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Another long running series and another new racing game for PS3. Will it break new ground and make use of the Playstation's increased capabilities or is it another cash cow pushed out in the hope that no-one notices? As I slide the fresh copy of Midnight Club: Los Angeles into my PS3 I try to clear my mind of preconceptions and begin to play.
Now this is quite an interesting review to do immediately after the latest installment of Need for Speed: Undercover PS3 as they are both aimed the same market. You know, all those teen-aged lovers of 'The Fast and the Furious' films who wish they had a car better than the Citroen Saxo they own, to hang out down at Maccy D's on a Friday and wear their hats the wrong way around. Oh! and me - a slightly older boring bloke who wishes he was cool enough to hang out at Maccy D's in a Saxo. So another game aiming to fulfil all those boyracer (and no doubt girlracer) tendencies so many of us manage to hide under otherwise ordinary exteriors.
But is in any good?
A little 'lift off oversteer' has to suffice and generally seemed fairly good at tucking the cars into the bends
My last run in with the Midnight Club series was short lived and frankly not worth the rather low bargain bin price I paid so I was not holding up much hope for this game from the cover. First impressions weren't great as the feel and look of the game seemed to remind me of the previous encounter. The driving feel is predictably more arcade than simulator but I guess that is par for the course for this kind of game. I was pleased to get a Mk1 Golf GTI as my first car, especially since this was the exact same car as my own first car (just a different colour). So if nothing else I could get used to the controls in a rather nostalgic way!
So once familiarised, I got stuck into some races. What you begin to notice after playing this game for a while and getting some more serious competitors is that is quite a challenge to drive, avoid all the stuff and also keep one eye on the map in the bottom corner of the screen which shows you you're next checkpoint. The checkpoints come up in quick succession and you only get to see the one you're heading for and the next one after that, so you find yourself crashing because you're glancing at the map or missing a turn because you weren't paying enough attention to it! After a while I got better at this but is not easy to keep going at full pelt without hitting anything.
The different styles of vehicles have suitable characteristics to fit with their type which adds a good sense of realism though I miss not having a handbrake to flick the car into tight bends, instead a little 'lift off oversteer' has to suffice and generally seemed fairly good at tucking the cars into the bends without losing too much momentum. Another feature that I loved was the light and weather changes. It's nice to see them try, though it doesn't seem to alter the dynamics of the cars that much.
Now I have to say the virtual people are great! Totally pointless other than to add atmosphere but nevertheless well worthy of special credit. I've already lost count of how many I have run down...accidentally.
So I had been playing for a couple of sessions and was beginning to tire of more races when hey presto! Police cars! If you've read my review on Need for Speed: Undercover PS3 recently you will know I think a good police chase really gets your adrenaline pumping, and although not as crucial or as good as the police chases in Need for Speed, this was a welcome surprise and perhaps one of a few as I work through the game.
It gives me the feeling that there is more to come if I persevere and keep my eyes on the road in front of me!
So there we have it. On the face of it Midnight Club: Los Angeles and Need for Speed are similar games but they actually feel very different to one another. Need for Speed is more of a drivers game for me and sacrifices reality for easy of finding your way around and trades menu systems for flowing story lines and seamless interaction. However Midnight Club offers what turns out to be a proper challenge in more of an old school tried and tested manner. Which is best? I think you'd have to try both. I think the main point to conclude is that I have really enjoyed this game and it seems to grow on me the further I get into the game. It gives me the feeling that there is more to come if I persevere and keep my eyes on the road in front of me! The game has taken some of the best elements of the increasing number of games in this genre, added some nice atmospheric touches. If it had got the driving feel just a little better and given me a head up display to follow aswell as the map it would have been fabulous.
With so many different perspectives it can be hard to know where to start - a little like walking into a crowded pub. Sorry about that.
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