It was developed by EA Seattle and published by Electronic Arts. On May 11th, 2001, the first open beta of the game was released, from which two more were later introduced.
It is considered a Need for Speed spin-off title since as it is based on a heavily revised variant of the game engine utilised by Need for Speed: High Stakes. It introduced a series of new features such as per-pixel reflection.
EA Games shut down the title's servers on August 29th, 2003. The servers were taken offline due to a degradation in maintenance and low number of subscribers.
Players could create a male or female avatar of over 30 base models, which could be fitted with a large selection of apparel. It was possible to create car clubs located in cafés and diners within the fictional setting of Motor City.
Players could level up in the game by earning points in race events. Upon earning a certain amount of points it was possible to reach a rank - the highest rank of the title was "Top Ace."
Customisation also played a major role in the game, as it was required to race in competitive multiplayer events successfully. It was possible to trade parts and vehicles with other players or create auctions.
The game featured 24 race tracks and four game modes. Every car was damageable and repairable in the garage after completion of an event.
- Circuit Racing - Racing events along city and race track courses.
- Drag Racing - Acceleration races that take place along a straight drag strip.
- Open Trial - Players compete to set the best time and climb the leaderboards to become the "Top Dog" of the week for each available event.
- Sponsored Trial - An event where each player drives the same sponsored car along a course to set the best time and climb the leaderboards to become the "Top Dog" of the week for each available event.
- Street Racing - Turn Around and Lap Races on the open roads.
- Test Drive - Players can test drive a select vehicle and obtain various performance statistics.
- Turf Wars - A battle between two clubs.
Motor City Online featured American cars from different eras until the 1970s with different body styles. Two Japanese cars; the 1996 Toyota Supra and the 1997 Mitsubishi Eclipse GS-T Spyder were added into the game during 2003. Both cars were outfitted with V8 piston engines. The Eclipse had a rear-wheel drive conversion.
Customisation seen in Motor City Online was highly complex and comprehensive. It was advertised by EA to feature over 2,000 individual parts. Each part's price and availability was depended on supply and demand. An additional suffix could be added to a modified car to describe its appearance.
Performance modifications in the game included body, drivetrain, engine, exhaust, suspension parts as well as brake sets and wheels. Some parts could not be acquired in the Customisation Shop but had to be unlocked differently.
There was also a high quantity of visual modifications including fuzzy dices, paint jobs, the ability of converting a vehicle into a open-top car and licence plates. The customisation menu featured every number plate of the United States although European plates such as from Germany and France were available, too.
Rare Parts were only available at Part Auctions where also players could offer their own parts for sale. An alternate option was trading parts with players using the in-game trade system.
- Motor City Online received a Best Racing Game award after its 2000 E3 presentation.
- The soundtrack of the title included the Funk, Surf, Classic Rock and Oldies genre, and was played by the radio stations DBOS, DCRZ, DDMX and DDMZ.
|Need for Speed Series|
|Games||The Need for Speed • II • III: Hot Pursuit • High Stakes • Porsche Unleashed • Motor City Online • Hot Pursuit 2 • Underground • Underground 2 • Most Wanted (2005) • Carbon • ProStreet • Undercover • Shift • Nitro • World • Hot Pursuit (2010) • Shift 2: Unleashed • The Run • Most Wanted (2012) • Rivals • Need for Speed (2015) • Edge • Need for Speed (2017)|
|Handheld||Underground Rivals • Most Wanted 5-1-0 • Carbon: Own The City • Hot Pursuit (iOS) • No Limits|
|Compilations||The Need for Speed Collection • Collector's Series|
|Films||Need for Speed|