See that fast-approaching blur in the rearview? That’s Midnight Club: Los Angeles, about to pull into the garage of an Xbox 360 or PS3 near you. So rather than bore you with a standard hands-on preview, we broke MC:LA into 10 bite-sized chunks of awesome we found impressive. Give it a skim, busy reader. You’re bound to find something that gets your motor a-runnin’.
1. This IS LA...
Like it or loathe it, the photorealistic City of Angels is yours to tear through. Sure, it’s gorgeous, with all the next-gen glitz we’ve come to deserve, but the devil is in the details. As much as we generally bitch about in-game ads, the actual billboards, vendors and landmarks provide authenticity, creating a living, breathing city that, say, Burnout Paradise lacks. Populating the city with actual people doesn’t hurt, either. You can stay in touch with vocal competitors with an in-game cell phone that helps organize events, and there are even pedestrians to avoid. Or not. (“I think I just ran over Harvey Weinstein!”)
On a personal note: During E3, I spent my some real time in LA after my hands-on with Midnight Club and was shocked to find myself recognizing spots from my demo. It’s hard to believe a game could act as a tour guide, but there I was uttering crap like, ”There’s that Coffee Bean I almost crashed into.” and “Oh crap, I’m standing in a shortcut!”
2. LA is f****ing huge!
The ads are just as unobtrusive as the ones in GTA, so before you go screaming about capitalism run amok, understand that they also do wonders for helping you recognize exactly where you are in this sprawling metropolis of a racetrack. Midnight Club’s Los Angeles is roughly the same size as the last game’s three cities combined! Only now, those pesky load times are a thing of the past. If you see some hot-shit wheelman cruising around anywhere, hit him with your brights and cue a race at any time. Which brings us to...
3. Streamlined, baby
We’re not talking about just the cars. Once any challenger pops up on your radar, you flash them with your headlights to start up a race. We spotted a hotrod on the freeway, flashed him, and a high-speed Freeway Race started lickety-split. However, most Street Races require you to zip to a starting location.
Don’t care to race to the race? You don’t have to. You can skip straight to the starting line, although careening to an event location offers more opportunities to gain Reputation points, which are used to unlock tracks, missions, etc. And hey, you don’t have to complete every event to progress, so no pressure.
4. Arcade/Single-Player Synergy
You know the drill: You’ve got a single player campaign that lets you roam around an open-world environment with some story elements for immersion’s sake, and an Arcade mode that lets you jump straight into events. Well, now you don’t have to worry about starting over from scratch in one after playing the other, because they're integrated together. All the money, cars and Reputation points earned in any of the 10-plus race types are transferable to and from either side. Plus, Arcade mode lets you customize stuff like time of day and traffic flow, and there’s a nifty Hollywood-esque cam that throws you seamlessly from a satellite-view into the driver’s seat. Whoosh!
5. Oh yeah! There’s cars.
Carrying over a welcome tradition from Midnight Club: DUB Edition, MC:LA’s got plenty of licensed cars. Forty of ‘em, to be exact, under the categories of Tuner, Muscle, Luxury and Exotic. And as in previous installments, we’re also getting bikes this go-'round.
Above: Smokies! Cops are back, but they’re dynamic and no longer scripted
We got to test-drive an Aston Martin V8 Vantage Roadster (Exotic), and an exquisitely tricked Mazda RX8 “Shinka” (Tuner). But for a more delicious treat for car geeks, we got to paint the pavement with the spiritual twin to Steve McQueen’s ride from Bullitt, a '69 Mustang Boss 302 (Muscle, derr).
Above: Hello Lambo