Saturday, December 6, 2008
I've never been a huge fan of street racing games, but I'll admit that Midnight Club 3 definitely kept my interest. It had a great mix of arcade gameplay and realistic environments, and had enough unique features and abilities to provide some decent replay value. Midnight Club: Los Angeles is still a solid racer, but it's not without its problems.
Instead of breaking up the game into several cities, Midnight Club takes place in a recreated Los Angeles. It's actually pretty accurate, as I was able to retrace my drunken steps I made from the Jimmy Kimmell Live studio to my hotel during E3 2006 (although the game doesn't feature quite as many homeless raving lunatics as the real Hollywood offers). You'll speed through downtown LA, Sunset Strip, and several other famous areas. Adding an odd sense of realism is the rampant product placement. As over-done as it is, it actually makes you feel like you're driving through a real city. You'll pass 7-11's, Best Buy, Pizza Hut, and the Virgin Megastore, all while receiving texts on your T-Mobile Sidekick. Unfortunately, some of the bigger sights didn't lend their likeness or name to the game, as evidenced by the Kodak Theater being represented by the Kosmik Theater.
Starting races consists of driving up to other cars and flashing your lights. Cars that are willing to race will be represented on your map by a difficulty-specific colored circle. Races themselves are fast-paced and sometimes fun, but frustration can set in at any point. It doesn't matter if you're in first place or last place, a single devastating crash can completely ruin your chances of winning. There were several times I had a solid lead but ran into oncoming traffic accidentally, causing me to lose the race. Thankfully, the checkpoints are very forgiving. Many racing games can be way too specific about where you have to cross through the beacon, but Midnight Club: LA will recognize when you've made the right turn even if you're not right on top of the marker.
The map itself is beautiful to look at, but it's not terribly functional. It merely zooms the camera up over the environment and shows you the streets from the top down. It looks pretty, but it can make it difficult to tell exactly where you're supposed to be going.
There are a lot of things Midnight Club: LA has going for it. It's visually stunning, has a fantastic setting, and the presentation is incredibly polished. There are a few frustrating hiccups in the quality of the actual races, but fans of the genre shouldn't let that dissuade them from picking this up.
First Play: 8.0
Replay Value: 8.0