Turn on your engines, it is time to take a ride in Los Angeles with Rockstar Games first next-generation treatment in the Midnight Club series. This multiplatform release tears up the pavement from the rolling suburbs to the high-speed octane of the freeway. There is only one way to ride and that’s in style. Midnight Club: Los Angeles is ready put all the other racers in its rear view.
Midnight Club: Los Angeles is a looker. Pimped out in HD1080p, you’re not going to find a more beautiful street racing game on the market. You're also not going to find a more enjoyable multiplatform street racing experience of this calibur. The Playstation 3 benefits more then the 360 in this department, as the Sony console doesn't have a Project Gotham alternative. Rockstar Games has gone back to the grind with their critical acclaimed street racing series Midnight Club. It’s not the official “dub” edition, but it still has all the chrome and polish from the previous entry. Midnight Club: Los Angeles has a real need for speed bringing the tuner game back to where it belongs, on the city streets.
The biggest change up in MCLA (Midnight Club: Los Angeles) is its graphical overhauling to take advantage of the new hardware consoles. Chipping away at the in-game load times you can drive across the recreated city of Los Angeles with having to wait for a single load time. The only time you will see the game loading is when you start a race, or enter a shop. Aside from a few seconds of a flashing icon, you’re in the race at all times. More important that having all the tricks and sweet looking graphics is holding them steady in the game engine. Thanks to a modified Rage engine, MCLA performs with very little problems and a rock solid frame rate.
It’s been a while since Midnight Club has rolled out to gamer’s hands, so things need to be updated besides the graphics. The first major change aside from cutting the load times is the interface and mini-map free roam style. Midnight Club has implemented free-roam in the past, but not at this level. Now you can freely drive all across the city and zoom in and out from a satellite view to the streets with a click of a button. In the eye of the satellite you can see the entire city and all the objectives that are available to you. We first seen this in Test Drive: Unlimited, but it is nice to this feature re-used in a slightly new fashion.
Midnight Club also sticks a single map/city, a compact version of Los Angeles, California. Like Liberty City, L.A. is fine tuned with a lot of individual detail taken to make every area of the map feel unique. You might not notice it as much when the pedal is down to the floor; however slowing things down you will see a number of recognizable landmarks along with a plethora of sponsored stores in game. From Foot Locker and iPod to your T-Mobile Sidekick, Midnight Club loves it product placement bank. The inclusion of so many familiar products in Midnight Club only adds to the realism of Los Angeles.
The gameplay in MCLA remains faithful to its arcade roots and doesn’t over think its place in the racing genre of gaming. Midnight Club is pure fun without the troubles of fine tuning, racing lines, or even real impacting damage. Sure you care can get dented up mildly, then it is off to the body shop for a quick 1-2 and your back out on the streets. The physics are semi-tight in comparison to other arcade racers. MCLA is nothing like Rockstar Games realistic ride in Grand Theft Auto IV which was released earlier in the year. MCLA keeps the nitrous, e-brake, and trick button a click away so you can trick your way to victory with a few close calls a boosts of speed. The excitement of traveling at 240mph is capture delightfully with some cool visual effects to emulate the sensation of cutting through the wind.
When racing through the streets at high speeds you’ll have to keep a watchful eye on your mini-map looking for the police. The LAPD definitely has their work cut out for them if they are going put the ice on organized street racing, however don't take the po-po too lightly because they can be hard to shake in Midnight Club. The A.I. has been stepped up to make the officials in blue a consistent formidable foe. Escaping the police is always the best option, but if you managed to get snagged you will have to pay a fine, really a slap on the wrist. The only thing to consider when paying all these tickets is that money is a little hard to come by in Midnight Club as you have to work at making cash and obtaining new vehicles.
Speaking of vehicles, MCLA has 46 licensed vehicles. All the vehicles, which also include bikes in MCLA, are impressively modeled to perfection. There are a few surprises in the list of 40+ along with the standards you’ve seen in every games since graphics where more than cubes. In the dealership you will see Chevrolet, Ford and Doge muscle cars, Kawasaki Ninjas, luxury Mercedes,Lamborghini, Mazda, Volkswagen and more. The selection is hefty for a start, I’m sure more cars will come down the network as downloadable content in the future. Fixing up your ride into a pimped out MTV special makes the vehicles look even sharper. There is a lot you can do with your ride from adding improvements to its performance to changing the exterior and interior image. Metallic, chrome, body kits are all present and a bucket list of other options. Compared to the average racing game, Midnight Club falls right in line.
The details behind the racing in Midnight Club follows you character as a small town man coming to the big city. You’re looking to earn some cash and show off your racing skills. In a non-obnoxious way the storyline gives you a cast of street racers to taunt and race against as you build up your reputation in L.A. Each event that you compete in will help boost your rep and cash flow. Lots of side racers are available along with the main plot line that is always waiting for you. Since Midnight Club keeps its coin tight it takes a while to get off your first car. Once you do the leg work of moving into different classes with a few more dollars in your pocket Midnight Club opens up even more. I have heard gamers complain about the tough difficulty which honestly I don’t see. Sure races aren’t handed to you and you might have to race a few over, but for the most part if you stay within you means you should be good to go. All challenges are colour coded, so you can pick and choose from easy to difficulty missions whenever you wish.
Online you will find a fluid racing experience that keep you racing for a long time after the buzz of MCLA wears off. The quality of the game carries right over to the online side of Midnight Club. Since you bring in the cars from your garage you will want to put in a few hefty hours before you jump online. The multiplayer section is tied to the single player in the way that you will reap the rewards when you go back to flying solo. Earning reputation points can be exploited with friends who might help you get the necessary jump on the in-game storyline. Supporting 16 players online, the competition can be intense and highly addictive. Even if you are not feeling like straight gearhead racing you can jump into any of the other modes that are a little more entertaining with over-the-top Mario-esq power-ups. Expanding on the pre-made content is the ability to cruise and race on custom maps that can be created by the in-game race editor. Building maps is easily put together with an intuitive interface in the game that lets you drop points in the open city and then drag them online for real competition. This is extremely fun and provides hours of entertainment. Midnight Club proves to a player online and offline which is refreshing for an arcade styled racer.
Rockstar sure takes it time putting out a new version of Midnight Club every few years, but it is always worth the wait. Midnight Club: Los Angeles is a straightforward street racing title with a lot of bells and whistles. There is a good amount of enthusiasm put into this racer making it a top choice when considering a next-gen racing game. From the authentic recreation of Los Angeles major hot spots, to the fun no holds barred racing style, Midnight Club: Los Angeles is a step beyond any other edition of the game. The only real negative point in Midnight Club’s direction is that it doesn’t feel original enough compared to the “dub” edition, or the innovations other developers are taking in their franchises. That being said Rockstar San Diego did an excellent job keeping Midnight Club between the lines while updating the franchise just enough to keep gamers wanting more. Keep you eye on the road and hands upon the wheel and give Midnight Club: Los Angeles a spin this holiday season.
Gameplay:8.5, Graphics:9, Sound:9, Innovation:7.5, Mojo:9 Final: 8.6 / 10
Reviewed by Downtown Jimmy | 10.31.08