Midtown Madness

Midtown Madness (also known as Midtown Madness: Chicago Edition) is a 1999 racing game developed by Angel Studios and published by Microsoft for Microsoft Windows. The demo version was released in April 1999. Two sequels followed, with Midtown Madness 2 released in September 2000 and Midtown Madness 3 released in June 2003 for the Xbox. The game is set in Chicago; the object is for the player to win street races and obtain new cars.

Midtown Madness
Midtown Madness box art
Developer(s)Angel Studios
Publisher(s)Microsoft
Director(s)Clinton Keith
Producer(s)Jay Panek
Designer(s)Frédéric Markus
Programmer(s)David Etherton
Artist(s)Kate Bigel
Michael Limber
Composer(s)Paul Lackey
Platform(s)Microsoft Windows
ReleaseApril 30, 1999
Genre(s)Racing
Mode(s)Single-player, multiplayer

Unlike racing games that restrict the player to a race track, Midtown Madness offers an open world recreation of Chicago. This setting was said to provide "an unprecedented degree of freedom to drive around in a virtual city".[1] Players can explore the city using one of several modes and can determine the weather and traffic conditions for each race. The game supports multiplayer races over a local area network or the Internet. The game received generally positive reviews from gaming websites. Angel Studios developed another video game featuring open-world recreations of cities, Midnight Club: Street Racing.

GameplayEdit

Midtown Madness features four single-player modes: Blitz, Circuit, Checkpoint, and Cruise.[2] In Blitz mode, the player must swing through three checkpoints and drive to the finish line within a time limit. Circuit mode curtains off most of the city to resemble race tracks and pits the player against other cars. Checkpoint mode combines the features of Blitz and Circuit modes and has the player race against other cars to a destination—but also adds the complication of other traffic, such as police cars and pedestrians.[3] In Cruise mode, the player can simply explore the city at their own pace.[2] Each mode except Cruise is divided into missions—completing one unlocks the next. Environmental conditions found in each mode include: weather (sunny, rainy, cloudy, and snowy), time of day (sunrise, afternoon, sunset, and night-time), and the density of pedestrians, traffic, and police vehicles. The heads-up display includes information about the race and a detailed map, but this display can be turned off.[3]

Players start off with five vehicles; five more are unlockable.[2] The available vehicles range from a Volkswagen New Beetle and a Ford F-350 to a city bus and a Freightliner Century truck.[3] Unlocking vehicles requires completing goals[2][4] such as placing within the top three in any two races.[3] If the player has previously won a race mission, they can change the race's duration and the weather when replaying it. The Checkpoint mode allows players to set the frequency of traffic, police cars, and pedestrians.[5][6]

The game's city environment is modeled after Chicago, including many of its landmarks, such as the 'L', the Willis Tower (then known as the Sears Tower), Wrigley Field, and Soldier Field.[7] The streets feature a number of objects the player can crash into including trash bins, parking meters, mailboxes and traffic lights.[7] In Checkpoint mode other vehicles move in accordance with traffic lights, but the player is under no obligation to obey them.[3]

Midtown Madness supports multiplayer games on a local area network, the Internet, or by serial cable connection. The Multiplayer mode was originally supported by Microsoft's MSN Gaming Zone, but this service was retired on June 19, 2006.[8] It is now supported by similar services such as GameSpy Arcade and XFire, via DirectPlay.[9][10] The Multiplayer mode includes a Cops and Robbers mode, a capture the flag-style game in which players form two teams and each team tries to steal the opposing team's cache of gold and return it to their own hideout.[11]

DevelopmentEdit

Midtown Madness was one of the first games that Angel Studios developed for the PC.[1] Microsoft planned to publish sequels to racing computer games with the word Madness in the title, including Motocross Madness and Monster Truck Madness. According to project director Clinton Keith, the concept behind the game came to two Microsoft employees during an attempt to cross a crowded Paris street.[11] They proposed their idea to Angel Studios, which had tried to sell Microsoft a 3D vehicle simulator. Initially, Angel Studios was hesitant to accept Microsoft's offer given the magnitude of the proposed undertaking.[11] They ultimately agreed and decided to use Chicago for the setting because the city was featured in several famous car chases in films, including The Blues Brothers. The development team asked Chicago residents to playtest the game to ensure that the city was recreated faithfully. PC Gamer reported that the re-creation was mostly accurate, although certain landmarks were moved to enhance gameplay.[11]

Angel Studios and Microsoft included regular cars in addition to the "overpowered Italian sports cars" often seen in racing games.[12] The developers obtained permission from manufacturers to use the likenesses of selected vehicles. Microsoft received authorization from Volkswagen for the New Beetle, and Ford, for the Mustang and the F-350 Super Duty.[11][12] The decision to make only half the cars available at the outset was intended to promote a sense of competition.[13] Microsoft staff asked Angel Studios employees to prevent players from hitting pedestrians. Angel Studios (after deciding against rendering pedestrians in two dimensions) developed 3D pedestrian models that could run and jump out of the way. Midtown Madness included an option to remove pedestrians, as they do not alter gameplay but may affect system performance when in a group; consequently, the game does not require a 3D graphics card.[11]

A demo version was released for download on May 1, 1999.[14][15] It featured three vehicles (a Mustang, a Panoz Roadster, and a bus), and all driving modes except Circuit.[16] In December 1999, Angel Studios reported that they were considering a race designer for players, but ultimately this feature was not added.[13] The finished game was released on May 27, 1999.[17][18]

Midtown Madness is distinct from other racing games of its time, especially those influenced by the Need for Speed series, in providing an open environment rather than a closed circuit.[1] Project director Clinton Keith said that an open world makes the gameplay more diverse and adds "element[s] of discovery" such as finding shortcuts.[1] Gary Whitta described the game as open world racing. "[Y]ou still have checkpoints to hit, [but] you don't have to follow the A-B-C-D standard to do it."[11]

ReceptionEdit

Reception
Aggregate score
AggregatorScore
GameRankings81.26%[19]
Review scores
PublicationScore
AllGame     [20]
CVG5/5[6]
Edge8/10[21][22]
GameFan     [23]
GamePro     [24]
GameSpot7.7/10[25]
IGN8.4/10[26]
PC Gamer (US)90%[27]
PC Zone90%[28]
The Cincinnati Enquirer    [29]
Next Generation     [30]

Reviews of Midtown Madness were generally positive, with video game critics praising its gameplay. The IGN review noted that the game "doesn't rely heavily on driving authenticity; this game's all about fun." The review also praised the simplicity whereby players can "pick a real-world car and go".[26] GameSpot's reviewer wrote that "it's fun to be able to drive like a maniac [...] because you know you can't in real life."[25] Computer and Video Games' review remarked on the game's humor, provided by other drivers, police, and competitors (described as maniacs), praising the "carnage that unfolds before your windscreen".[6] PC Zone's reviewer recommended the game, calling it highly refreshing; Total Video Games reviewer said the game seemed a good choice, but suggested that it would be outdone by GT Interactive's Driver, released soon after.[31] The AllGame reviewer called it a "must-buy for the driving game enthusiast" and said that it would also appeal to players who are not necessarily fans of the racing car genre.[20] Next Generation Magazine concluded its review by stating that Midtown Madness was not innovative, but that "it'll stay on your hard drive for a while and keep you playing".[30]

IGN's Tal Blevins gave high marks to the game's graphics, saying that "the downtown portion of Chicago is portrayed very accurately" even though other parts of the city looked more generic.[26] Next Generation Magazine's reviewer said the graphics were impressive and praised the "thoroughly detailed" random occurrences of "cars hurtling in front of you" and "cringing pedestrians when you lurch onto the sidewalks".[30] GameSpot's reviewer approved of the variety in third-person, the first-person dashboard, and the widescreen driving views. However, they complained of the game suffering from "choppy frame rates" and unconvincing visual effects.[25]

 
A heavily damaged Cadillac Eldorado hitting oncoming traffic while being pursued by a police car. Moments like this earned the game praise for making it "fun to be able to drive like a maniac [...] because you know you can't in real life."[25]

PC Zone''s Steve Hill praised Angel Studios for avoiding gimmicks, instead presenting "accurately modelled cars and a meticulously recreated city" to the player.[28] AllGame's review said Midtown Madness "possesses superb, immersive graphics", using the different times of day and weather as an example. However, it complained that cars not controlled by the player were lacking in detail.[20] Kim Randell of Computer and Video Games said that as well as being "structurally and visually consistent", the Chicago setting in Midtown Madness was "brought to life"—for instance, a "city bus legitimately pulling out at a four-way junction" can end the race for a player by destroying their car.[6] However, Total Video Games' review called the game's presentation "far from optimal" even with the recommended system requirements. Reviewer Noel Brady pointed out "a serious lack of detail" and called the screen "blocky", especially without a graphics card. He was critical of the AI, declaring that cars often drive "without noticing [the player] at all".[31] In his book AI Game Engine Programming, Brian Schwab described Midtown Madness' gameplay as "arcade style" and "fast and loose", and said the in-game traffic was satisfactory.[32]

IGN's review described the in-game narration as "a nice touch", but noted some glitches among the otherwise "distinctive engine and horn sounds".[26] Calling the game's sounds exceptional, GameSpot's review praised the variety of car noises such as the back-up beeper for the bus.[25] PC Zone's Steve Hill praised the in-game radio system and the support for external media players.[28] AllGame's review said players "get a dose of reality" with other drivers and pedestrians "hurling insults and exclamations your way".[20]

The editors of PC Gamer US nominated Midtown Madness for their 1999 Best Racing Game award, which ultimately went to Re-Volt. They wrote that Midtown Madness "lays down a racing milestone by creating a living, breathing 3D city — and then letting you trash it."[33] It was also a nominee for Computer Gaming World's Racing Game of the Year award, but lost to Need for Speed: High Stakes.[34]

LegacyEdit

Midtown Madness spawned a three-title series of the same name, the second entry of which, Midtown Madness 2, was developed by Angel Studios and released in September 2000.[35] Another sequel, Midtown Madness 3, was developed by Digital Illusions CE for the Xbox and published in June 2003.[36] The games' most-acclaimed elements were the detailed open-world environment, distinct visual presentation and sophisticated artificial intelligence.[25][36] [37]

In 2000, Angel Studios and Rockstar Games created Midnight Club: Street Racing, a PlayStation 2 video game also featuring open world recreations of urban cities.[38][39] Its critical and commercial success spawned the Midnight Club series of street racing-themed games.[40]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b c d IGN Staff (January 26, 1999). "Pedal to the Metal". IGN. Archived from the original on May 2, 2014. Retrieved May 2, 2014.
  2. ^ a b c d Couper, Chris. "Midtown Madness - Overview". AllGame. Archived from the original on November 14, 2014. Retrieved May 2, 2014.
  3. ^ a b c d e Angel Studios (May 1, 1999). Midtown Madness. Microsoft.
  4. ^ Ward, Trent C. (March 12, 1999). "Midtown Madness (Preview)". IGN. Archived from the original on May 2, 2014. Retrieved May 2, 2014.
  5. ^ Colayco, Bob (April 2, 1999). "Midtown Madness Preview (Page 2)". FiringSquad. Archived from the original on October 8, 1999. Retrieved March 2, 2014.
  6. ^ a b c d Randell, Kim (1999). "PC Review: Midtown Madness". Computer and Video Games. Archived from the original on July 4, 2007. Retrieved May 2, 2014.
  7. ^ a b Colayco, Bob (April 2, 1999). "Midtown Madness Preview". FiringSquad. Archived from the original on April 21, 2013. Retrieved May 2, 2014.
  8. ^ "Midtown Madness and Motocross Madness matchmaking has been retired on MSN Games – thank you so much for playing!". MSN Gaming Zone. June 19, 2006. Archived from the original on October 16, 2014. Retrieved May 2, 2014.
  9. ^ "Supported Games (Alphabetical Listing)". GameSpy Arcade. Archived from the original on May 27, 2008. Retrieved May 2, 2014.
  10. ^ "Midtown Madness". XFire. Archived from the original on January 7, 2014. Retrieved May 2, 2014.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g Gary Whitta (March 1999). "Scoop! Midtown Madness". PC Gamer. 4 (9): 34–35.
  12. ^ a b IGN Staff (March 4, 1999). "Drivers Found". IGN. Archived from the original on May 2, 2014. Retrieved May 2, 2014.
  13. ^ a b McGinn, Joe (December 7, 1999). "Midtown Madness (PC) Interview". Sports Gaming Network. Archived from the original on September 24, 2015. Retrieved May 2, 2014.
  14. ^ "Midtown Madness (Demo Version)". GameSpy. Archived from the original on October 8, 2013. Retrieved May 2, 2014.
  15. ^ "Midtown Madness Demo Version - PC". IGN. Archived from the original on May 2, 2014. Retrieved May 2, 2014.
  16. ^ "Midtown Madness Demo Coming Soon". Computer and Video Games. January 27, 2001. Archived from the original on January 25, 2007. Retrieved May 2, 2014.
  17. ^ "Midtown Madness - PC". IGN. Archived from the original on March 4, 2014. Retrieved May 2, 2014.
  18. ^ "Midtown Madness". GameSpy. Archived from the original on October 8, 2013. Retrieved May 2, 2014.
  19. ^ "Midtown Madness for PC". GameRankings. Archived from the original on May 2, 2014. Retrieved May 2, 2014.
  20. ^ a b c d Couper, Chris. "Midtown Madness - Review". AllGame. Archived from the original on November 15, 2014. Retrieved November 23, 2014.
  21. ^ Edge staff (July 1999). "Midtown Madness". Edge (73).
  22. ^ "Edge Online: Search Results". Edge. Archived from the original on March 21, 2007. Retrieved May 2, 2014.
  23. ^ "Review for Midtown Madness". GameFan. July 13, 1999.
  24. ^ Olaffson, Peter (June 19, 1999). "Midtown Madness: Chicago Edition Review for PC on GamePro.com". GamePro. Archived from the original on February 12, 2005. Retrieved September 8, 2014.
  25. ^ a b c d e f Kasavin, Greg (May 27, 1999). "Midtown Madness Review". GameSpot. Archived from the original on January 4, 2014. Retrieved September 8, 2014.
  26. ^ a b c d Blevins, Tal (June 11, 1999). "Midtown Madness (PC)". IGN. Archived from the original on April 27, 2014. Retrieved May 2, 2014.
  27. ^ "Midtown Madness". PC Gamer. August 1999. Archived from the original on November 25, 1999. Retrieved September 8, 2014.
  28. ^ a b c Hill, Steve (August 1999). "PC Review: Midtown Madness". PC Zone. Retrieved May 2, 2014.
  29. ^ Bottorff, James (1999). "Your mission: Demolish Chicago". The Cincinnati Enquirer. Archived from the original on August 3, 2007. Retrieved September 8, 2014.
  30. ^ a b c "Midtown Madness Review". Next Generation Magazine (56): 93. August 1999.
  31. ^ a b Brady, Noel (January 12, 2000). "Midtown Madness: Chicago Edition Review". Total Video Games. Archived from the original on May 3, 2014. Retrieved May 2, 2014.
  32. ^ Schwab, Brian (2004). AI Game Engine Programming. Charles River Media. p. 183. ISBN 1-58450-344-0.
  33. ^ Staff (March 2000). "The Sixth Annual PC Gamer Awards". PC Gamer US. 7 (3): 46, 47, 49, 50, 54–56, 60, 62.
  34. ^ Staff (March 2000). "The 2000 Premier Awards; The Very Best of a Great Year in Gaming". Computer Gaming World (188): 69–75, 78–81, 84–90.
  35. ^ Bramwell, Tom (October 5, 2000). "Midtown Madness 2". Eurogamer. Archived from the original on September 9, 2014. Retrieved November 19, 2017.
  36. ^ a b "Midtown Madness 3". Electronic Gaming Monthly (170): 119. August 2003. Archived from the original on 10 March 2004. Retrieved 9 September 2014.
  37. ^ Azdima, Joe (January 24, 2001). "AI Madness: Using AI to Bring Open-City Racing to Life, Page 1 of 4". Gamasutra. Archived from the original on June 25, 2017. Retrieved November 19, 2017.
  38. ^ Rice, Kevin (January 2001). "Finals". Next Generation. Vol. 4 no. 1. Imagine Media. p. 83.
  39. ^ Campbell, Colin; Keiser, Joe (July 29, 2006). "The Top 100 Games of the 21st Century". Next Generation. Archived from the original on October 28, 2007.
  40. ^ Robinson, Martin (February 22, 2010). "The Revolution of Red Dead". IGN. Archived from the original on November 7, 2017. Retrieved October 30, 2017.

External linksEdit