Midnight Club: Los Angeles Hands-On

Rockstar San Diego returns with its long-awaited open-world racer, and we were invited to have a first play of the game.

It's a summer afternoon, and as we arrive at Rockstar's London offices, we can sense the post-GTAIV relief in the air. Having already released what is likely to be 2008's biggest selling game, Rockstar is in understandably high spirits. But video gaming doesn't stand still, and all eyes are now on the publisher's next game. Midnight Club is the company's second most successful franchise, and the development team in San Diego is currently putting on the final touches to the series' Los Angeles debut. With the game set for release later in the year, Rockstar invited us down to sample the City of Angels for an extensive two-hour hands-on session.

Welcome to sunny Southern California.

As you'd hope from a true next-gen racing game, Midnight Club: Los Angeles is set in a completely open-world environment. You can drive around the city as much as you want, and when you feel like racing, all you have to do is flash your lights at passing racers. LA itself has been re-created with some artistic license by the game's designers because the real-life grid structure of the city would have been detrimental to the actual racing. This means that some of your favourite landmarks might be missing, but we thankfully saw the 20th Century Fox building, which Die Hard fans will recognise as the Nakatomi plaza and was the scene of the denouement in Fight Club.

Running on Rockstar San Diego's own RAGE engine--the same one that powered GTAIV--Midnight Club looks superb. The environments are immaculately detailed, even down to the obnoxious level of advertising in the city. Such brands as American Apparel and Rustlers have made it onto billboards, while all the car parts are from real-world manufacturers. Product placement aside though, the game itself moves at a blistering pace. While Rockstar says the game is more likely to run at 30 rather than 60 frames per second, we encountered absolutely no slowdown as we cruised through the city. In fact, the game is looking very polished at this stage, and it looks like most of the major features are already in place.

When you get behind the wheel, you'll soon see that the new Midnight Club is very true to previous games in the series. Although handling changes subtly between vehicles, the cars feel light and responsive, meaning you can twitch your way through competitors, traffic, or roadside obstacles. We got to drive the Mercedes S600, as well as 1967 Mustang Boss cars, and we even got to take the latter to a garage for a series of upgrades. To say Midnight Club's customisation options are extensive is a massive understatement--we were able to customise every conceivable part of the vehicle, as well as design its appearance with paint jobs, logos, and lighting. You could conceivably spend hours in this mode alone, changing everything from the engine components to the stitching on the interiors.

We got to see three different racing styles during our time with the game. The most prominent was the standard race, where you compete against four other racers through a series of checkpoints. We also played through a couple of red light races--one-on-one point-to-point races where the idea is to find the quickest route to the finish line. The final racing style we saw was the dynamic freeway race, where you compete against one other racer at speed on the motorways surrounding LA. The traffic on the freeway means that you have to weave much more than in the city centre, but some stretches do allow you to open up the throttle and get up a decent amount of speed.

For the first time in the series, Rockstar is set to incorporate a storyline Midnight Club: Los Angeles. We didn't get to see any of it during our play, but short cutscenes will show you as a young driver who gets involved with street racing in order to win money and respect. The reward system is based on these two features, so you'll earn more money and respect for coming in first in races and driving better vehicles. There are also races where you can lay wagers, play missions to deliver packages, and take part in pink slip races where you can bet your car against someone else's car. Finally, tying in with the story are revenge missions, which will trigger cutscenes before and after each race as you take on special characters from around the city.

Freeways get pretty clogged during rush hour.

There are two other features to the Midnight Club package--the online mode and the bikes. We unfortunately didn't get to play either of them during our play time, but Rockstar did divulge some more information about how they'll work. There will of course be a multiplayer element to the game, and it's clear that you'll be able to go into an online version of the city to challenge other people to races, much as you can with Burnout Paradise. There's no word on player numbers or race types as of yet, but Rockstar has promised to fill us in with the details closer to the release of the game. Motorbikes will also be making a return, and while we didn't get to try them out ourselves, we did get to race against a couple of them for our final race in the city.

There's no doubt that this Midnight Club is going to be compared to Burnout Paradise--the open-world setting and racing structure are incredibly reminiscent of what you can find in Paradise City. But while Criterion's arcade racer had little time for realism, car lovers will certainly have more to sink their teeth into with Rockstar's effort. We're sure to see more of Midnight Club: Los Angeles in the run up to release, and we can't wait to see how the two games stack up once October arrives.

Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com

Did you enjoy this article?

Sign In to Upvote

170 comments
poopmaster369
poopmaster369

nfs undercover looks good but i heard from all my friends that have it that it's a good game

poopmaster369
poopmaster369

i'll probably get this game at the end of january

daniel_maharaj
daniel_maharaj

great game, and a great alternative to NFS UNDERCOVER. In fact even f NFS UNDERCOVER was good i would have bought this over it!!

greedom
greedom

Looks fantastic. An excellent alternative to the NFS series which I am currently boycotting because EA is a b*stard. I'll be picking this one up but not till after I get the soon to be released Fable II.

darkknight619
darkknight619

does logitech 's steering wheel work with this game

RoyaleWivCheese
RoyaleWivCheese

@ darknight: Did you even read it?? Yes, there's onlin play.

neley
neley

will this have split screen 2 player mode?

micoal
micoal

Open ended world, great graphics, big car/bike selection, this going to be a great game.

KING_KEV_321
KING_KEV_321

1 of the main reason i want this is motorcycle+nos great combo lol, from what i seen so far everything is lookin great frm the customization to the graphics lookin 4ward 2 it?? (more trailers plzz lmao)

---Saint---
---Saint---

Oh Sony_Patriot, great minds think alike. ;)

SkellitonKiller
SkellitonKiller

I just got to see the car list before I buy it but it looks pretty cool.

Sony_Patriot
Sony_Patriot

I'm just wondering can you customize the bike riders clothes

NitroNoddy
NitroNoddy

Really looking forward to this. Going to be an expensive month with Fallout 3 & Fable 2 also out :)

vickoktavian
vickoktavian

im getting this game foreall, i played midnight club 1 and 2 and 3 DUB, and finally i will play this one too

rider600rr
rider600rr

wow i really cant wait 4 this game, I hope you can cotumize the bikes as much as the cars, extended swingarms, fender eliminator kits and all the good stuff.

OooGummies
OooGummies

Oh my god... I seriously can't wait any longer...

Wozmcfc
Wozmcfc

The others were fun, so I hoe this one will be.

jericho119940
jericho119940

I really can't wait for this game to come out, they did fantastic with the earlier Midnight Club games, and knowing that Rockstar is making it, you know it has to be a great game!

KING_KEV_321
KING_KEV_321

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

apsco17
apsco17

i reaaly want that game

NoseWeed619
NoseWeed619

Wow, sounds pretty cool. Im just glad that it's being made by Rockstar, instead of some low level developer. Rockstar is a proven, winning game company.

gauthamR
gauthamR

well i love mc series and cant wait for mcla but im really annoyed of the postponing releases. it was scheduled to release on march 28 but its now october 9?????? like wtf?!?!?!?!?! i cant wait for the release and the demo for ps3!!!

pwnd-ur-mom
pwnd-ur-mom

ohh man im soo excited for this game i love the "arcade" styled racers but i have to say that MNC beats NFS

Sony_Patriot
Sony_Patriot

looks great, will definately pick this one up

TheDarkFortress
TheDarkFortress

i came in at the third midnight club and i instantly fell in love...before i was into NFS but MNC is way better,,,not to mention more realistic...but LA looks way better than MNC 3 ...I CANT WAIT!!

Derek1177
Derek1177

Looks cool i live only south of LA and my dad works there. i will almost surely get it as long as it has crash effects.

WolfyHurricance
WolfyHurricance

This is by far my most anticipated game of the year.

coolkid93
coolkid93

Game looks pretty good. can't wait til it comes out.

zerander
zerander

Great screenshots, looks good.

husainml
husainml

wish i could play it now!!

H_U_R_D
H_U_R_D

i will admit, i am not a huge fan of the Midnight Club franchise, i loved #2, but i was indifferent about 3 but im not goin to lie, this game looks really good

Maximum_VeNoM
Maximum_VeNoM

I've player Midnight Club 2 & 3 and I can tell that this game will be awesome

DA_SHREDDER
DA_SHREDDER

The midnight club games on the ps2 is the game that kept the racing genre alive for so long. I was a total GT guy but the gameplay was just so repetitive and boring. Open World racing wasnt really explored till this game was out, and this game, to me, is easily the best racing franchise to ever grace the planet. Dont get me wrong, I still love Gran Turismo, but this game is just so cool in so many different ways. The only thing Im worried about is that this game uses the GTA engine. In which graphically will be a good thing, but I really didnt like the way the veichles felt in GTA 4. Oh well, I will be crossing my fingers for this one. And I hope there is custom soundtrack in the ps3 version.

Pedronsky
Pedronsky

sweet!! one of the best racing game i ever play.... only one problem MY XBOX IS TOTaLLY BROKEN.....

axeman87
axeman87

Sweet, loved the last game they brought out and after my favourite racing series Need for Speed (that I have played for about 10 years now) fell on its face with ProStreet, I am looking forward to this.

npo123
npo123

this game is gonna b gta styled driving all round xD. true realism car effects wicked can't w8 4 the game 2 b released

pwner372
pwner372

@skitz8 maybe it will be a good one this time around. also, i can't wait for this game

diogo319
diogo319

I finished midnight club 2!!

supersonikk
supersonikk

Should I go for this or Need For Speed: Undercover?

skitz8
skitz8

"For the first time in the series, Rockstar is set to incorporate a storyline Midnight Club: Los Angeles." thats just not true, there was a storyline in midnight club 2, though not neccessarily a good one, it was there.