What? I can't hit the pedestrians?
Midtown Madness puts you in the driver's seat, straps you in, and lets you know you're in for something special. Once the funky bass-laden music strums across your speakers, you'll be tapping your toes and grooving through the streets of Chicago. The fourth in Microsoft's "Madness" series, Midtown Madness rises above predecessors Monster Truck Madness 1, Monster Truck Madness 2, and Motocross Madness, with fast action, a whole new level of realism, and pedestrians who leap for their lives.
The game is quick. Zipping around in the New Volkswagen Beetle, taking hairpin turns, and dodging both oncoming traffic and cars in my lane was a pulse-pounding experience. There was many a time I brought my shiny little car around a corner, wrenched on the handbrake and slid sideways into a stopped car. Most of the time, my car stopped while the tires and metallic debris kept going. The game possesses cars for the truly power-hungry; however you must earn the right to "unlock" the truly cool ones by placing in top positions of certain races.
The game is set in a cleaner, friendlier Chicago. Cars actually signal before changing lanes, wait at reds, and obey traffic laws. You'll get a dose of reality however if you cut someone off, drive too close, or run into them, with the other drivers hurling insults and exclamations your way. The non-player drivers do act like normal motorists, ignorant to most of the stuff happening around you. If you're racing, however, you'll be looking to outsmart your opponents, not just outdrive them. Opponents will split off on sidestreets trying to find shortcuts, attempt to bang into you to knock you out of commission, and try everything in their power to get across the finish line first.
Midtown Madness possesses superb, immersive graphics such as different times of day, and weather conditions, including snow and rain. Player cars are well detailed, but the other motorists' cars lack significant detail. No doubt this was a sacrifice that had to be made to make the game playable, but it was something I really noticed. At times, my vehicle looked like it was crafted of coloured chrome, being far too reflective and sometimes showing a reflection I couldn't match to a source.
Don't count on bouncing someone off your hood. The people in Midtown Madness have more moves than Jackie Chan and will flip, jump, and hug the buildings to avoid you. You can, however, plow into anything you see. Traffic lights will topple if you run into them, cars will spin around if you hit them (for best results, use the bus) and buildings will stop you dead in your tracks.. along with one other thing: trees. For some reason, a toothpick city tree will stop even a city bus as sure as a building would. This was one source of major annoyance, and a certain lapse of the 'virtual reality' that is effectively painted in Midtown Madness. The reasoning behind making the trees so strong was lost on me.
If you enjoy watching those "Worlds Greatest Car Crash" shows, you'll love playing one. Accidents are by far one of the best aspects of the game. Driving the Beetle, you'll notice how quickly it zigs and zags, but will also notice that it can't take much before falling apart. The city bus on the other hand can be run into oncoming traffic on the freeway, and still drive away relatively unscathed. You'll find the bus slow, but strong as an oak (or a city tree, for that matter).
Cruise mode was one of the best features in the game. Being able to take the cars where I wanted without a timer or anything expected of me was great fun. Whether behind the wheel of my Cadillac Eldorado or in the driver's seat of the bus, I was free to explore the landmarks of Chicago and meet some of the locals, who were too busy jumping out of the way to wave hello.
One of the main drawbacks, however, was that the map was the same for the whole game. You started and finished and took different routes throughout the city, but it would have been nice to go in some other settings. I can predict a slew of Midtown Madness add-ons in the near future.
Midtown Madness was plain fun to play. I didn't need force feedback to shake while playing. I used the Microsoft Freestyle Pro joystick, which allows you to physically move the joystick to move the car. Turn the joystick right, the car moves with you. I found control extremely smooth and the cars easy to maneuver.
This title is a must-buy for the driving game enthusiast, and a definite candidate for even those not into the 'racing' genre. The game is much more than just a 'racer', and will have you hooked in no time.
Graphics: Great graphics. The moving sky, the different environments (day, night, weather conditions), the buildings.. one word: immersive. The only drawback was how reflective all the cars were. Overall, very well done.
Sound: Fantastic soundtrack that'll have you grooving to the beat. Every sound needed to make the game as real as possible has been added. People yell at you, cars honk their horns, and metal on metal definitely screeches. An aural pleasure!
Enjoyment: Fun, fun, fun. This title is a must-buy for the driving game enthusiast, and a definite candidate for even those not into the 'racing' genre. The game is so much more than just a 'racer'. Unfortunately, you could only race in Chicago. I would have liked to see other settings in the game.
Replay Value: If there's one thing about driving games, it's that they get better the more you play them. You'll find yourself going back to the old courses to REALLY clean up with the higher up vehicles you unlock. Taking the mustang police cruiser for a spin on the first race will really put your contenders in their place.
People who downloaded Midtown Madness have also downloaded:
Midtown Madness 2, Monster Truck Madness 2, Motocross Madness 2, Monster Truck Madness, Need for Speed 3: Hot Pursuit, Motocross Madness, Microsoft Combat Flight Simulator: WWII Europe Series, Need For Speed 2 Special Edition
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