Welcome to Los Angeles, one of the US’s party centrals, where glitz and glamour go hand in hand with speed and adrenaline. Yes, that’s right, I’m talking about Rockstar’s latest addition to the Midnight Club franchise as it takes to the streets of LA.
In a small room way back in the business end of the Convention Centre in Leipzig, along with 7 other like-minded press folk, we got a chance to experience the multiplayer aspect of Rockstar’s upcoming driving title and boy was it fun!
This was my first real hands on experience with any Midnight Club title since the original way back in 2000 and we’re at a time now where the driving genre is at its most competitive, so Midnight Club needs to step up to the plate. However the truth of the matter is... It has no genuine competition. It’s pretty much unique and in a field of its own in many respects which is nothing but good for Rockstar. Midnight Club LA, first and foremost is about looking good and driving fast, so the fact that it is an arcade racer surprises no one but it’s more than that, it’s an arcade racer that oozes style and substance.
Whilst free roaming the city in my VW Golf R32, a prompt appeared on my screen “You have been challenged to a race” ... “Oh, I have, have I?” Naturally, being pretty competitive, I felt it would be rude to turn it down, so I accepted. It instantly teleported me to the starting grid on the other side of the map and to kick off proceedings we were eased in with a straight up race from A to B.
Midnight Club LA offers the driver 5 different views ranging from in the car, to a third person perspective and for the first time fans of the series can experience the action from a cockpit view which is hugely immersive. The whole point of the game is to drive fast and there is no better feeling than being in the cockpit view, but for me, the third person perspective was the way forward so I could take in the car’s detailed models as well.
In certain respects, the game doesn’t have a damage system. It does visually affect the car and if you take too much damage, you have to wait a second or two for it to spawn a replacement model, but that’s all the effects are and it doesn’t tend to break the gameplay up, I mean, you can still win a race quite easily even if you spawn a new car. The main point is that it doesn’t affect your handling, speed, acceleration or anything which is pretty handy in this title.
Of course, where would a street racing game be without a boost, well LA has not just one boost system, but two. As well as offering the driver the usual limited amount of nitro boosts, they can also take advantage of the tailgate boost. A player pretty much has to slipstream his opponent to build up their natural boost to a certain level before they can use it. However your opponent can counteract that by rising on to two wheels by clicking one button to ruin the airflow which my I add is ridiculous fun!
Throughout the preview we used 5 vehicles in all; as well as the Golf, we used the Audi RS4, a 1970 Challenger (US muscle car), Lamborghini Gallardo and a Kawasaki Ninja ZX14, each having its own unique handling characteristics especially the bike, that thing is fast as hell but really sensitive. We are informed that the final game will feature about 40-50 vehicles so there will surely be something for everyone.
In Midnight Club LA, you also have the ability to move the car mid air as well, so you can imagine the fun we had tricking the Gallardo off the half-pipe like storm drains of LA which appear in such classic car scenes as featured in Terminator 2 and Grease. That was really a stop gap though and the real fun came when we were shown the “capture the flag” modes... now with powerups and bonuses.
To compare it to Mario Kart would be unfair, because this is ten times cooler than Mario Kart. This is a cool, competitive sort of combat that you wouldn’t kick under the couch if the next door neighbour came round, you’d flaunt it for sure. Some of the powerups include the ability to become invisible, short circuit nearby opponents, super boosts and many more. It definitely makes capture the flag more interesting.
In addition to the traditional capture the flag mode and the best mode by far was a sort of keep-away capture the flag mode whereby you have to capture the flag then stay away from your competitors for as long as you can. So you spend 2 minutes racing there before the real fun kicks in. As one can imagine, what ensues is a chaotic cat and mouse game where the mouse has to constantly outsmart a pack of cats or risk losing the flag. It really makes for some entertaining chases with the flag holder taking extra risks, taking sharper corners as late as possible and doing quick 180’s to outsmart the foes. It’s a racing experience I’ve never quite had before.
The whole Midnight Club LA multiplayer experience was a joy and it has the ability to keep adrenaline junkies and racing fans gripped for months, even true non-racing gamers like myself, will have a whale of a time. If Midnight Club: LA has a single player experience to boot, then Rockstar will have another diamond in their collection.
Midnight Club: Los Angeles is available on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC on October 21st and 24th in North America and Europe respectively.