for a quick short-cutÖ Just look out for that train!!! San Francisco Lombard Street and Union Square ain't seen nothing yet as your car leaps from hill to hill in San Fran's suspension bustin' streets. Look out for that Street Car!!!
  • 10 all-new vehicles to smash and crash! Midtown Madness 2 puts you in the driver's seat of 10 all new campy urban roadsters ranging from the Aston Martin Vantage DB-7 to a cherry-red Freightliner Fire Truck in addition to the madcap assortment of cars and trucks from the original (like the VW Bug and Ford Mustang)!
  • New Crash Course Mission Mode. Jump in the drivers seat as either a Hollywood Stunt Man on location in your latest action-thriller in San Francisco or as an aspiring Cab Driver just entering the hallowed halls of the East End Cab Company School of Driving in London. Crash Course mode features a series of skill-building scenarios where drivers can master the challenges of Madness Driving in addition to unlocking cool new races, vehicles and Easter Eggs galore!
  • Improved Driving & Racing Performance. Midtown Madness 2 builds upon the groundbreaking physics engine of the original allowing drivers all new racing challenges like power slides, mastering the hand brake, and more. In addition, damage modeling has been improved allowing breakaway parts and even better damage detail.
  • Race how and where you want! Just like the original, Midtown Madness 2 lets you chart your own racing course in two all new fully interactive and explorable cities! Careen down a packed avenue in downtown San Fran taking out a garbage can or two or zip down a back-alley while pedestrians dive out of your way in London - the choice of where and how you want to race is yours in Midtown Madness 2!
  • Same Great Racing Excitement to Cure Your Commuting Blues! Midtown Madness 2 features the same great racing modes as the original including Blitz, Check-Point, Circuit and Multiplayer Capture-the-Gold in two all new cities with 10 fabulous new urban racers.
  • Improved Muliplayer and Community Features. Midtown Madness 2 will be optimized for full LAN, and Internet based multiplayer gaming via the MSN Gaming Zone for stable and competitive multiplay for up to 8 racers.

Installation And Settings

Installation is as easy as they come, insert the CD and auto play will start up and then guide you through the installation process. There are two different install methods, one is the small installation the other the full installation, the difference between the two is faster loading times and more speech in the full install version.

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Once you finally get around to starting the game you are shown a great intro movie which lasts about 3 minutes, it has the perfect rock music to get you in the mood for playing, then once that had finished you are greeted with a number of options:

Create New Driver: This is where you name your driver and decide what skill level you want to start at.
Delete This Driver: This allows you to remove any of the drivers you have created.
Drivers Stats: From here you can check up on how your driver has been fairing in various courses.

Crash Course: Looking for an exciting new career? Looking to unlock new vehicles and custom paint jobs? Then try your hand at Crash Course! Learn to be a London Cabbie or a San Francisco Stunt Driver.
Races: Cruise, Blitz Race, Checkpoint Race, Circuit Race, Cops & Robbers (Multiplayer Only).
Multiplayer: Free-for-all, Cops vs. Robbers, Robbers vs. Robbers
Quick Race: Just as the name suggests, get racing real quickly.

Options: From here you can change all of the sound, graphic and control options so you can get the game setup the way you want it to be.

The Gameplay

Midtown Madness was all about fun and Midtown Madness 2 is no different. This time around you get a couple of cities to play around in, London and San Francisco. Lets go through the types of races that are available to you:

Cruise: You get to driver around the city of your choice, be it San Francisco or London. Take a drive across the Golden Gate Bridge, or check out other famous places around the city. Or take a drive around London and visit Big Ben or Tower of London. You can even take a trip down under - meaning underground! Tear through the London underground, just be careful of the trains. Cruise allows you to test out the cars without having any constraints in terms of having to complete a course within a set amount of time.

Blitz: Similar to the checkpoint game but this time it is just you by yourself against the clock. These blitz games tend to be very fast paced and need precision driving to get you through them.

Checkpoint: Checkpoint games are great fun, they require you to compete against other computer controlled drivers and battle through a number of checkpoints in a vehicle of your choice. I don't recommend the bus.

Circuit: Challenge other drivers on short lap based courses. Beginning off easy and ending up with some very hard to master courses this one will last you a while.

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Crash Course: The most challenging of all the game types in Midtown Madness 2 has to be the new Crash Course training modes. You get to be an apprentice cabby in London or a trainee stunt driver in San Francisco. No matter which one you choose you get the chance to hone your driving skills by completing jumps, maintaining a certain speed through a number of checkpoints etc it all adds up to allowing you access to new cars by completing the exams.

Multiplayer Modes not only have the above courses (bar the crash course) but also all these ones below.

Free-for-all: All bets are off! A fat gold bar sits unguarded somewhere in the city. Use the online map to find it, then deliver it to your hideout using any unlocked vehicle (the hostís record determines which vehicles are unlocked). Once you drop it off, another gold bar appears somewhere, and the match continues. The more gold you deliver without being intercepted by thieves, the more points you earn.

While youíre delivering gold to your hideout, watch out for thieves (other human opponents) who may try to ram you and knock the gold out of your car. Once the gold is lying on the street, anyone can snatch it by driving over it.

Cops vs. Robbers: That fat gold bar sits unguarded somewhere in the city. Use the online map to find it. If youíre a cop, use your Ford Mustang Police Cruiser to deliver it safely to the bank. If youíre a robber, use a Ford Mustang GT to bring it to your hideout. In either case, another gold bar appears after you deliver the first one, and the match continues. The more gold you deliver, the more points you earn individually and as a member of a team of cops or team of robbers.

Of course, you could just ram your opponents to get them to drop their treasure, then snatch the gold and run for it.

Robbers vs. Robbers: Robbers vs. Robbers is like Cops vs. Robbers, except you can choose any unlocked vehicle, not just a Police Car or the Mustang GT (the hostís record deter

Graphics, Sound & Music

As with Midtown Madness - this sequel still doesn't have the most eye catching of graphics and there are also many clear graphical problems going on for me to give them a very high mark, there are many slow downs during play as well as jagged edges on lots of special effects beneath cars (could be the G400 there). What did impress me was the weather effects and the night-time playing levels which is where I could really get a good atmosphere coming up from the game.

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Sound is another mixed bunch, while city sounds and cars, horns etc all sound fine - the speech leaves a lot to be desired. It ends up being very repetitive and the London cabby ends up sounding like an American trying to put on the usual bad English accent.

Final Comments

How It Grades
  Originality: 82%
Gameplay: 88%
Story: N/A
Graphics: 82%
Cutscenes: 60%
Sound: 80%
Music: 70%
Manual: 80%
Interface: 80%
Multiplayer: 90%
Overall: 86%

 

Midtown Madness 2 managed to get across all of the fun elements that were in the original and improve them. The new cities are full of life and have enough landmarks to make you drive around them a number of times instead of getting bored while the new Crash Course is an excellent way of improving your driving skills. The only real disappointments for me are the poor speech and the graphical slowdown I was getting on my review PC. All in all a good improvement over the original and one that any fans of Midtown Madness will want to rush out and buy.

 

Specs & Package
Overall Score 86%
Version Reviewed US Version 1.0
Release Date Out Now
In The Box? 1 CD
1 Manual
The Good Points Good City Sounds
Fun Gameplay
Great Multiplayer
The Bad Points Some dire speech
Big slowdowns during gameplay
Similar To Midtown Madness
Need For Speed
Reviewers PC Setup Pentium II 450
Windows Me
128 Meg SD-Ram
Matrox G400 32MB AGP Graphics Card
DirectX 7.1
SoundBlaster Live! Value
17" LG Electronics Monitor
Microsoft Force Feedback Pro
Microsoft Game Pad Pro (USB)
Microsoft Digital Sound System 80
Microsoft Intellimouse Explorer

DVD TV Player - Pioneer DV-626D
Widescreen TV - Sony KV-28WS2U 28"
DVD-ROM: Toshiba SD-1202

PC Required Windows 95/98/ME Or Win 2000
Pentium 233mhz
32 mb ram
4x cd rom Drive
Mouse and Keyboard
640*480 video card with 2mb ram
Windows compatible sound device
250 mb free hard drive space

 

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