Midnight Club LA
New releases by software developer Rockstar always deserve extra attention. Indeed we’re told by the press office to ‘take our time’ with their games, which is partly due to the open world mechanism which allows players to do as they please across the city, discovering as they go. As previous Grand Theft Auto chapters have mimicked US cities, Midnight Club Los Angeles replicates the city of Angels in this lightning fast driving simulator that enjoys all of the attributes you’d expect from R*. The first thing that will grab your attention are the crisp graphics, which are so detailed and lifelike you’ll feel immersed in Cali-culture from the jump. Shimmering paint jobs and weather transitions are just the tip of the iceberg. For a driving game, the characters are also incredibly lifelike.
Secondly, it’s not just the music but the overall sound that grabs you by the short and curlies and does not let go. Engines roar and tires screech as Diplo and Rye Rye blast out of your radio with enough clarity to still hear vital transmission signals suggesting you shift gears etc.
The fourth chapter in the Midnight Club series is markedly improved on any instalment previous to it, thanks in part to Rockstar’s own RAGE engine, which offers incredibly quick gameplay, no load time and little menu clutter. Whilst the game has its roots in no-nonsense street racing, the storyline and general in-between-bits are laced with all of the humour and personality you’d expect.
Where the game really comes alive is online in the multiplayer realm. Here, up to 16 gamers are offered power-ups in games that include capture the flag, keep away, base wars and more. You can also create your own custom races whilst online. This is obviously where the game lives on long past completing the storyline and for those of you that have enjoyed a driving game like Mario Kart Wii online but wanted something with a little more cock and balls, this is definitely for you. It’s still ridiculously fun, just a lot more serious.
I really enjoyed the functionality of the T-Mobile pager interaction between characters in the game (and buddies online) much like I did with the cellphones and internet cafes in GTA IV. It gives the game a living quality to it and really immerses you in the action. Similarly, the GPS and indeed mapping of the city can kind of steal the show due to the incredible detail, zooming right out to a bird’s eye view and then slamming you back to ground level as your engine revs like a beast to take on puny challengers.
A plus for real car buffs is the customization of your car you’re allowed. I found it quite irritating that as smashed up as I knew my car was, it just didn’t look like a wreck, so souping it up in the auto shop didn’t do it for me and really called on a lot of the sort of knowledge a public-transport chap like me doesn’t have. That said, I’m not the target market for this and people with even the slightest automobile interest will be treated like kings, much like those who understand gang culture were in GTA San Andreas.
I say this in every review I do but Rockstar have once again raised the bar for a genre of game that should lack charisma and is usually just about speed and feel. Once again, Rockstar inject personality, familiarity and fun in to what could be a tired platform, which we will now continue to love thanks to gaming online – where the arcade comes to you!