PS3 Reviews: Midnight Club: Los Angeles Review

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Midnight Club: Los Angeles Review

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Replay Value:



Online Gameplay:



Overall Rating:       8.0




Rockstar Games


Rockstar San Diego

Number Of Players:

1-2 Players (16 Online)



Despite being regarded as a less than stellar launch, the PlayStation 2's lineup of SSX, Madden, and especially Midnight Club Street Racing was enough to capture my attention. Of the mentioned three, I spent the most amount of time with the first Midnight Club game, completing it and then going back every so often just to drive around recklessly. As a launch title, and back in 2000, it was an extremely impressive game. It had a decent recreation of New York City and I loved driving around it, spotting all of the various landmarks and architecture. Today, the series has evolved, as Midnight Club 3 moved the franchise into a setting featuring real cars with a plethora of licensed customization options.

This time around, the fourth Midnight Club game takes you to Los Angeles. As is typical with these kinds of games, your character arrives in the area and is greeted with less than love. You're given a cheap pile of heap to drive around and work on, until you've earned enough money and stature to purchase a better, more expensive car. It's the typical formula, so don't expect anything new.

Contrary to what I had thought, the Los Angeles you're thrown into isn't a very accurate depiction of the real thing. While you'll find that the most popular areas are somewhat accurate, the overall map isn't, which is a bit disappointing. But here's where Midnight Club's world shines...the map of L.A. is actually larger than all of the maps in Midnight Club 3 combined, and that's an astounding feat!

Returning for MC:LA are all of the customization options from the last game. Once again, you'll find yourself spending a good dose of time just toying around with the look of your car, by changing its ride height, widening the tires, shrinking the sidewall, increasing wheel size, painting your rims, changing body kit pieces, spoilers, hoods, window tint, car paint, and so much more. Nearly every customizable aspect has a brand attached to it too, so you rim guys will see everything from Volks to Works to BBS.

The list of cars isn't enormous, but it covers some of my favorites including the Audi R8, Ford GT, Aston Martin Vantage, Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder, Dodge Challenger SRT-8, Audi RS4, Nissan Skyline GT-R, and my own Nissan 350Z (unfortunately, it's the convertible variant and not the coupe). There are certainly an assortment of manufacturers missing, such as BMW, and having only three bikes is a bit shortended, but for the most part, MC:LA's offerings get the job done.

And while you may think, "well that all sounds peachy", so why the less than great score? Here are your answers...contrary to what you may have heard about Midnight Club: LA it isn't terribly hard. It's actually just incredibly frustrating; there are tons of stupid issues with the A.I. and the design of the game that robs you of wins. The first rule of racing games is that you never, ever implement rubberband A.I. as a means of making the game feel challenging.

If you're not familiar with the term "rubberband A.I.," simply put, it's when the artificial intelligence makes an impossible comeback, often towards the end of the race, as if it were propelled by hundreds more virtual horsepower, resulting in loss for you. Yes, it's essentially a form of the game cheating, and yes, you will find it here in game's harder races. And yes, it's extremely frustrating. And no, I'm not being slipstreamed when this happens, either.

Another issue with the A.I. is that it's seemingly invincible, try and ram them as much as you want, it'll do you little good. But if they tap you, you'll lose it. Try to return the favor and it's like hitting a brick wall; you'll have to be extremely aggressive if you want to crash the A.I., and it's not worth it at all. You see, the A.I. can also plow right through crashes and continue like nothing happened, while your car will get spun around multiple times, or perhaps even flip over, allowing opponents to overtake you. And even if the opposition does encounter a solid crash, it still won't be anywhere nearly as dramatic as your smallest ones.

Then there's my gripe with the navigating arrow. To put it bluntly, the arrow is obese and poorly drawn; half of the time you can't tell which direction its pointing to because it's such a chunky graphic with awkward lines. This in turn leaves me to rely on the map to see where my next turn is, but that becomes a problem because taking your eyes off the road in MC:LA is not a good thing. Ah! But wait! During races, checkpoints have flashing indicators telling you which direction the next one is, giving you a heads-up for the next turn. Unfortunately, the little feature would've been useful had it been implemented correctly. You see, someone at Rockstar had the brilliant idea of making the indicators yellow. And you know what else is yellow? The smoke markers at every checkpoint. Because these indicators are the same color and placed inside the smoke markers, they are virtually impossible to distinguish from a distance, making them pointless.

Playing Midnight Club: LA leaves me with nothing but mixed emotions; on one hand, I love games like this, and MC:LA fills the need. On the other hand, the game is riddled with some of the most amateurish and blatant issues I've ever seen. Believe it or not, despite all of that, I still found the game to be enjoyable, if only for my enjoyment of open-ended racers where customization is high.

There is a damage model in MC:LA, but it is purely aesthetic. Previously, we were told that you will not be able to level a car to the point of immobilizing it, but for the final game that isn't true. While you can't shred your car like you can in Burnout, if you take enough damage, you'll damage out and lose a race. And with every race completed, you can opt to perform a proper repair of the car, or do a quick-fix. The quick-fix doesn't properly repair the car, as replaced panels will not be painted, so you're going to have one fugly looking car. Regardless, performing the quick-fix does cure the car's looks.

Races are split up into different race types and difficulties; the darker the color of the icon, the harder the race - Green is easy, Red is hard. Naturally, harder races reward you with more of everything, but at the expense of having to restart very often. Through progression you'll unlock more, but it was nice of Rockstar to at least allow us to test drive much of the game's locked vehicles. When you're not playing through the career, you can take the game immediately online, much like Burnout or Test Drive, and have some fun with 15 others. You'll come to realize that online matches definitely make up a lot of the game's appeal and value.

Visually, an assortment of technical issues exist too. Sometimes the framerate bogs hard, and occasionally the game can freeze for a split-second - it usually doesn't happen when you're in the middle of a race, but it does happen, regardless. There are also some problems with the lighting randomly lighting up and darkening over certain objects. In all honesty, these problems don't hurt the experience much, as they don't happen nearly often enough, but they are there.

On that note, the plus side of things is that this is a good looking game. It renders a 720p picture, but can upscale to 1080p, and the framerate hovers just around 30. Car detail is definitely a plus, and because I know the car inside-out, I specifically chose the 350Z as the car to nit-pick, and I couldn't find any glaring issues with the design - not even the fully modeled interior. Unlike Test Drive Unlimited, there were no inconsistencies found with MC:LA's 350Z, and I'm willing to bet that the other cars were given that same kind of attention. With bodies that are made up of 100,000 polygons, there are some really gorgeous looking cars to see in the game. Furthermore, nice backgrounds and a lack of any significant pop-up makes things even better.

The audio is, perhaps, Midnight Club's best technical achievement. When I was busy messing around with the 350Z and trying to nit-pick its in-game model, I noticed something..."hey! They got the engine and exhaust note down perfect!" The 350Z in the game sounds exactly like any other stock 2003-06 350Z, and I liked hearing that. Again, I can't vouch for the details of the other cars, but if it was done for the Z, then it most certainly was done for the other cars too. Now, as far as soundtracks go, I won't even bother to mention that I'm not fond of MC:LA's tracks...wait, I think I just did. Regardless, what I will bother to mention is that the game supports custom soundtracks! So simply bring up the XMB, scroll to your music playlist and hit play. My one complaint here is that your music plays too loud (even when turned down via PS3), and it drowns out the dialogue of the game (even if that's up all the way). Still, proper car sounds and custom soundtracks make for a nearly perfect recipe.

All in all, Midnight Club: Los Angeles does disappoint a bit, but it's still a fun game that fans of the franchise should be able to enjoy. After all is said and done, I still find myself coming back to the game, because I fall into the fanbase. The game is frustrating, the rubberband A.I. does suck, and there are some unusually poor design choices, but with a large city, good customization, good visuals, terrific audio, and solid online gameplay, Midnight Club is still worth taking a look at.

10/23/2008 Arnold Katayev

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New Comment System

Legacy Comment System (16 posts)

Friday, October 24, 2008 @ 12:55:56 AM

i rememeber when i got dub edition. i made it to over 90% complete and spent well over 200 hours if i remember correctly. that game totally kicked my ass but sometimes i did want to throw it and spit on it but it was fun. when i get this game i hope it entertains me the same. oh and those hundreds of hours were not spent online at all.

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Friday, October 24, 2008 @ 1:03:01 AM

im already loving this game. so much fun :D

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Friday, October 24, 2008 @ 9:54:55 AM

So i bought midnight club first day and 100% love it! I have to say though i do think you are wrong about the AI. Ill be the first to admit it is tough, but it is far from invincible. The AI does crash i have seen them spin out multiple times. I also have found that long as you vehicle is heavier then theres they are very easy to give a nudge to and send flying. As well when i am in the lead i can watch my radar and you will see the other racers arrows start to spin in circles meaning they have crashed. Also when the computer crashes it does recover a bit quicker then us but it does not just plow threw things like they are not there. I am sorry to vent but i have seen so many reviews saying this about the AI and i have to completly disagree! They game is a challenge, you cant just hold accelerate down and fly threw the races winning them all first try, but invincible AI? Far from it.

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Friday, October 24, 2008 @ 11:59:09 AM

you are so right. couldnt agree more :)

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Friday, October 24, 2008 @ 11:48:58 AM

I still need to get this game

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Friday, October 24, 2008 @ 11:59:29 AM

its worth it. dont pass on this game

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Friday, October 24, 2008 @ 2:08:58 PM

Does anyone play this on a 1080P tv? I do and it has a line from the center of the tv to the right when in 1080P. Can play in 720P no problem.

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Friday, October 24, 2008 @ 2:16:54 PM

I have a 1080p tv too and the same problem happens every time. If your using HDMI then just turn your display settings down to 720p on your PS3. The game won't look any worse if you do.

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Friday, October 24, 2008 @ 2:13:53 PM

You were right on the money arnold! I couldn't have agreed with you more. I still think that the display issue needs to be addressed though (the flickering on the bottom-right hand side when the game is displayed in 1080i/1080p). I also think that the car's streering is tooooo sensitive because anyone can just barely tap the left joystick and your car will swerve almost 90 degrees and hit a wall (despite my 7 years of driving experience on video games).

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Troy Powers
Saturday, October 25, 2008 @ 9:06:35 AM

You can change the steering sensitivity in the options menu. I turned mine down to -2, and no problems from there on out.

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Friday, October 24, 2008 @ 7:07:13 PM

Problems that you guys have, I have. Burnout Paradise's handling was by far the best of the best. MC: LA just utterly sucks. I freaking e-mailed RockStar and complained to them. The game is awesome, there are some tough racers (tons of them actually) and honestly for 43 cars it lacks badly ... Just disappointing.

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Troy Powers
Saturday, October 25, 2008 @ 9:10:16 AM

I love this game! I've been playing it constantly since it dropped. I don't mind the AI, cuz it's always been like that. And the rubberband AI works both ways. You can race terribly, and if there's enough time left in the race, if you shape up, you'll CATCH up. Honestly, I've gotten 4 head-on collisions in one race, and still hawked down the lead car.

My only gripe with the game is lack of split-screen play (So, for players that shouldn't be 1-2 or 16 online, it should be 1 or 16 online).

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ArnoldK PSXE [Administrator]
Saturday, October 25, 2008 @ 2:38:24 PM

Good spot on that error, Troy. Fixed.

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Sunday, October 26, 2008 @ 2:55:20 AM

The only Arcade racing game I liked were the Test Drive games for ps1....

I've never been able to get behind the Burnout, Need For Speed. etc.

For me Gran Turismo is the real deal


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Sunday, October 26, 2008 @ 8:06:46 PM

I hate that There isn't any way to do split screen (like on the other M.C. games). The PS store should have a FREE add-on for multi-player split-screen and an add-on to get rid of the flickering issue.

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Sunday, October 26, 2008 @ 11:03:13 PM

this is my first midnight club game. I like it so far. I don't see any flickering though, things are running smooth

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