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Midtown Madness2 Preview

Shawn_Sanders By:
GENRE Racing 
PUBLISHER Microsoft 
E Contains Animated Violence

What do these ratings mean?

Therapy for my madness.

Have you ever been driving along, minding your own business, only to get cut off by some nitwit in an SUV or some other large vehicle shaped like a new pair of Nikes? What is with these people? They're too pretentious to take their new 20-40 thousand dollar road hog 4-wheeling on an off-road terrain, so they decide to use their half-hour drive to work through city streets as their own personal obstacle course.

Admittedly, this kills two birds with one stone. First off, they don't have to worry about their precious bad investment getting scratched or dirty. But more importantly, if you want to show off how much money you've spent on something, you don't go to some isolated mountain road - you go to the city.

These people drive me nuts. Being the law-abiding citizen that I am (when sober), I refrain from letting these people know about themselves. So what do I do to vent my frustrations? I play video games, and racing games are my therapy of choice for this particular type of frustration. One of the finest tharapeutic seesions around is the original Midtown Madness for the PC, which made any 12-step program look like a poorly organized PTA meeting. So when an early build of Midtown Madness 2 made it's screeching appearance at the GR compound, I quickly jumped in the driver's seat.

Graphically, Midtown Madness 2 is not that much of an improvement over its predecessor. This may be a blessing, though, as graphics and textures were really well done in the first MM.

Damage modeling has been greatly improved. There are now a wider variety of places on your vehicle that can bend and fold up, as well as more breakaway parts for your destructive amusement.

"But Shawn, how do the cars drive?" you ask. These babies handle better than ever before. In the original, you were given a toggle for the physics realism. This was cool, but you had to place the realism at zero in order for the car to handle well without spinning out on the slightest sharp turns. In the sequel, Microsoft has completely done away with the toggle. In its place is simply one of the most intuitive and visually entertaining physics engines that I have had the pleasure of experiencing in a street style racer. You will bear witness to cars driving on two wheels, power slides and really cool muscle car fish tails.

Rather than only racing around Chicago (which was huge!), you get your choice of two new humongous cities - San Francisco and London. Both come complete with adjustable traffic, pedestrians and cops. Just think of tearing down Embarcadero towards Fisherman's Wharf on an early foggy morning in bumper to bumper rush hour traffic. Now that's when my therapy kicks in.

There have been nine new vehicles added to the roster, including an Aston-Martin Vantage DB-7, a cherry-red fire engine, and even light attack vehicles for those really, really aggressive drivers. You will still be able to find all of the original beauties from the original MM, like the VW bug and the Ford Mustang. All of these cars are nicely modeled with authentic sounds and suspension. Just take your pick.

One interesting feature is the brand new Crash Course Mission Mode. Racers can jump behind the wheel as either a Hollywood stunt driver on location for the latest action-thriller in San Francisco or as an aspiring cab driver just entering the halls of the Imperial Cabby Academy in London. This new mode features a series of skill building scenarios where drivers can attempt to master the challenges. It's gonna take some practice, though.

Variety is the key to a happy driver, and thankfully the same great play modes have returned, including Blitz, Checkpoint, Circuit, Cruise, and 8-player multi Capture the Flag.

Beta builds are always plagued with crashes, glitches, disappearing objects and all sorts of evil that are (hopefully) not seen in the final versions. Although our copy of Midtown Madness 2 shared all of these beta problems, it did not detract from the fun one iota - and that's what you call a good game. I've had some great fun playing this early build of Midtown Madness 2, and can only imagine what the finished version is going to be like when it's released this Fall 2000.

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