It's nice to see that the Midnight Club series is starting to be taken seriously. For years it felt like Rockstar's racing franchise was either overshadowed by the fame of Grand Theft Auto or passed over for racing games with bigger names. But these days it feels like everybody is starting to come around to Midnight Club's unique style of racing, especially now that some of the other major racing franchises (such as Burnout and Need For Speed) have opted for an open-world race course. As a fan from the get-go, it's about time everybody else starts to realize how much fun the Midnight Club series really is.
Midnight Club: Los Angeles marks the fourth installment in a series that started its life at the exact same time as the PlayStation 2. Not only is this the first Midnight Club game in three years, but it's also the first "next-generation" sequel to appear on the Xbox 360 (or PlayStation 3, for that matter). Now that everybody from Burnout to Need For Speed have decided that an open-world race course is the way to go, this brand new Midnight Club game has a lot to prove. Thankfully it lives up to the task ... for the most part.
Midnight Club: Los Angeles marks a surprising change for Rockstar's popular racing franchise. It's not that we're racing through a virtual L.A. (we've done that before in Midnight Club 2), but instead that for the first time ever players are locked to only one city. In the past we've had a chance to explore two or three cities throughout the course of the game, but not this time around. Instead the good people at Rockstar Dan Diego have decided to focus all their time and attention on making Los Angeles as fully realized as they can, and you tell while you're whipping through the streets at 100 miles per hour.
This fictional Los Angeles is a real marvel; it somehow manages to fit every landmark from both the city and all of the outlining cities. But as impressive as the city is, this is still your standard game of Midnight Club. The game has a forgettable storyline that is there only to introduce you to the world of street racing and give you missions. As you play through the single-player story mode you'll have to take part in various tournaments, perform some oddball challenges, earn enough cash to buy cars and parts, and earn enough respect to become the best street racer in Los Angeles. Chances are all this sounds familiar, because it's basically the same plot that we've had in every other Midnight Club game. The difference here is that you're not moving from city to city and the graphics are really, really good.
Everything that you loved about the past three Midnight Club games is front and center here, from the high speed races to the different types of races to the weird car super powers. Super powers? While not noticeable at first, it won't be long before you realize that your car has a secret. It's true; your car can perform all sorts of cool tricks, most of which will give you a significant advantage in your high speed race to the finish line. There are four different powers, including AGRO (the ability to plow right through the competition), ZONE (which slows everything down so that you can make precise corners), EMP (an electromagnetic pulse that disables the competition), and ROAR (which sends out an engine rev so loud that traffic will do anything it can to get out of your way). All of these different abilities add a lot to the game; however they don't overshadow the already strong racing mechanics.
For the most part Midnight Club is set up like all street racing games; you basically drive around the city looking for different people to race. Beyond the standard tournaments and time trials, you'll run into random cars that are looking to beat you to the finish line. Thankfully there are a few different types of events, including time trials, checkpoint races around the city, freeway races, and races from point A to point B, all stuff you have come to know and expect from a street racing game. Throw in the police presence and lots and lots and lots of advertising and you have the makings of your basic open-world street racing game.
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