Before Burnout popularised insane street races through city traffic, Midtown Madness was giving PC gamers their own high octane thrills. Players can choose from a variety of cars (and even a bus) and dash haphazardly through Chicago, vying to beat their opponents to the next checkpoint.
The game should install without any issues on a modern PC. Simply place the CD into your computers optical drive and follow the on-screen prompts. If the autorun installer does not start automatically, browse to the CD in Computer/This PC and manually run the setup.exe program.
During installation you will be asked what type of installation you want to do, we recommend choosing “Full” installation for best results.
Before you try to play the game, there are two patches you should install. A small update to the games DirectPlay software (a now depreciated networking protocol) can be downloaded here (link broken? Let me know here). Secondly, you should install the Midtown Madness XP compatibility patch, which you can download here. Both of the patches download as zip files, so it’s just a matter of extracting them from the zip folders and then running them, patching should then be automatic.
Getting the best visual quality from Midtown Madness can be tricky. The game itself includes functionality that is supposed to detect your graphics card and set the visual quality accordingly. The problem is that the auto-detect software doesn’t seem to work properly on more modern versions of Windows. Luckily there’s a user created patch we can use to work around the problems. To get started, disable any secondary monitors you have attached, then start Midtown Madness. You should see the window shown below.
Click on “OK” and the screen will flicker a little. The game will then start. Watch (or skip, by pressing the Escape key) the opening movie and you should then be at the games title screen. Click the close button at the top right of the screen and quit back out again.
Now, download the Midtown Madness Video Patcher from this page (link broken? Let me know here). Again, the download comes as a Zip file. Simply open the Zip file and copy the videopatcher2.exe file from inside the zip file to your Midtown Madness game folder. Now, run the videopatcher2.exe file. The window shown below should then appear.
Using the patcher is a two step process and it’s pretty easy. First of all, you need to click on “Browse…” and point the program to your Midtown Madness video.cfg file. This should be in the root of your Midtown Madness game folder (C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Games\Midtown Madness by default). Once you have selected the file, click on “Repair”. A sub-window will open and ask you to choose your “Renderer” and “Resolution”. For renderer, you should select “Hardware Renderer”. You can try “Hardware Renderer (T&L)” but it won’t work on many machines. For resolution, choose whatever resolution your monitor supports. While the game was never designed for widescreen monitors, you can run it in widescreen modes without too much distortion so simply choose your monitors native resolution. In the picture below, we’ve configured the tool for our PC running on our 1080p television.
Click on “OK” now and the tool will go ahead and patch your video.cfg file. If the patching process fails, see the troubleshooting section under “problems saving games and configuration files”.
With the video.cfg file patched, you can go ahead and start Midtown Madness again. There are a few in-game visual settings you might want to change before you start playing. From the main menu, go to “Options” and then “Graphics Options”. The screen shown below should then appear.
Since this is such an old game, you should have no trouble turning all the settings up to max even on a relatively modest modern PC. Just configure the settings as shown above then click on “Done”. You’re now done setting graphics options.
To configure sound settings, go to the Options menu again but this time select “Sound Options”. There aren’t an awful lot of sound options to configure in this game. If you have a sound card with multiple outputs (e.g Optical and Analogue) you might want to check that Midtown Madness has selected the correct output as for some reason the game does not always choose the system default one.
Controller settings for the game can be configured from the options menu under “Control Options”. For such an old game, Midtown Madness actually supports game controllers fairly well. There are some limitations however:-
You cannot use the analogue triggers on the Xbox 360 pad for acceleration and braking – For some reason Microsoft configured the Xbox 360 pad driver so that the analogue triggers share the same axis when playing older (direct input) games. This can confuse lots of driving games and prevent others from working properly (since touching both the accelerator and brake at the same time is impossible). Midtown Madness simply won’t work with the 360 controller in this configuration. As a work around, you can use Xpadder and map keyboard commands to the analogue triggers, though of course this means they then become entirely digital, with no difference between slamming the brakes on hard and braking gently.
D-Pad cannot be defined – The game controllers D-pad can’t be redefined in the game. Again, Xpadder can come to the rescue here.
Steering may be over sensitive – We found that the cars steering was rather sensitive when used with the 360 controller and for some reason the option to change sensitivity was locked out.
For reference, the Xpadder control scheme we used for the game is shown below.
Pretty much as simple as it gets, S and W were assigned to the analogue triggers for accelerate and brake. Enter was mapped to the controllers A (Green) button. This makes it so you can navigate most of the games menus without reaching for the mouse. Finally the arrow keys were mapped to the D-pad, again to make it so that the menus could be navigated. With Xpadder configured like this, it’s just a matter of configuring the rest of the controls in the game to match the inputs you have assigned here, and then configuring the remaining functions (such as steering and the cars horn) using the games own controller configuration settings.
With all the options now configured, you’re ready to race. Have fun with this classic little racer and of course don’t try any of this on the real road!
Windows 8 problems
Under Windows 8 we were only able to get the game playing in 640×480 software mode. When we configured the game using the video patcher tool, everything appeared to work, but we were not able to select options from the games main menu.
Windows 10 problems
For reasons unknown, the game ran at a totally unacceptable frame-rate in Windows 10 no matter which options we tried.
Black screen instead of menu – Sometimes when the game starts, rather than display a menu all that appears is a black screen. This can usually be fixed by a simple reboot.
Midtown Madness is already running. please activate it from the task bar – This can happen if the installer or the game doesn’t exit properly. To cure the problem, start Task Manager and look for a process called “midtown.exe” “midtown.exe *32” or “MIDTOWN.ICD.”. End the process then try starting the game again.
Music doesn’t play, or stops playing – Midtown Madness uses CD audio for its music. In order to hear the music the CD must be in the optical drive that is first alphabetically. So if you had two CD/DVD drives in your PC with the letters E: and G:, the Midtown Madness CD must be in the drive with the letter E:. You may also find that the CD audio does not loop correctly while you play the game, leaving you with no music. Unfortunately there’s no known workaround for this (the game is not compatible with the _inmm.dll tool).
Problems saving games and configurations – Like many old titles, Midtown Madness saves its game data and settings into the same folder as the game itself. In some instances on more modern versions of Windows, this will mean that save games and configuration files cannot be written. To solve this problem you can either run the game as administrator (right click on the games icon and choose “Run as administrator”) or, better still, set the permissions on your Midtown Madness game folder so that your user account has full control/read write permissions. You can find a tutorial on how to configure folder permissions here. The games default installation directory is C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Games\Midtown Madness.
Virtual machines – Midtown Madness is not compatible with Windows XP running on Virtualbox or VMWare.
Can you submit a fix?
Do you know how to get this game working in Windows 8? Help the community by submitting a fix in the comments below.
Click on any screenshot to enlarge it.