Midnight Club Hands-On

Midnight Club isn't your ordinary "get from point A to point B" affair. You must make your way up the ranks of the illegal racing club, garnering new cars and street rep along the way.

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Midnight Club: Street Racing
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Rockstar is hopping on the PlayStation 2 bandwagon in a big way. Not only is it publishing the contraband-moving racer Smuggler's Run, but it will also be releasing an interesting racer called Midnight Club: Street Racing from Angel Studios. Midnight Club isn't your ordinary "get from point A to point B" affair. You must make your way up the ranks of the illegal racing club, garnering new cars and street rep along the way.

You begin the game as a green cabbie looking for a bit of action. After you demonstrate your abilities to your first challenger, you are invited to join the Midnight Club and are given a cell phone. Using your cell phone, you may call other members of the Midnight Club and challenge them to races on the city's traffic-packed streets. Most of the enemy cars are much faster than your ride, so you must rely on your cunning and your knowledge of the city to move up the ranks. As you overcome each new challenge, you are rewarded with a faster car to race with.

Midnight Club's underground tone and attitude is established through the dialogue spoken by your competition. They will taunt you while you're behind or ahead with unpleasant remarks about your driving style or your mother. Light swearing is also used to give MC a gritty edge. As you defeat each opponent, you gradually gain the respect of the club, which allows you to take on even bigger challenges for even higher stakes. The game moves along at a nice clip, and it requires you to maneuver through bumper-to-bumper traffic jams, underneath building awnings, and across rooftop gaps at crazy speeds in order to place first.

Graphically, Midnight Club has some nice reflections on the cars and just a large racing environment that may be explored at your leisure. The rain, in conjunction with the dark, makes for an impressive effect while cruising underneath street lights, but the wet roadways seem to affect handling only marginally. The reflection of the surroundings on the wet pavement is also a nice touch. On the downside, many of the buildings appear overly simplistic, and some of the textures could use some tender loving care, as they seem like they could have been lifted directly from the PlayStation 2 development kit. The frame rates also have a tendency to fluctuate when the action is at its peak.

Midnight Club could use a few more modes, some extra racing areas to increase its replay value, and some work on the graphics, but with a little more tweaking, Angel Studios could have a solid racer on its hands. The copy of Midnight Club we received is 95 percent complete, though, so it may be a bit too late for major revisions. Look for our full review of Midnight Club: Street Racing when the title ships later this year.

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