Midnight Club: Los Angeles

Reviewed by Kyle Bell, Posted on 2008-11-16


Developer: Rockstar San Diego Publisher: Rockstar Games
Release Date: October 21, 2008 Also On: PS3 & Xbox 360

There's one thing in life that is not in doubt. Rockstar knows how to make good games based on car jacking and car racing. The makers of the Grand Theft Auto franchise are also behind the Midnight Club series, and this year they are heading to Los Angeles. The whole affair is reminiscent of early 2008's hit racing game Burnout Paradise, as it is obviously an inspiration for Midnight Club L.A.'s setting, style and online play. Which is the better game though?

Open world racing games seem to be the trend that won't go away for a long time. Midnight Club is one of the first to really do it and Midnight Club: Los Angeles is no different. Gone are the silly looking arrows in the middle of streets, in are flares and smoke checkpoints. Gone are three cities in one game, in is one larger city (specifically the City of Angels). Some other games have ditched the multiple city model or menu system approach in favor of one massive open city environment (think Burnout Paradise or most of the recent Need for Speed games).

As far as I can tell (I've only been to L.A. a couple times) Rockstar did a good job recreating the city. You have the requisite landmarks such as the Hollywood sign, the waterfront and what looks like Santa Monica, the Staples Center, even Pink's hotdog stand. There are also a number of freeways that you will cruise around on to get from place to place and race on. You definitely get the sense of urban sprawl that dominates Southern California. It all seemed impressive with the downtown, beaches, the Los Angeles “River” and the hills of West Hollywood. Midnight Club: Los Angeles is not really as massive as you first expected once you race around it enough. Nonetheless, you get the feeling of a condensed version of metropolitan L.A.

Starting a race involves driving around the city to find someone that will race you. Potential racers are marked on your map with a dot colored by how difficult they are (green easy, yellow medium, red hard). Aside from the traditional races you also can find people driving around the city on freeways and such that will want to spontaneously race you for cash. Most of the races are checkpoint races and lapped races, although a few time trials have been mixed in to change things up. One of the disappointing things I found with Midnight Club: Los Angeles is that each race just feels the same. There is not nearly enough variety to keep you interested. At least with Burnout you have takedowns.

Being the first Midnight Club on next-gen consoles puts a considerable amount of pressure on the developers to get things right, especially considering we are in the third year of the Xbox 360 and second of the PS3. For the most part the game exists without major hiccups. More like a few minor dust ups. The game will lag at times (even offline) and I did notice it freeze for a few seconds more than once. The entire city is available for free roam online as well. Here you can challenge other racers to a variety of interesting game modes such as Capture the Flag. Again, like Burnout Paradise, they avoid a heavy menu focus with the open city environment being your playground.

The single player offline will take you a decent time to beat. The great thing with the open city gameplay is that there are virtually a limitless number of tracks that the developers can create. The downside is that you feel like you've seen everything before, and after playing for a few hours, you have. Another thing that should be mentioned is the difficulty. Midnight Club has always been a tough series and Los Angeles is no different. Some races will take a good five or more times to complete. If you get frustrated easily, you probably want to pass on this game.

What's the verdict? Midnight Club: Los Angeles does a lot of things right (the graphics, its speed, online play and car selection) , but it also does a lot of things wrong as well (game freezes, overly difficult and not the least bit original). When you so clearly draw off of something else, it's usually not the imitator that comes out on top. Burnout Paradise is the better game of the two, without a doubt. But with a lack of good racing games this year, Midnight Club: Los Angeles should be your second choice.

Graphics: 8.5
Sound: 8.5
Gameplay: 8
Creativity: 8
Replay Value/Game Length: 9
Final: 8.3
Written by Kyle Review Guide

Reviewed by Kyle Bell