If the likes of Burnout Paradise, and now Midnight Club: Los Angeles are to be the future, it seems traditional racing titles are out. And in their place are the kind of freeform titles that once upon a time were almost the sole home of the action/adventure genre.
All here is very Burnout Paradise. As you cruise the streets in your chosen motor, you’ll come across chances to race other drivers and gain an opportunity to boost the amount of cash in your wallet as well as respect. The higher your levels of respect go, the more vehicles and races become unlocked. Exactly as you’d expect.
What’s a touch frustrating is the ridiculously high difficulty level that Rockstar have decided to inflict upon us. If the ease of bashing into traffic or walls wasn’t enough, the sheer high skill levels of your computer controlled opponents is almost scary. Expect to find yourself sticking to the same few races for a half hour in order to boost your coffers and respect enough to bag a speedier motor. It’s the only way to win. It’s not entirely game breaking, but it could cause a few to rethink their latest gaming purchase if their attention span is akin to a goldfish.
That flaw aside, Midnight Club: Los Angeles has a hell of a lot going for it. For starters the city of Los Angeles represented in game is a gorgeous sight. Exactly how accurate it is isn’t for me to say, but it certainly feels like a city. Toss in a well worked day/night cycle and the inclusion of torrential rain and you’ve got yourself a truly stunning title that has to be seen to be believed.
The game’s GPS system does a most excellent job of guiding you around the healthy sized city. A swift nudge of a button and the game’s camera swiftly floats up to the clouds, a la Test Drive Unlimited giving you a complete overview of the city you’ll be racing around. It also gives handy markers for all the events you can take part in, making life much easier for those not particularly au fait with the layout of this American city.
Actually driving your vehicle is pretty top notch. The handling for every vehicle, be it car or bike, is a joy to use, with power slides certainly the way to go here. Each variety of car performs and controls differently, from powerful but unwieldy muscle cars, through to tight tuners. Thankfully all are a joy to utilise, so trying each is an absolute must.
What you also have to consider are the cops. As exciting as chases between yourself and the rozzers can be - though not quite up there with those of the early Need For Speed games - it can be another source of immense frustration. While you can simply stop at the roadside and pay a small fine if caught going just over the speed limit, you’ll still be dumped back at the police station. Which can very easily leave you half the map away from your ultimate start point in the next race.
It might pack a few flaws, but that’s no stopping Midnight Club: Los Angeles. It’s got a huge and beautiful city to drive around, a mass of races and missions to take part in. And all while driving your incredibly exciting rides.
Does it out-game Burnout Paradise? That’s a tough call. Best to give both a try and see which grabs you.