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Midnight Club Los Angeles


More than just GTA Stories without guns
Midnight What?

For the uninitiated, the Midnight Club franchise has had a long history of highly enjoyable racing games dating back to the Playstation 2 heydays. Since it first started, Midnight Club has been more about the fun and “arcade-y” style of racing that you can find in other series such as Need for Speed Midtown Madness. If you’re the type of person that would rather enjoy a high technical race such as those found in Gran Turismo or Forza Motorsport, then Midnight Club is not for you. However, if you enjoy arcade style racing games with nonsensical “drift” buttons or nitrous that auto-magically recharges with the successful completion of a lap, then prepare for loads of fun.

Midnight Club: Los Angeles Remixed is the franchise’s first – and hopefully not last – foray into the PSP handheld market and is a combination of the console version of Midnight Club: Los Angeles and Midnight Club 2 from the old Playstation 2. If you think that’s weird, then you’re not alone. The storyline is more or less lifted from the console versions of Los Angeles, but the maps are decidedly small and are basically modified maps from the older Midnight Club 2.

Like in the console version of Los Angeles, you play as a voiced but unnamed driver who is actually quite annoying. He seems to be the type of person that you wouldn’t mind punching in the face repeatedly should he ever give you reason to, and unfortunately it is as this annoying character that you must play through the game and ultimately help succeed.

Gameplay

The game offers several modes, including: Career, Arcade, Quick Race, and Multiplayer. Career mode is the main focus of the game, since playing it is the only way to unlock content such as parts, cars, and abilities (more on that later). Arcade mode is a fun alternative to the main game and that gives your car abilities and weapons such as: reverse steering, shields, slow down rays, and nitro boosts. Quick Race plays just like the Career mode races but without the need to actually drive to the race locations like in Career mode. Multiplayer is present with support for four players, and can be played like the Arcade mode.

One of the first things that you’ll notice with Career mode is that you basically start the game and start driving, with minimal mandatory tutorials or lengthy cut scenes. The reason for that is because the cut scenes have been removed from the PSP version of the game (probably to make the game fit on one UMD disc). The lack of cut scenes isn’t a major problem, but it does make the story much weaker in comparison to the console version of the game. In fact, there is almost no noticeable or impactful story to be told in this port of the game. The interaction you have with the story comes in the form of phone calls over a T-Mobile Sidekick and unfunny one liner jokes thrown out during the start and finish of races. There are a few characters that stay prominent over the course of the game, but hardly anything else to remind you that you’re in the middle of a street racing drama.

In Career mode, you’ll spend quite a bit of your time driving around the city in a free roam cruise mode with optional and mission races available at different locations that you have drive to. These races all draw from a stock collection of course maps that take place on the same streets that can be found in cruise mode, so you’ll have plenty of time to rememorize them. In fact, courses are often recycled throughout the game, so by the end of the game you’ll know the city like the back of your hand. The difficulty of career mode generally moderate, with the normal deviation of hard and easy races. Rarely will you encounter a race or course that is so deviously hard that you can play for hours and still get no closer to beating it. Upon successful completion of the Los Angeles map, you’ll be treated to an extra that is not available to the console version of the game – a bonus map of Tokyo, with more unlockables to be had.

The racing mechanics themselves are very enjoyable and easy to pick up. The control layout is easy to learn and consists of: steering with the analog stick, throttle, brake, nitrous, and special ability, weight transfer, and drift buttons. Everything works well together and rarely will you find yourself cursing the layout or blaming the controls for a loss. It is worth noting that there are several classes of vehicles in the game: tuner, muscle, luxury, exotic, and motorcycles. Each of these classes has special abilities that have to be charged up before they can be used. For instance, if you’re careful while driving a tuner car and don’t hit walls and other cars very much, you’ll charge up an ability that allows you to slow down time and corner much better than the game would normally allow.

Arcade mode offers a completely different experience than Career mode and will likely remind you of Mario Kart Racing with its abilities and weapons that can be picked up along the course. These abilities change the game quite a bit, as you can get from last place all the way to the front of the pack by carefully using the weapons for maximum effect. While Arcade mode is immensely fun, Quick Race comes off as being too much like normal Career mode races and there is little reason to play it other than to try some of the exotic cars in the game.

Graphics

The graphics in Remixed are a mixed bag, with some amazing high points but also some aggravating lows. The minute you start the game you’ll notice that the detail on the vehicles are amazing considering that this is a PSP game. In contrast, the environment and world textures are somewhat lackluster and don’t quite pop out to you the same way the cars do. For instance, you’ll notice a lot of dark and earthy wall textures that can be quite boring and occasionally frustrating. Sometimes they can affect gameplay some night races, like when you need to go under tunnels that seemingly have invisible support columns. The problem isn’t because they aren’t rendered, but because rather because their dark gray textures during the night almost perfectly blend into the road.

The issue with drab wall textures is quite small however, compared to the potentially nerve wracking issue of frame rates. They’re usually quite stable and won’t cause you any problems but in rare instances, there are sudden frame rate drops that can ruin a tight and technical race – or worse, tournament – that might just lead to a complete restart. Other small nags include clipping issues that sometimes occur, but are rarely game breaking.

Sound

In the sound department, Remixed is more than satisfactory with a diverse range of sound effects and music. Each class of vehicle has an appropriate engine sound, from the high pitched engines of the tuner and bike classes to the throaty roar of big displacement muscle cars and exotics. Rockstar even bothered with small details such as the distinct whistling of blow off valves on turbo powered cars (which will be nearly every car you decide to mod).

Where the sound really shines however, is in the music department. You’ll be treated to a variety of genres and sub genres such as rock, hardcore rock, hip hop, west coast rap, eclectic, and electronic. Featured artists include big names such as Disturbed, Snoop Dogg, Will.I.Am, Maino, and The Vines. Unfortunately though, you can only modify the genre selections and cannot directly modify the track playlists.

Conclusion

Midnight Club: Los Angeles Remixed is a worthy addition to the series even though it has a few stumbles here and there. These are for the most part minor issues that don’t detract from the game very much. In fact, the paper thin storyline helps the action stay at a constant pace without any major breaks in the action for story development. The other modes are also quite fun and offer a major change in gameplay and are sure to appeal to you even after completion of the regular Los Angeles and Tokyo maps. While the environment isn’t the most beautiful in a game, the maps are still a marvel to behold and there are times where you’ll admire how well thought out they are. Same goes the sound effects, as they are diverse and manage to bring the environment to life while the music gives the game a very distinct West Coast feel.