Motor City Online
Slick back your hair and roll up your shirtsleeves, it's time to overhaul you car into a lean, mean, racing machine. From T-Birds to Mustangs, Bel-Airs to Fairlanes, buy the car of your dreams and spend all your time and money making it the fastest thing on four wheels. But don't get too cocky on the street or you might lose your beloved's pink slip in a back street race.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
Motor City Online promised to bring the heart-pounding action of street and track racing to the persistent world of massively multiplayer online games. Imagine a game where players buy and build cars, modifying them until they're all choice racing vehicles. Players hangout at juke joints, soda shops and burger stands, showing off their rides and looking for new meat to tackle. Cars cruise the strip, revving engines and beeping horns. It's a grease monkey's dream. But unfortunately it's not Motor City Online.
MCO does offer up a heapin' of head-to-head racing, and lets you tune up, modify, and heck, even paint you car until it's exactly what you want.
The one thing MCO is missing, however, is what makes MMPOG worth coming back to again and again, graphically enhanced interaction. It's really quite strange - when you start MCO you pick out a persona, name him or her, and choose a car. But that's the last you see of your guy. Sure the box art and cover art show you cruising down a street or hanging at a burger joint, but you'll never see that in the game. Instead it's like you are playing pick-up games on GameZone. Same old text chat rooms, same old system, total lack of immersive play. After you pick your persona and buy a starter car you can spend a bit o' cash to tune your car or give it a spiffy paint job. Finally it's on to racing.
There are four ways to race - circuit racing, time trials, drag racing and finally street racing (which is unavailable to new players). In each type of race you can either choose to hit the street in your car and risk dinging it up, or race in a sponsored car. Racing in your own car give you more points and cash, but means you could be seriously outclassed in the race. Racing with a sponsor car means equal footing but less cash.
Overall the game seems very glitchy, with a cumbersome interface that causes graphic slowdowns or game start-overs. The controls are fine, but latency tends to rear its ugly head in almost every race. Cars you are racing pop ahead of you or disappear in mid race. Race results come back before you start. The entire race ends before you start. It's an ugly thing to see at times.
One of the biggest selling points of MCO is the ability to truly customize your ride. And this, at least, is done very well, with tons of stock and licensed car parts (more than 2,000 actually) and 60 or so cars to choose from. The effects tuning a car has is immediate and at times unforgiving. Word to the wise; don't play around with the car if you don't know what you are doing. Once you build the car you can raise it, use it as your ante or auction it off real time. Once you get past the annoying glitches that riddle the game, MCO is actually quite fun to tinker with. Winning a race is okay, but beating some guy's handpicked car with your customized ride is quite another thing.
I can't put to words how very disappointed I was in EA's handling of this. There is virtually no interface for talking trash. Sure you can go to one of the chat rooms and talk it up, but I want to see the punk's face when I say stuff about his momma. How hard would it have been for them to include your persona in a little live chat room? Maybe create a burger joint or soda shop.
There's also no opportunity to cruise, no pick-up racing. Instead you have to go to a text room and wait to join a game or create your own. Talk about throwing a bucket of cold water in the immersive qualities of the game. Mostly because of this there doesn't seem to be the same level of camaraderie you'd find in Everquest or Asheron's Call. It's more like Age of Kings or the like.
The graphics are quite nice, though not the "breathtaking" graphics promised by EA. True the damage graphics are not only completely realistic, but they actually hang around until you pay to repair them, which sucks for me'let me tell ya.
Nothing too spectacular about the sound here. The built in music leaves a lot to be desired, though the occasional radio ad is a clever addition to your car's stereo system.
Online documentation answers every question you could ever have about MCO, unfortunately you'll absolutely need to access it because the manual the game came with is lacking all but the most rudimentary instructions.
Pentium II 333, 64 MB Ram, 4x CD-Rom, 3D accelerator with 8 MB VRAM, 800 MB hard drive space, mouse and DirectX.
Overall, MCO is worth trying out, but unfortunately you have to pay $40 to buy the game and then shell out a wee bit more each month to play it (after the first month of free play). MCO really shouldn't be classified as a MMPG. It doesn't look like one, it doesn't play like one, and it doesn't feel like one. The racing, judged alone, can be quite fun, but overall most gamers can't help but be disappointed in the games lack of a true multiplayer feel.
I did find it interesting to see that EA is sending out very detailed questionnaires to players asking what they wanted to see added to the game. Some of the pre-written suggestions included the introduction of a MCO police force and the ability to cruise, both ideas that would make the game loads more fun to play.
Bottom line, if your looking for a detail-heavy racing game that lets you customize to the nth degree then MCO is your game. If you're looking for a place to hangout with your buddies, talk trash, and race the occasional car, keep looking.