Midnight Club: Los Angeles Hands-On

When we last saw Rockstar San Diego's Midnight Club: Los Angeles, way back at the Leipzig Games Convention, we walked away impressed. Pissed that we weren't allowed to actually drive, but impressed. Thankfully, E3 wasn't a total bust, given that we got to spend a good hour playing the Xbox 360 version of the newest Midnight Club.

It's really too bad our illegal street racing skills weren't up to the challenge. Sprinting through Sunset Boulevard in a Mazda RX8, then through the Hollywood hills in a late '60s Ford Mustang Boss 302 showed that, while we were thrown a couple of "REP" points here and there, we have a long way to go before actually having a respectable racing reputation.

Fortunately, we looked pretty good, even when finishing fourth.

Oh yeah. The driving. We took part in a quartet of races, some initiated by simply finding competition on the streets and flashing our headlights. We then sprinted off to a the starting line, having the option to actually race to the starting line. This pre-race race will net you more REP points, used to gain access to higher level races, but is totally optional. The sprint to the starting line can be skipped if you so desire, but we found the spontaneous thrill of beating our competition to the meeting point was worth it not just for the extra points. At the very least, it's a nice warm up.

We tooled all around town through our four races. Our first formal race, Sand and Surf, took us from the beaches to the freeway. Mulholland and Beverly saw us driving through the winding hills of Hollywood before heading down to the Valley. Macarthur Cut took us from downtown to the LA River, a misnomer of a racing venue that might be familiar to fans of Terminator 2's more epic chase scenes.

Each felt unique and frenzied. Midnight Club: LA's dynamic camera, which switches to an over-the-shoulder style view when hopped up on nitrous or coming off a slipstream drafting high, combined with tire-spinning peel outs makes for a white-knuckled rush. It's somewhat difficult to see what you're actually racing toward, it's so fast. Our decked out cars may have had something to do with the feeling of untamed car control, and we'll blame our many crashes and last place finishes on that.

What we didn't get to tackle were Midnight Club: LA's motorcycles or the LAPD, both back in the newest iteration. We'll just have to wait until the game is released on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 later this year to do that. The game hits October 7th in North America and October 10th in Europe.


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