LA Rush review

Do you remember Juiced? The mod-heavy racing game which THQ salvaged from the wreckage of Acclaim's spectacular financial crash? You do? Brilliant. Then you'll remember that the customisation options were almost unparalleled - the choice of paint jobs, alloys and carbon-fibre wings you could bolt on to your motor was really something.

But under the pearlescent exteriors lay a game that was about as joyous to handle as scalding faeces. After so much cosmetic promise Juiced fell flat on its spoiler because it couldn't provide the handling to match the thousands of modding options.

After reviewing it twice (a PSM2 record) we despaired at the lack of competition to go up against the awesome Need for Speed Underground 2 and Midnight Club 3. We wanted more. Then we caught sight of a shiny new title pulling out of Midway's gaming garage - LA Rush.

And what's this? Not only have they recreated the whole of Los Angeles for you to drive round at your leisure, they've also signed up serial 'whip' modders, West Coast Customs. Yep that's right, the stars from the show, US Pimp My Ride. Sweet.

With these guys riding shotgun to Midway's Rush series, nothing can stop them from leaving NFSU2 in its smoke-filled wake. Right? Right? Oh. Crap.

You see, things start off well with LA Rush. We love ripping up the sands of Venice beach before nitro blasting through the lush surroundings of Santa Monica Boulevard. We're also quite partial to weaving through the car strewn highways at top speed before crashing through the Hollywood sign in super-slow motion.

But for all the open-ended freedom, amazing draw distances and hundreds of vehicles, Midway's street racer suffers a similar fate to the aforementioned Juiced - it doesn't strike the balance between content and action.

It's a little different, though - the handling is superior to the likes of Juiced and even NFSU2, but unlike those games, when it comes to modifying, the garage is bare.

So how's this happened? After all, West Coast Customs are on hand to supply all your modifying thrills. But in reality - much like in their MTV series - as soon as you roll your vehicle into one of their garages, they'll kit it out with what they feel like, leaving you to twiddle your thumbs and pray it doesn't come out salmon pink.

Hell, there isn't even a cutscene showing the fellas at work on your motor. All you get is a 10-second sequence of your car going in and out while some bloke explains what they've done. And, yep, it's frikkin' salmon pink. Damn it.

Come on, Midway, even ChoroQ let you mod cars yourself and that was so sugary it could have been made by Tate and Lyle.

So with a wasted opportunity firmly putting the brakes on LA Rush's modding options, the game has to rely solely on its street racing crux to provide the entertainment. Thankfully it delivers it by the bootload.

With the emphasis firmly on free-roaming gameplay, LA Rush encourages you to discover multiple routes to beat your opponent across the finish line.

As the races are a point-to-point affair (these are dotted around the map and cost varying prices to enter), it's well worth checking out the fully-rendered districts situated in the city - just to familiarise yourself with the area, otherwise you could be losing thousands of dollars for coming last.

So whether it's the sun-kissed sands of Venice Beach or the unusually calm Compton 'hood, there's always a shortcut tucked away somewhere. And besides, you can use your free-roaming time to go and check out landmarks such as the Convention Centre (E3 is held there) or the star-strewn pavements on Hollywood Boulevard.

See, who needs a real holiday when you've got LA Rush? But all this tourism will pay off because you'll need to have sharp reactions when deciding whether it's best to slip down an alley or risk a daring high-speed move under an articulated lorry to gain the upper hand.

But it's not just switching directions that you'll need to worry about. As well as your opponents trying their best to ram you off the road, there are also the coppers to contend with. These terminator-style pursuers are hard to lose once they appear in your rear-view mirror - sideswiping at every opportunity as your opponent gets off relatively scot-free.

It feels biased, but then again you are supposed to be the best racer around. Just take their attention as a compliment, we suppose.

While the pressure of dodging rivals and the noise of the wailing police sirens may seem tasking, there's still another minor problem to get to grips with - upcoming corners are sometimes unclear.

Although the array of vehicles handle well around the city streets, if a turn isn't apparent (say for example, it's between two building) then not even a set of Goodyear's finest tyres will scramble for grip in time to make it.

You'll get used to the courses, but they should be clearly marked. And although LA looks amazingly accurate and beautiful, you'll end up getting lost. A lot.

This means you'll have to revert to the GPS system, but this won't help, because you'll still want to take shortcuts to your destination and then the GPS will become confused in blur of flashing brown lines.

Perhaps next time we can have a Bath Rush instead. We'd like it, even if no-one else would.

Another 'interesting' fact (even if it is for all the wrong reasons) is the harsh way in which you have to work your tyres down to the alloys to acquire a decent amount of cash.

You can't sell your motors to earn extra funds for the necessary race entry fee, you see, and there's only one free race available to boost your cash without fear of loss, which means torturously repeating that race over and over again to earn funds, at least until you've a car you're confident enough with to win the high-risk races.

Overall, there's a decent amount of entertainment to be sucked from LA Rush's fun pipe. What with its fine depiction of speed and handling (thanks to the realistic motion blur and sturdy physics) and the open-ended racing routes, the action is always fresh.

But for all the smashing through construction sites and billboards in super-slow motion, LA Rush is more like a reliable family saloon than the pimped-out, nitrous-blasting racer it should've been.

LA Rush is out for PS2 and Xbox on 21 October and for PC on 4 November

LA Rush offers much in the way of slick arcading but, due to the lack of control over modding options, it falls short of being something really special

More Info

Available Platforms: Xbox, PS2


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