The big hook to this game is the outstanding gameplay, and the fact that you can play on-line with others. Before we get to on-line play, you must realize the tie between the single-player game and the multi-player game. When you play on-line, you can only play with the cars, maps, and extras that you unlock in the career mode (single-player). So, this forces you to play the career mode till the end, which proves to be a good way of insuring that you will finish.
In career mode, you start the game with the most basic car and find other cars to race in hopes of winning the almighty pink slip. Each street racer you challenge will first, lead you to a certain point on the map to begin the actual race. You must keep up with them at all times till you reach the point. Then they will give you a little commentary to talk trash, and let you know how the race will go down. Win the races against them and take home their car. It is not as easy as it sounds. The computer AI is not stuck on a single route. They will break away for shorter routes and if they get forced to far from a turn they will improvise. Watch them, because they will give away shortcuts and better routes. I did find the Los Angeles maps pretty easy, once you get to the Paris and Tokyo maps though, watch out. I found myself taking many attempts at winning the race, and most of those actually studing the routes. Races can be very confusing with the arrow system which points to the next checkpoint, not necesarily the next turn. The feel of the cars is right on point for me, and the button layout works great.
The cars are based on popular models, but do not carry the name. In my opinion, this doesn't matter to me, because the average player really doesn't know if a Mitsubishi can out perform a Toyota, or if a Mustang can take a Camaro in the quarter mile. The game also includes motorcycles! My first reaction was, "great - now there will be a vehicle that I cannot use." But, the controls of the bikes were actually very acceptble. The bikes have a great feel to them and with the weight transfer button, you can make some wicked turns with no notice. Also, tricks can be accomplished using a combination of the handbrake, weight transfer, and analog stick.
Once you have unlocked all, or enough of the content to make you a threat, hop on Xbox Live! and enjoy some great gaming. You can play Arcade Modes: "Cruise" and "Circuit Races", or tryout Battle Modes: "Capture the Flag" and "Detonate". Battle Modes include ten powerups to make the game a little more balanced. Capture the Flag can also be played with teams, or every man for himself! Lastly there is a Race Editor section that allows you to select way points on any unlocked map. I can't stress enough that you need to get a little ways into career mode to insure that you have a decent car unlocked, or your gameplay will be a flop. I know what you are thinking. How's the lag? Well, the lag is almost non existant! I am away from home right now on a crappy cable connection that limits my pleasurable gaming, but this game shows very few signs of lag, and when you do spot lag, it doesn't affect your play. Usually an opponent's car will briefly skip. I have never seen lag affect my driving, or caused me to miss a turn or crash. I am very impressed with the online code.
The maps in this game are just flat out eye opening. The full city layout is definately a benchmark for other games to follow. This game is so true to what it claims. You will feel like you are right in the thick of the city, racing your way through traffic, and blazing through intersections. You will also find and use short-cuts and jump building, rivers, and smash over light poles, but if that didn't happen you would find yourself losing every game.
The graphics are outstanding when you take into consideration of playing a scaled map of an actual city that allows you to drive around without load times or "appearing" graphics. Unfortunately, the vehicles are solid colors which reminds you that they are not upgradeable. Lighting is well placed to add to the realism effect. You will recognize buildings and historical markers such as the eiffel tower. As far as the sound goes, the motors roar and tires squeal. The game comes with a pretty catchy soundtrack, but you are limited to those tracks. The challengers in Career Mode will be sure to yell out catch phrases that will get on your last nerve, especially when you are losing. This can be annnoying as far as the repetitiveness, but I like the concept of the trash talk, and some of the comments are compliments.
TipsUnless you are an elite gamer who never makes a mistake, you will be playing the races multiple times before moving on. Especially the random check point portions. So, learn your maps and pay attention for shortcuts by looking for markers or watching the computer's choices. The game comes with a great balance option by pressing the left trigger (default). Learn this to your advantage to save you from excessive breaking. Use your nitro boosts accordingly. A good plan is to use them on a long straight away and at the last stretch to the finish. There will be time to catch up with the pack if you get behind, and to use a nitro boost to round a corner is just down right bad. When you are searching for a new challenger, take your time driving through the map to check things out and to catch some extra tips from the commentator. You'll be surprised how much that pays off.
This game forces you to like it till it hurts. If you want to be good on-line, then you must beat the game in career mode. This concept keeps you concentrated on doing such. The city maps are the best to date for any racing game in my opinion. The on-line games add more playing hours and alot of fun. Rockstar went all out on Midnight Club 2 and it shows! They put alot into this game and then shoved in some more. I know you are familiar with there other titles, and are you seeing the same trend I am seeing? This game is a must buy, so go get it and maybe we can play some at the next event!