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We're going back to an era when cars were built for longevity, steel was considered safe and an economy commuter car was called a "bicycle." Sounds like something Buz Luhrmann would say, you know the guy who made Moulin Rouge. Anyways, the latest from Electronic Arts Motor City Online is some ways an online RPG. You buy a car, you win races, you earn money, you upgrade your car, you buy better parts, race with tougher opponents, earn more money. But all that fades when it comes to the level of customization and adaptability this game provides.

Let's look at the level of intricate customization possible in this game. More than a hundred parts make up one car in MCO, though the game ships with over 2,000. Go to the workshop and marvel at the extensive parts selection, from simple spoilers and wheelie bars to intake manifolds, cam shafts, crank shafts, various suspension parts, radiators, blowers, brand name engine blocks, paintjobs and so much more. The customization engine is like none other. You'll even need to consider your car's weight and the heat it puts out. The attention to detail is amazing!

I have been following the long long development process behind this game for a long long time now. And what I hate about the whole thing aside from the name change (from Need For Speed: Motor City to Motor City Online) is the fact that there will be no single player mode in the game. That is to say that there will be no gameplay offline. That sux big time. Particularly because in Bangladesh, where I live, net latency and lagging is a big problem. On top of that high costs of maintaining an internet connection is a bigger kick in the butt.

On top of that you have to pay a monthly subscription, the amount yet to be decided. There is a bright side to that though. when you become a member of EA's online gaming network, your one monthly fee pays for all of EA's online subscription based games, like Majestic (stupid game), Earth and Beyond or the anxiously awaited Sims Online. Nice.

The cars in the game are all licensed - Ford, Plymouth, Chevy - and most of them hail from the golden Era of cars in America. Cars from the classic 30's and fat fenders of the 40's to the obscenely powerful muscle cars of the late 60's and early 70's. There are over 60 cars included with additional vehicles available for download after launch. The ultimate Hot Rod experience. Brings a tear to my eyes. I'm talkin' about powerful horseless chariots with massive engines - 450hp turbo V8, manual 4-speed gas-guzzling leviathans, complete with blower and dual carbs. Run, little V4 engine, RUN!  These babies look mean and sound even meaner. 

The game sports a brand new racing engine. Motor City thankfully takes advantage of hardware T&L (transforming and lighting) to help produce some terrific graphics and effects such a dynamic lighting and shadows. Finally, we see the payoff for purchasing last year's high-end graphic cards. These cars truly do look like their real-life counterparts.

The game starts of with
you picking your desired 3D character (who can be seen behind the wheel) and buying a car. No, your first car is not a pretty one. But you'll be fixing that soon enough…

There are five race modes: Drag Racing, Open trial, Street Racing (here you'll find pedestrians and traffic), Circuit Racing and Sponsorship Racing. In a Sponsorship race, you are provided a car (usually better than yours) to race with on a specific track. But you don't have to pay for any damages incurred. This is great for learning tracks and earning risk-free cash. Sponsorship can be played as time trials or against other racers. You can even hold your own races and charge whatever dollar amount you want for players to participate. And many races can be adjusted so that higher or lower ranking players with faster (or slower) cars can't join. This keeps things even.

In the beginning, Time Trials are the quickest way to obtain sizable amounts of cash. You also receive a paycheck of $1000 of virtual MCO money every Friday at 5 o'clock. Now you can begin to seriously customize your new purchase. Just try not to live paycheck to paycheck.

Still, you don't have to be a hardcore car nut to get into this game. It can be as complex as you want it. Classic car-freaks, however, will find themselves right at home. You can even personalize your license plate. Plus, parts have a working wear-and-tear system so the guy with the best parts won't have the best parts forever.

Let's say you don't have the greenbacks to repair your heavily damaged engine block. Maybe it's time you take advantage of the MCO community of auto-philes. Buy or sell parts and paintjobs to friends or user-run garages and at Ebay style auctions. MCO offers persistent chat systems such as full e-mail and instant messaging to keep in touch with friends, fellow club members and other players. This is a good way to touch base with players randomly selling parts or to hear about a nice Sponsorship race.

Once you really get going, you could easily spend all day obsessively tricking-out your car. Eventually, you want to bend some corners, mark your territory with a few skid marks and really see if it was all worth the effort.

Using authentic 4-point suspension physics, vehicles rock, roll, sway and fishtail just like some of us remember. Point-specific damage modeling compliment the games spectacular crashes and wipeouts and can cause very noticeable changes in engine sounds and handling - just like a real car. You can also watch the replay from a number of different camera views and slow motion speeds (laid out just like the old NFS replay interface).

The enterprising folks at EA seem to have thought of everything. If all that brainwork pays off, Motor City should prove to be the best in the Need for Speed series and will be vying for best racing sim of the year. Of course, we'll have to wait until Fall for a drive, but that will give racing sim fanatics a chance to say good-bye to their loved ones.

This is easily the best racing game ever. Watch out for this, this fall. Goooooo Speed Racer Goooooooooo.

Preview By:
"show-me-the-money" Shaan
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Game Info

Developer: Electronic Arts
Publisher: Electronic Arts.
Release date: Fall 2001