Mignight Club: LA – Reviewed – Xbox 360

5 min read
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Of all the game types out there, the most difficult to review is probably racing games. There is after all only so much you can say about the game and one game is much like the other. The game was created by Rockstar, (in)famous creators of the GTA franchise. What they learned over the years whilst making GTA they implemented flawlessly into Midnight Club: LA. So I’m sure no one is surprised that what you get is an excellently done virtual city styled after America’s City of Angels.

As can be expected there is no real story to speak off. The goals in the game are quite simple: earn reputation points, earn money, and then spend said money on upgrades for your vehicle or buy newer more powerful vehicles. It’s not exactly very deep but the lure to keep on playing is strong. The idea of having a chance to drive around with a supped-up-power-beast is enough to make you want to play more, to earn more money and rep. The rep is used to unlock upgrades, be it performance or visual.

You buy and upgrade vehicles from your garage. There are numerous upgrades for each vehicle, with various levels of upgradeability. You also have the ability to pimp-out your car… throw in some neon’s underneath the car and drop the suspension. All of this is very run-of-the-mill in today’s street racing games.

The best implemented feature of the game is the GPS navigator map. When you hit the GPS button, the camera pans away from your vehicle to an eagle-eye position above the city. This all happens in real-time. When you return to the game, it does the opposite and pans down to your car. Day & night as well as weather conditions are displayed in this view, showing that the GPS is not actually pre-recorded but it all happens live. You can zoom in or out to get a closer looks at streets and find shortcuts this way. The only real problem with the GPS map is that you can’t control the camera orientation.

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The races in the game are different difficulties, colour-coded to show the difference: Green for easy, yellow for medium, orange for intermediate and red for hard. Now before I continue with the review let me quickly just step back and say that I can never understand developers. I’m colourblind and know of a few people that has the same “affliction”. Choosing those 4 specific colours to discern difficulty is probably the stupidest move done by a quite obvious non-colourblind person… how am I to figure out which is which? Anyways, now that I’ve vented let me get back to the issue at hand. While the game is a lot of fun it can also be very frustrating, be prepared to restart races quite a few times. I also found that the AI racers are near invincible, bobbing and weaving through traffic with no problem, while one unlucky scrape by yourself sends your car careening of the road.

Then there’s the inevitable “running from the law”. I think our own police forces can take some tips from the cops in this game… they just do not give up. This makes the game quite exciting as the cops can even chase you while you are racing other cars. There nothing as exciting (read frustrating) as finding yourself in a pinch with three cops trying to force you off the road, while you are still trying to win a race.

All of this however brings up probably the biggest complaint that I have for the game. It’s just too hard… your first few races you’ll struggle to finish first (I actually restarted the first race 8 times before I won it).

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The graphics engine that Rockstar used is the same used in GTA IV. It’s really very beautiful. And the engine shows how powerful it is when you pop-up the GPS and everything just zooms out. The game chances between day & night. The weather conditions also chance and are so well done that when it was raining and dark, I actually found it more difficult to navigate… just like you would in real life. The car sounds, squealing tires and revving engines are quite realistic. There’s quite a list of famous music artist that you can listen to while you play and you even have the ability to setup your own playlist so that you don’t have to listen to any songs you don’t like.

Even though the single player is quite difficult, you real skill is put to the test when racing other real people. The online play of Midnight Club: LA is quite varied, giving you quite a few of different kinds of games to play. Anything from normal races to Capture the Flag and much more. Online play has been integrated in a similar way to how Rockstar handled it in GTA 4. There’s no separate menu for online, with everything accessed while you’re in the game.

Midnight Club: Los Angeles is a very impressive street racing game. Even though there are a few nicks and cracks on its windshield, it’s overall a really fun game. The online play (like most games) just takes the replay value of the game to a different level.

Scoring:

Gameplay: 8.5/10 [The difficulty stop this from being a high-nine]          
Presentation: 9/10 [The graphics are top-notch]                                           
Sound: 8.5/10 [Squealing tires!]                                                                    
Value: 8/10 [Online play allows for lots of replay value]

Overall: 8.5/10 [Despite the difficulty, still lots of fun]

Last Updated: November 10, 2008

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