STAFF REVIEW of Midnight Club: Los Angeles (Xbox 360)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008.
by Rick Wallace

Midnight Club: Los Angeles Box art The long awaited arrival the Midnight club series finally arrives on the 360 console. Rockstar has a large fanbase that goes with the title fanbase and I am sure that sales of this game will completely reflect that. Along with the fact that the game is very good and a lot of fun to play. Let's get one thing straight though. This racer is in no way a driving sim or meant to be one for that matter. Its pure unadulterated fun at high speeds and insane driving technique through the streets of LA. It's good to have Midnight Club join the next generation of racing titles.

For those new to the series or just need a refresher, Midnight Club is an open world arcade racer. In Midnight Club LA your primary goal is to build a reputation in the city as the premiere and most talented driver on the circuits. You'll start your campaign off in an old beat up economy car but have the chance to drive bigger and badder cars as you gain experience and reputation. This includes muscle cars, tuners, exotics and ml have full range over the city of Los Angeles, and there will be plenty of races for your to compete in from easy to hard difficulty. Each race is represented by an icon on your map and these icons are color coded for difficulty. Green being the easiest and red being the most difficult. Along with the race icons you'll find representations of hangouts, garages, landmarks and gas stations. All of which play an important part in the game one way or another.

We'll get into the actual gameplay modes a bit later in the review, but for now lets talk about the game graphically. As with any Rockstar game that takes place in an open world environment you will have a full range of the city and most areas are accessible with the exception of a few driveways and what not. The city representation is amazing and for folks that have been to LA and driven on the streets you will find an unbelievable similarity to what you know in real life. Hats off to Rockstar on their graphical translation of the city into the video game. Graphically the game is top notch and its well polished. From the car detail to the hustle and bustle of the city everything is done with a sense of perfection in mind. Even the different times of day can make the city breathtaking. The morning light just starting to glisten over the LA landscape is definitely something to behold and is so well done that you will literally feel like you are driving around town in the morning. And I have to mention the weather effetcs as well. There is nothing like driving at 120 mph at dark with a driving rain. Relfections from puddles and rain slicked roads is just absolutely amazing.

There is always something to look at or catch your eye just as it would in the real world. People walking the sidewalks, local traffic, real world boutiques and businesses are all present on the street of LA and add to the realism of the city in every aspect. Despite the game being and arcade racer, the fact that the city is so representative of real life it almost gives the racing a believable feel to it no matter how ridiculous a stunt you pull off. There is also a great GPS system that allows you to see a top down view of the city and its streets. The GPS is well done and has a satellite imagery feel to it as you'll feel like you are looking at actual Google Maps of the city. You can even change to a 3/4 view when zooming in on the map and Rockstar's city map almost puts Google's map system to shame with its fluidity and detail.

Wile driving the city I noticed a few technical issues like people walking inside of walls or cars cascading through a solid object, but honestly they are few and far between. And truthfully the graphical beauty of the game really makes these issues almost non existent or easy to forget. Overall, the game is a graphical masterpiece and the lighting, fluidity and detail of the graphics just make this game a blast to play.

The game offers a large soundtrack with just about something for everyone's taste except those that like the good ole boys from Nashville. Yeah, sorry no country music to jam out to. Car and motorcycle sounds are right where you would expect along with the ambiance of the city itself. Racers communicate with you across telephone which really does come across as realistic. And the police scanner can be quite hilarious when dispatching police to pursue and intercept you when being run from the law.

But the game isn't just about graphics or sounds. Midnight Club LA delivers in the gameplay department as well. You'll have a wide variety of car classes to unlock and buy as you progress through your career. Also there is a huge variety of race types, events and series for you to compete. These will unlock as you gain reputation and stature among the underground racers across the city. Gaining rep is simple. Every race you take part in gains more reputation for yourself as well as cash in your pocket. The more reputation and cash you have the options become available to you. See extremely simple.

You'll be able to engage in racers by coming up behind them and flashing your highbeams which will trigger the driver into race mode. Sometimes you'll race to a starting point which will gain you rep points, but this is not required. You can skip the race to start altogether if you like and jump directly into the real race. As stated there are quite a few race styles ? Red Light Races, Circuit Races, Ordered races, Time Trials, Telephone Races and Freeways Races. All the race styles are marked on your map by a specific icon and you can tell the difficulty of the race by the color of the icon. As I stated earlier , green icons are the easiest and red ones are the hardest.

There is also a race editor included that allows you to create your own racing circuit through the city. You'll be able to choose the style of race as well as set all of the checkpoints. There are 2 ways of creating your racing arena. You can use the ?drive and drop? method which allows you to drive a certain path and place markers where you like as you come across them. Or you can use the bird eye view and place markers while viewing the map of the city.

There is so much to do offline in the career mode that it literally would take pages and pages to write about, so we'll just chat about the online portion of the game. When connected to Xbox Live you'll be able to enter into an Online Cruise mode which will place you into an online lobby with 15 other drivers. You can choose to enter races from here against others in the room or you can access the menu and host or join races whether they are ranked or player matches. One very cool feature is that while online if you join a session that is currently in a race then you will become a spectator until the next race starts. Sure its been done before, but it is still a cool feature rather than sitting in a lobby waiting. You can also build your own race using the Online Race Editor if you so desire.

Online play offers you a variety of race modes which include Free For All Capture the Flag, Babewar Capture the Flag, Splitbase Capture the Flag, Stockpile, Splitbase Stockpile, Keep Away and unordered races. Other features included in the online portion of the game include Rate My Ride, Photo Albums, Selling Vehicle Profiles and Custom Playlists.

If you like racing games then you should absolutely love Midnight Club LA. As I stated, its not a simulation driving game, but a fun arcade style racer that gives you plenty of options to keep you busy for quite a long time. The controls are great and you'll quickly get the hang of drifting around corners at high speeds or racing on 2 wheels when trying to break another driver's slipstream. If you like games like Burnout or PGR then you'll absolutely fall in love with this title. Do yourself a favor and go pick it up today.

This game is absolutely stunning when it comes to graphical aspects, and gameplay is right where it should be for an arcade racer. The only thing I could suggest would be downloable car packs, and maybe some more variety in music such as 80's or even modern day pop tracks. Other than that, thumb's up Rockstar. Job well done.

Overall: 9.1 / 10
Gameplay: 9.0 / 10
Visuals: 9.2 / 10
Sound: 9.0 / 10


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