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Jeremy Jastrzab
18 Nov, 2008

Midnight Club: Los Angeles Review

PS3 Review | Los Angeles like you know.
A sub-genre that grew very quickly and ended up dying out just as quick was the street-racing genre. There was a time when it seemed that a new street racer was being released weekly. However, once the HD era started, they mysteriously disappeared from the gaming landscape. Arcade racers haven’t really been common in general, but Burnout Paradise tried to bring a new approach along with a shiny new coat of paint. While there were a few minor gripes, overall, the reception and the ensuing dedication shown by developers to the game were certainly admirable.

The genre now looks to be slowly refilling itself with Rockstar bringing back the Midnight Club franchise with Midnight Club: Los Angeles for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Not that is was ever gone, it’s just that it can be easy to forget the gaps between games when games like Need for Speed seem to be released every time we pass wind. Obviously, the game is set in Los Angeles and there is a mechanism that gives you an excuse to go from street race to street race. The ‘story’ isn’t really much with laughably clichéd characters and no real substance, but that’s not why we play Midnight Club.

Los Angeles takes the idea of street racing and plonks into an open world. What better an open world to use than a digitally recreated Los Angeles? Really, it’s quite an impressive recreation and anyone who has been to LA is likely to have some fun reminiscing about what they saw there and how it’s similar to the game. However, its not just the fact that you’re racing around a digital LA, but just how you go about playing the game in general.

From meagre beginnings.

From meagre beginnings.
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Midnight Club: Los Angeles forsakes the menus and keeps you in the game world at all times. You could be racing around the world, and with one press button, you’ll bring up a GPS map of LA. Here, you can pin-point your next race or a particular destination. Unfortunately, you can’t really manipulate the map too much to figure out the best route or anything, but it’s still a very functional map. With the press of another button, you can go from the single player, to the multiplayer to the race creator and then back. Rockstar’s aim to keep the player in the game at all times seems to have paid off.

While the story doesn’t do much, it does give you a starting point. You’re given a meagre selection of particularly unimpressive cars, though you’ll have up to 44 cars and motorcycles to choose from eventually. With racing, you’ll gain cash and ‘rep’. The rep unlocks cars and parts, while cash allows you to buy them. However, progress is quite slow, as you really need to play a while to unlock the good stuff. All the single player race types are as you’d expect from a street racer, but you’ve got LA specific races such as the highway race as well, which we covered these extensively in our past previews. The game also lets you choose which race you’re going to take on next, as you flash your lights at the desired opponent to start a race.

In terms of multiplayer, Midnight Club: Los Angeles supports up to 16 players both on and offline (through system link). Interestingly, the game manages to implement modes such as Capture the Flag, Team Capture the Flag, Keepaway (get a flag then keep it away from everyone) and Stockpile (whoever returns the most flags to his base wins). Furthermore, you can create your own races and put them up for everyone to race in and you can show off the ride that you created.

Motorbikes are a thrilling addition.

Motorbikes are a thrilling addition.
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The customising options in the game are two fold. On the one hand, they’re not as deep as you may find in simulation racer, but on the other hand, you don’t need to partake in customising to play the game. Revheads certainly will have enough to make a unique vehicle, while those who just want to race can, to an extent. Not to mention, the game has some nifty aesthetic customisiation as well, so all the online stubs will truly noticeable. Overall, while the cars and motorbikes in Midnight Club: Los Angeles feel heavy and seem like they belong in a simulation racer, the arcade controls are very easy to pick up and get the job done very well.

The biggest detraction from Midnight Club: Los Angeles, is the erratic difficulty. While race difficulties are split into four categories, with the most difficult earning the more cash and rep, there isn’t much too actually distinguish between them. Furthermore, AI racers have an incredible knack of avoiding traffic and making massive comebacks, while you’re at the mercy of erratic collision detection and unpredictable physics. Furthermore, even though you earn rep points and cash regardless of a win or loss, it still takes a long time before you unlock new cars and upgrades and can actually afford to by them. Still, as least the game provides the option of redoing the race, which is a step-up from Burnout Paradise. This frustration is alleviated in multiplayer, where a level playing field is re-established.

Despite this, Midnight Club: Los Angeles still comes off as an exciting and thrilling racer. Sure, it may not do anything out of the ordinary in the open-world setting, but it does a lot of things well. The controls strike a good balance between realism and arcade, there is a good sense of speed and races can be exciting once you get to know the ins and outs of LA (which admittedly, doesn’t take that long). It was just a shame that the game’s difficultly ended up exacerbating what it tried to alleviate.

Ah, zoom zoom!

Ah, zoom zoom!
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The game runs at a great pace. There are very few frame rate hiccups along the way, which is a testament to the developers. This may come at the slight expense of minor micro in the world, and macro details when you zoom out, but the overall package and style is very flash. The cars and motorbikes steal the show, as revheads are likely to recognise their favourites in an instant and cringe as they see how much damage is taken. The dynamic daytime and weather cycles are also appreciated. In terms of sound, the game’s voicing is quite laughable as most seem to be trying too hard to replicate the street racing scene. At least the licensed track has a lot of variety to keep most people happy. Don’t like the rap? Just flip the radio channel.

Midnight Club: Los Angeles is a very good addition to the open-ended racing genre. While a little down on variety, totally lacking in the story department and housing an erratically frustrating difficulty, the whole aspect of keeping the player in the game has come off extremely well. The menus are easy to navigate once you get the hang of them and you’re pretty much able to always be playing the game. Furthermore, the races are fast and will keep you at the edge of your seat and players who want to can customise their rides, both in terms of performance and aesthetics. Racing is unlikely to change to much, but the ease of accessing it in Midnight Club: Los Angeles is much appreciated.
The Score
Midnight Club: Los Angeles is a fun and fast racer for those after an open-ended arcade experience. 8
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

Related Midnight Club: Los Angeles Content

Midnight Club: Los Angeles Preview
04 Mar, 2009 A preview of the upcoming DLC.
Midnight Club: Los Angeles DLC on the way
14 Dec, 2008 South Central gets an upgrade.
Midnight Club: Los Angeles and LA Remix dated
04 Jul, 2008 Racing onto shelves this October.
2 Comments
5 years ago
Better than NFS Undercover.
5 years ago
The Genius wrote
Better than NFS Undercover.
Without a doubt. NFS has become almost offensive in execution, see the GameTrailers review for confirmation.
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  24/10/2008 (Confirmed)
Standard Retail Price:
  $109.95 AU
Publisher:
  Take 2 Interactive
Genre:
  Racing
Year Made:
  2007

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