Midnight Club: Los Angeles (360)

By Steven Marsh

Published on Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Graphics: 10.00
Sound: 7.00
Gameplay: 9.50
Replays: 8.00
Gamelength: 9.00

Rockstar’s latest street racer, “Midnight Club: Lost Angeles” has hit the consoles and it’s absolutely fantastic.

The “Midnight Club” series has become one of the best arcade-style street racing sims in the world. You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t know of the series, fan or not. Because of that, it’s expected that this game has built up a lot of hype and many people have extremely high expectations of this first next-gen iteration of the series. Thankfully, the game lives up to the hype, but not without a few rather annoying flaws. If you’re ready to build a reputation for yourself in the city of Los Angeles, come with me and let’s pop open the hood of “Midnight Club: Los Angeles” for the Xbox 360.

Graphics..well, what can I say? This is one stunning game. Los Angeles has never looked this good in a video game, regardless of the time of day. At night, the city is lit up like an overdecorated house on Christmas Eve and during the day, the city is filled to the rim with insane traffic. No matter the time of day, though, one of the biggest improvements in this game is the amount of people that walk around the city. There’s always a random lot of people at nearly every corner in popular parts of the city and they look pretty damn realistic. And if you think that’s sexy, just wait until you see the vehicles. The vehicles are the star of this show by many leaps and bounds. They stand out and shine no matter what’s going on. From the smoke of the tires to the reflection of the city lights on the body, these are the best-looking vehicles that I’ve ever seen in a video game.

The soundtrack isn’t as good as the previous game in the series, but it gets the job done and when all else fails, that’s what custom soundtracks are for, right? Aside from that, though, there’s not much to write home about here. Vehicles all sound fairly generic and there’s not much noise that comes from the city of Los Angeles or it’s inhabitants. Still, as cool as extra sound effects that bring the city to life would have been, it’s a small price to pay, given how amazing the rest of the game is.

Upon loading the game for the first time, you may notice that there’s basically no menu. The UI is completely integrated and once you’ve started playing, everything is handled through both the GPS screen and the pause menu. So, your first move is to create your profile and watch the opening cutscene. Once that’s done and over with, you choose your starting vehicle and head to the streets to start making a name for yourself in Los Angeles. One complaint I have is that the starting cars have no real information. There’s no way of truly knowing which class each car is or what area they excel in, so you just sorta’ have to play it by eye and hope you pick the right car for the class that you want. Anyhow, once you’ve hit the streets of Los Angeles, there are several things you can do. You can customize your vehicle performance and appearance, buy new vehicles and build reputation by competing in various races. There are also objectives that take you through the somewhat bland story and through to the end of the game, but really the meat of the game is simply grinding reputation and finishing all of the various races. The race types include checkpoints, landmarks, standard laps and a few others to keep the game fresh every time. The car selection is quite small, with only around 40 vehicles to be seen throughout the game and if you stick to a single type of vehicle and class, you may only drive 4-5 of those vehicles yourself unless you play through the game from the beginning several times. Controls are extremely spot-on and very tight, although they sometimes feel a little clunky because the camera isn’t as good as it should be. There’s no way of setting the camera to a farther behind-the-car view, so things get hectic at times due to the extreme close-up nature of the game. The 3 abilities from the last game make a valiant return, as well as the new “EMP” ability, all of which can be leveled and made to be more useful up by gaining experience through the use of each ability. Handling is a bit more difficult in comparison to past titles in the series, but that’s in part due to the completely new game engine, which has somewhat more realistic driving physics, although it’s still thankfully quite arcadey by nature, as making the game too realistic would detract from the overall style and feel of the series. Aside from grinding reputation, modifying vehicles and progressing through the main story, the replay value is farther extended with the use of Xbox Live online play and for those who have multiple consoles and televisions, system link play. Xbox Live play is nearly void of lag completely and a good amount of people are already racing, so it’s not too difficult to find people to race with at any given time. System link is more or less the same thing as Xbox Live play, but less varied and with an obvious lack of players by comparison. All told, “Midnight Club: Los Angeles” for the Xbox 360 is a masterpiece when it comes to arcadey street racing sims and honestly, you owe it to yourself to check this wonderful game out.

Oveall, Rockstar has done it again and this time, it’s better than ever. The only thing we can ask of them is for extra cities and vehicles in the form of expansion packs via the Xbox Live Marketplace or even better still, free updates that includes entire cities and new vehicles. That would expand the game greatly and if it ever happens, this could be the absolute best street racing sim on the market. Until then, the amount of content packed into the final version of “Midnight Club 3” gives it a bit of an edge over this newer title.

Pros:
-A-grade visual presentation.
-Tons of races to get through.
-Decent soundtrack.
-Amazing design for the city of Los Angeles.
-Easy-to-use and integrated user interface.

Cons:
-A “jump to target” feature for the GPS would have been nice.
-Vehicle sound effects could use some improvement.
-The camera view could use a few more choices.

Bottom line:
This is easily the best street racing sim of our time and with some DLC, this is going to take the throne and keep it for a long time. Buy it. No questions asked if you’re a fan of street racing!

Overall Rating: 9.00

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