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'Midnight Club: Los Angeles' Hands-On Impressions

bleahy
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Posted July 31, 2008 - By bleahy

We had the pleasure of hanging out with Rockstar to try out the latest build on Midnight Club: Los Angeles and we definitely liked what we saw. You can’t talk about the game without talking about how well the developers at Rockstar San Diego have captured the city of LA. It isn’t a 100% street-by-street match, but it’s close.

Here's the new trailer.

 

Midnight Club: LA Trailer »


 

When we walked in the game was paused with an impressive looking Mazda RX-8 sitting at an intersection. Brian was able to correctly identify the intersection by sight alone as the corner of Sunset Blvd. and Fairfax Ave. That’s impressive and speaks to the effort the developers have gone through to recreate LA.

Driving down the Sunset Strip, you’ll see real clubs and LA staples like Starbucks competitor Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. Drive the other way down Sunset and you’ll see the Arclight’s famous Cinerama Dome. Like we said, it’s not perfect, but as residents of Los Angeles, we were very impressed.

The game runs on the same engine as Grand Theft Auto IV and it looks great. Don’t expect the same cars from GTA IV, though. The game rocks real-world cars and tons of legit aftermarket mods. The DUB partnership is still in place and they contributed a lot to the customization options. Cars can be tuned for extra performance and tricked out for style. The cosmetic customization will not affect your cars performance, however, so go ahead and add those 24” rims to your Aston Martin.

Car customization is pretty involved with a layered decal system like Forza 2 as well as a bunch of pre-created “Vinyl” sets that skin your whole car automatically. For a series first, a cockpit view has been added and the customization options extend to the interiors with the color of almost everything changeable. Different wheels and seats are selectable as well. Rockstar isn’t saying anything about multiplayer at this time, but we’d imagine your custom ride will be viewable online.

Once again, the game is an open-world street racing game and the whole map is open from the beginning. Now, LA is huge. Is it all of what is considered Los Angeles? No. Is it a bigger total area than the previous Midnight Club games? Yes. You can even drive down the LA River a la Terminator 2.

One of the stand-out features was a lack of any noticeable load times as well as the awesome zooming effect when you jump from one area to the city to another. The map pulls out to a “Google Maps” view of the city and zooms back in to your car. It’s a great effect and masks the extremely short load time well.

There are a lot of choices for races and they assured us that you’ll never have to re-do a race if you don’t want to. Even coming in last place, you’ll earn Rep, which is what you build to progress through the game and unlock new cars to buy. You can always replay races in the arcade mode, which is accessible at any time and will earn you Rep.

The gameplay is fast and keeps you driving as much as possible. When you find a driver to race you can even race them to the starting point for some bonus Rep. This is optional, however. Rockstar seems to be putting a lot of effort into letting the player define the game that they want to play.

Cops are back, but are now dynamically generated and are no longer scripted into specific races. They’ll give chase when you’re cruising around if you break a speed limit. In a race, they’ll enter pursuit and try to bust your race. They’ll also go after the other racers in Midnight Club: Los Angeles so don’t worry about feeling singled out. If you thought getting away from the police in GTA IV was easy, don’t expect the same treatment here. If you’re finally caught, you’ll face a fine based on how long you ran from the cops.

There will be a story this time around and players will control a Vin Diesel-esque character as they make a name for themselves. You’ll get different types of missions from characters in addition to the variety of street races. One mission mode will have you smashing cars that owe money to your boss until they pay up. Another will have you delivering specific cars from one end of the city to the other under a time limit. There’s a lot of variety going on here.

The game is still being worked on, but it looks really good. Driving toward the setting sun is currently blinding, which while accurate to Los Angeles, doesn’t lend itself to high-speed street racing. As such, the lighting engine is still being tweaked.

There’s a lot to look forward to in Midnight Club: Los Angeles, which is set for an October 7, 2008 release on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.

'Midnight Club: Los Angeles' Hands-On Impressions
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