If anything, the developers at Rockstar London are ambitious about the PSP version of their latest arcade racing game, Midnight Club: LA Remix. No, the game won't feature the sprawling Los Angeles that will be found in the console versions of the game, but you'll still have plenty of SoCal streets to drive on, as we found out during a recent visit by Rockstar reps and our hands-on time with LA Remix.
LA Remix follows a fairly standard plot: You play as an up-and-coming driver establishing a reputation as a force to be reckoned with after arriving in Los Angeles. To do so, you'll need to--what else?--race every living thing you can in the hottest car you can muster. That's the premise, but the execution on the PSP looks to be impressive, with nice graphics and a ton of options you can use to customize your rides in the game. While the game's version of LA won't be as large as the console versions, the different versions will share the exact same roster of cars and customizable parts.
As you make your way around the open-world version of LA, you'll receive missions from your mobile phone; early on in the game, you'll get a call from local hero Booke. He happens to be the guy you're looking to ultimately beat in the game, but before you can take him on, you'll need to work up your reputation. To do so, you'll enter races that will earn you both rep points and cash, the latter of which you can use to purchase new parts for your cars. The mission structure in LA Remix is such that you can have multiple missions open at any given time and, consequently, complete missions at any time. Mission examples in the game include everything, from winning a pink slip race against an opponent to winning a muscle-car-only event or earning a certain amount of reputation points in a single race.
The simplest way to enter a challenge in the game is to drive by a potential opponent on the road and flash your lights at him (by pressing up on the D pad). You can either skip directly to the race start or enter a miniature race to the start line. If you win the race to the start line, you'll earn a small rep boost before the race begins.
The controls in LA Remix are straightforward: Press X for gas, R1 for handbrake, and triangle for brake or reverse. The square will let loose with the nitrous for a boost of speed, and you can perform special maneuvers by pressing the circle button. Special maneuvers change depending on the class of car you're driving and come in three variations: move (which slows down time), agro (which boosts your car's strength), and roar (which sends a shockwave that clears your path).
Race events in LA Remix will include standard racing game event types, such as circuit races, checkpoint racing, time trials, and tournaments, as well as a number of special events, such as red light races, where you have to get to a landmark on the other side of the city as quickly as possible, choosing your own path along the way. There will also be delivery races, where you must bring cars to clients without damaging them, as well as "payback," where you go out and try to inflict as much damage as possible on target vehicles.
While the heart of the LA Remix is the racing, its soul is found in the game's extensive customization features, specifically those that deal with how your car looks. Yes, you can change the way your ride handles with upgrades to such things as acceleration, speed, and handling. But if you've got the time, you can also spend an egregious amount of time focusing on the exterior of your car, customizing your hood, doors, rims, and so on. You can even go so far as to customize your license plate (why don't all racing games do this?). We especially appreciated the classic California license plates available--that yellow lettering on blue background is fantastic.
And while the entirety of this fictionalized version of Los Angeles is available to you right away in Remix, the game will also have one advantage over its console brethren, an entirely new city to roam and race in: Tokyo. We had a chance to check out one Tokyo track during our time with the game, and its narrow passages and sometimes tight turns felt like a refreshing challenge from the wide open streets of LA. You'll be able to see it all when Remix ships on October 20.