As promised, Rockstar San Diego achieves a great balance of challenge, customizing, and arcade-style racing fun in the fourth installation in the prestigious Midnight Club series.
While it doesn't have the overwhelming amount of cars, courses, and technical tuning of other racers, Midnight Club: Los Angeles sells itself on style and flair alone.
The Midnight Club series has always been a welcome alternative for racing fans who don't know a thing about engines, parts, and tuning systems, yet are still looking to shred some rubber.
Since it doesn't try to over-perform in any particular area, Midnight Club: Los Angeles successfully carries itself as a streamlined, rewarding racing experience - just be prepared to lose more than your fair share of circuits, as the traffic in LA is a beast.
Cruise the City of Angels
The most impressive aspect about Midnight Club: Los Angeles is the game's portrayal of Los Angeles itself. Uncommon to most racing games, there's a ridiculous amount of detail that has been put into the surrounding environment of the City of Angels.
As Rockstar has promised, going from race to race is easy and seamless. I didn't realize it until I had played all night the first day, but I hadn't seen a single loading screen since the start menu. In between circuits, I've actually found myself cruising down the Sunset looking at the different stores and landmarks just for kicks.
In fact, getting familiar with the city is essential to improving your skills in MC: LA, as the intersections and side streets might overwhelm gamers without a keen eye. Just like real life, the spikes in LA's infamous traffic often made me grind my teeth in frustration. No matter how carefully I weaved through the rows of civilian vehicles, all it took was one crash to send me from first to last place in any race.
Everybody drive safely
Thankfully, Midnight Club: Los Angeles's special abilities remain an excellent way to level the playing field. What hampers the experience is that it takes forever to work up to that point. When you earn enough money to buy something that can actually handle around corners - like the shiny Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX (my favorite car in the game) - the gameplay finally starts to feel manageable. But even with the aid of special abilities, like the super-useful Zone, I'd often avoid a three-car wreck just to go plowing into the side of a brick wall.
Make no mistake: this is not anything like Grand Theft Auto, Burnout or Need For Speed Underground: hitting walls and other drivers is probably the worst thing you can do in a race, and picking fights with the cops will often get you boxed in and busted.
Racing is just as fun as it is difficult, and I actually loved the pre-circuit run to the starting line more than the actual race itself. Speaking of which, the best races to be had in Midnight Club: Los Angeles are definitely the multiplayer events. There's really no comparison between racing offline or racing against real players, especially since you're all prone to human error.
There's also a ton of different race types that you'll enjoy, especially ones that don't confine you to a finish line goal - "Keepaway" is easily my favorite game of the bunch. Another perk of Midnight Club: Los Angeles's online matches is the incredibly rewarding feeling that comes with showing off your mods and newly acquired skills to other gamers in multiplayer races - from rims to brand new cars, you can take anything you've worked for in Single Player mode on the road online.
Although the difficulty curve is unnecessarily steep in the beginning, being persistent rewards you handsomely in Midnight Club: Los Angeles. The amount of customisation offered in your garage is stellar, and you'll definitely care as much about the colour of your ride's interior as the style and finish of your rims. With an equal amount of attention to detail across the board, Midnight Club: Los Angeles is a fun racer that won't bog you down with menu after menu of tuning specs and testing screens.
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