Rockstar screwed up royally this timethe title's all wrong. It should be Visine™ Presents Midnight Club II, because after bombing through Paris' narrow alleys at 180 mph, running over café tables, and then jumping clear across the Seine, you'll need to get the red out of those dry, unblinking eyes. I usually prefer my racing to be of the simulation variety rather than wacky arcade-style, but Midnight Club II is so much fun, my inner sim-driving geek sits down and shuts up.
As in the original, the object is to climb the ranks by challenging drivers, winning intense races, and earning faster cars. There are also cool special moves to unlockand motorcycles. The cycles are quick but hard to handle, and they're a favorite target in multiplayer games, as a little nudge will send you head-over-heels into oncoming traffic.
The sprawling citiesL.A., Paris, and Tokyoare actually a little smaller than the first game's in square-mile terms, but each has a clever network of underground tunnels and wild rooftop routes that significantly increases their overall size. Some of the later races get unbelievably difficult, though, requiring you to learn every shortcut (usually through trial and error) to even be competitive.
I've saved the best for last: This Club is online, too (assuming you've got a broadband connection). The range of multiplayer games and user-created race routes means near-limitless replay value and the chance to earn cred on a much larger street.
Copyright © 2004 Ziff Davis Media Inc. All Rights Reserved. Originally appearing in Electronic Gaming Monthly.