The Leipzig Games Convention provided us with our first look at playable code of Rockstar San Diego's upcoming Midnight Club Los Angeles. I just got back from Rockstar's home base in Surry Hills, here in Sydney, where I was shown similar content on the 360 version, but with a few new tidbits, fresh for the biting. According to the local Rockstar PR guys, the San Diego team is focused on zero load times and minimal menus. As the Leipzig coverage mentioned, there's a quick repair option, so you can avoid the garage altogether and stay in the action (as long as you don't mind a few mismatched panels). It's just one example of where the interface has had been streamlined.
I also noticed some intense motion blur effects when panning around the car. Easily the heaviest I've seen.
Then there are the slick camera views. Along with the over-the-top shot when the nitro is activated, during sharp turns and slides, the camera will position itself to the rear corner of the car, providing a dramatic, intense shot of your steering work. This view also appears to kick in when you smash up against other cars.
At the moment, races can be started in one of two ways; driving up to a potential opponent and flashing your lights, or going into the zoomed-out city view and configuring your competition of choice. The light-flashing method has the bonus of a mini-race before the actual race, which requires you to beat the 'flashee' to the starting line.
Instead of having to always come first to progress, the player picks up reputation points and cash. So even if you come last, you can still - eventually - get access to better cars, parts and races.
Finally, there's Cockpit mode, which is essentially a glorified driver's view. According to Rockstar, it's a first for the Midnight Club series, and from what I saw a lot of work has gone not only into the visuals, but the 'movement' of the car as well.
Rockstar still couldn't provide a release date, but it will be early 2008, with both the 360 and PS3 consoles catered for.