With big trouble and bigger hype surrounding the upcoming release of GTA: Chinatown Wars, we thought it might be a good time to look at Rockstar’s other portable title that seems to be sneaking under the radar – except ours of course. We recently had a hands-on with a near finished build of PSP’s latest Midnight Club and were pleased with what we played. Read on to find out why mini GTA isn’t the only criminally compelling Rockstar game heading for handheld consoles.
1) They’ve managed to squeeze two massive metropolises into the PSP version, including one the PS3 and 360 versions don't have
That’s right, the PSP gets an extra city over the next-gen versions of the game. Not only is LA represented in seamless, sprawling style, but Rockstar London have also managed to cram in Tokyo too. And they've not just nailed the sheer mass of both cities, they’ve also managed to capture the ambience of Tinsel Town and Tokyo. LA is strewn with all the freeways, Terminator 2-esque storm drains and crabby commuters you’d expect. While the lights of the Japanese capital’s imaginative architecture sparkle like a man-made galaxy at night.
2) The devil’s in the details
Whether it’s the impressive damage modelling on the cars, a HUD that lets you block trailing opponents by showing the position of their headlights or a MotorStorm-style pause menu, which lets you pan the camera around your vehicle; the game’s incidental details can’t fail to impress.
3) Slip streaming is a screaming success
Trailing behind another racer – like some celeb-obsessed stalker – before hitting square at just the right moment for a massive, Burnout-beating speed boost is brilliantly life affirming. And not only does it give races a welcome tactical edge – often it’s better to bide your time in second place before slip streaming just before the finish line, than setting the pace from the start – it also shows the searing speed PSP racers are capable of.
4) The cities are strewn with shortcuts
There are sneaky routes to shave seconds of your street races everywhere. Can’t be bothered manoeuvring through a mountain of motors? Why not power through the doors of a shopping mall – for an impromptu Starbucks-sponsored detour - or use a crane on a construction site as a massive makeshift ramp? Shortcuts make the racing feel freeform and because of this the cities constantly feel alive with possibility.
5) It’s a technical treat
Not only does the game run at a silky frame rate with minimal pop-up, but the cities feel alive too. With constantly congested roads filled with agitated A.I. drivers , trying to dart through the maze-like inner city areas feels both exhilarating and daunting - one badly timed boost could see you become intimate with the business end of a bus.
6) It’s wheelie good fun
Horrible, blatant punning aside, you can perform a Herbie-style wheelie in a car – minus a narcotic-loaded Lohan – at any time. Simply hold L and the direction you want to lean towards and you’ll hop up onto two wheels. Perfect for moments when you have to squeeze through tight traffic.
7) A match mod in heaven
There are enough licensed bikes and cars in Midnight Club to fill the Batcave, with vehicles from Chevrolet, Ford, Chrysler, Dodge, Mitsubishi, Nissan and VW all featured in Rockstar’s Racer. But if that’s not enough variety for you there are tons of ways you can modify your motors.
You have the option of tricking out all your rides and all you have to do is drive to one of the many garages spread throughout the two cities. So if you ever get a hankering for rainbow-tainted rims, want to tint your windscreen like an A-lister or feel the need to make your nitrous even more noxious for bigger boosts; Club’s array of chop shops have you covered with an exhaustive array of customisation options.