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Old 15-08-2008, 10:30 AM
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Brianemone Brianemone is offline
Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: Hamilton
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Default Midnight Club: Los Angeles Hands On

MCLA 360 FOB PEGI The in house game engine created by Rockstar San Diego has been used to create three games, Rockstar presents Table Tennis, GTA IV and now Midnight Club: Los Angeles. The first two of these titles have already been released I enjoyed both of them immensely, time for a genre that takes something really special to grab my attention, a car game.

The setting for this instalment of the Midnight Club is quite obvious from the title, what isn't is the fact that Rockstar San Diego has crafted a city that is surprisingly similar to the real city of angels. The first race shown to us to give a grounding in the scenery and style of racing started in Santa Monica (two blocks from where I was staying a few weeks ago) the Santa Monica Pier was lit up just like it is in real life and the local buildings and street names were all based on their real life counterparts. Important landmarks are all present but it is not a 1:1 map of L.A with every building replicated, what is replicated is the feeling of the different parts of Los Angeles.

The first thing that you might not notice when you jump in the game is the way it looks. Visually I was not blown away, it seemed adequate for a racer, you will not be seeing any online polls getting you to guess which picture is real life and which is from Midnight Club. Where it does set it's self apart in the graphical department is the number of things happening on screen at any given time and the detail of the city. The highways are full of cars and there just seems to be more action, the pace of play is also factored in when making this observation (I'll discuss that in more detail soon). All of the cars are fully modelled inside and out, you can customize the interior and all of the in car dials function, so using the cockpit view is that little bit more interactive.

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Keeping with the original theme of the game, Midnight Club is still an open world racer, it is no longer the only of its type but there are a few things that it is doing differently that will set it apart. Racing to the start of the race is one of these. You meet up with an opponent and flash him your high beams to indicate that you want to race, both of you will then race to the beginning of the race. Think of it as a warm-up before the main event. You can earn both money and rep doing these races.

Some of the other races include Red Light Races, Freeway Races, Ordered/Unordered Races, Circuit Races, Freeway Races, Time Trails, Tournaments, Series Races, Wager Races, Pink-Slip Races, Deliveries, Payback missions and Telephone Challenges..... so a lot of variety. The amount of things scattered around the map combined with variety of race types means that there is is usually some action fairly close by. When finishing a Red Light Race we were challenged by a rival to race back to the starting point of the race meaning that if we had taken the Race to the Start challenge then we would have been able to complete three races back to back, we were told that there will be more examples of this with even more events being strung together if the driver chooses to participate.

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As an arcade racer the controls are not intended to replicate what you would see in a Racing Simulator like Forza or GT. The instant sensation of speed when racing is a little overwhelming at first and the controls will take a some getting used to. Using left and right seems to shift from one extreme to the other, it felt that a slight tap cause a lane change more than just steering in the chosen direction, while holding it down in the same direction for longer will cause a spin out. The times that I did not have trouble where the long sweeping turns, these seemed to happen almost without my input. The controls do seem specifically designed to allow for the incredibly fast pace of the game which is not a bad thing, but it will take practice to master. It's bloody fast, I don't know how I can say that any other way, if you get to play it you will realise what I mean.

There are no loading times from the time that you boot up the game until you are finished. Finishing a race you will be greeted with a result overlay which is mostly transparent, starting some races you will be given a quick flyby of the event to familiarise yourself with the task ahead, again, no loading times. The map is one of the more attractive in-game guides I have seen, it is the actual city with the roads lit up by street lights, you can zoom in and out to see a specific area in more detail. The map changes with the time of day along with the game where there is a full 24hour day/night cycle to give the feeling of time and offer unique experiences depending on the conditions at the time you start a race. I will probably avoid crepuscular activities, the duck light effects from the sun frustrate me enough in real life without having to navigate the same challenges in a game.

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Customizations are also back in full force, different paint schemes along with body kits, mags and decals means that ride pimpage is on hand for the people that enjoy that sort of thing. There is a limit to the amount of layers able to be used but the interface for copying pasting and the combining of layers seemed very straight forward. The important thing to take away from this is that the ButtonMasher logo will only require about ten layers and will also be very easy to recreate. The internal of the cars is also now customisable with not only colour but also the steering wheel, trim and dash instruments.

No specific details were given or shown during the preview but there were a few hints about what people enjoy, cruising the city with friends was one of them. Midnight Club: Los Angeles will take full advantage of the Rockstar Social Club that was launched with GTA IV, so there will be some sort of tie in with online tracking of statistics and achievements.

The guys from Rockstar emphasised that they wanted to have the fastest, most intense racing experience around. The complete lack of loading times combined with the racing events being chained together and an immediate sense of speed and velocity means that they are definitely heading in the right direction. They have also promised that this is the largest in the series to date. It is not going to appeal to everyone, but the success of the franchise in the past shows that there is a strong demand for good arcade racers done right.
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