Midnight Club: Los Angeles Multiplayer Hands-On

We got behind the wheel of this gorgeous racer at Rockstar's London offices and didn't want to get out of the driver's seat.

Rockstar's other franchise is back and ready to burn rubber through LA in Midnight Club: Los Angeles. The game uses the same Rage engine as Grand Theft Auto IV and Rockstar Presents: Table Tennis, and as you'd expect, it's a visual feast for the eyes. LA hasn't been re-created inch for inch, which will come as a big relief to anyone who has experienced its rush-hour traffic jams. The developers have instead created a virtual city that has the heart and soul of the city of angels, complete with iconic landmarks and real streets--the 101 freeway, Santa Monica Boulevard, Mulholland Drive, and Pacific Coast Highway, among others. The Hollywood sign, Santa Monica Pier, and Walt Disney Concert Hall are all included, and even our favourite haunt, the LA Convention Center--home to the one and only E3 Media & Business Summit--makes an appearance.

"California, California, here we coooooooooooome!"

The environments in Midnight Club looks great, even in this prefinal release, and fans of GTAIV's visual style will appreciate its overall look. The game has a truncated 24-hour cycle, and despite its name, races will take place during both day and night. Weather effects appear to be dynamic; for example, we got drenched by a sudden downpour during a race, which made driving more of a challenge. The weather seems to be persistent across races--though the rain had stopped by our next event, the asphalt was still wet.

We played the multiplayer side of Midnight Club for a few hours, and we're pleased to report that it's just as much fun as single-player. The version we played was for the Xbox 360, but Rockstar has told us that the PlayStation 3 version will be identical. We started off by familiarising ourselves with Los Angeles and the game's controls before jumping into a match. The control system is very similar to those used by arcade-style racing games.

Our first ride was a red 2008 Kawasaki Ninja ZX14--one of the fastest vehicles in the game. At first we found the controls a bit sensitive, but after zooming around the streets for a bit we soon got accustomed to them. Bikes can pop wheelies, and you can also lean your weight to one side to help you corner more sharply. Cars, on the other hand, are able to perform two-wheel stunts. Besides giving you the chance to show off, these tricks stop others from getting a speed boost from your slipstream and can help you get through tight gaps.

We began our multiplayer journey by jumping into a quick match on Xbox Live, using a 2008 Volkswagen Golf R32. Despite being one of the smallest vehicles we've seen in the game, the pocket rocket still has a surprising amount of grunt. You're presented with a view of the entire city before and after each map, which lets you see all the checkpoints for each race, and you can change options and zoom in or out. You'll even see jets flying over the city and hear general ambient noises, which make the surroundings feel all the more like a living, breathing, metropolis.

Like Burnout Paradise and Need for Speed Undercover, Midnight Club is based on an open-world structure, and although each race course is different from the next, you'll often use the same streets to get from start to finish. While we didn't become overly familiar with the layout of this quasi-LA, we began to recognise sections, such as the Pacific Coast Highway and Mulholland Drive, in a short time. One of the races we tried, Laurel Canyon Run, took us through the weaving streets of the Hollywood Hills in a classic 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T. The roads still had water residue from a previous race, and the combination of a muscle car and a slippery surface made things interesting when we tried to weave around traffic at breakneck speeds. We followed this up with the aptly named Downtown Tour and saw the heart of LA, including what looked to be the iconic Walt Disney Concert Hall, from behind the wheel of a 2008 Lamborghini Gallardo. The Lamborghini handled very differently from the Challenger, which was a reflection of the effects of modern traction control and steering assists.

While we didn't see much of the game's new story mode, we did get a brief communique from one of the characters who popped up on our player's T-Mobile Sidekick, referring to us as "Booke." Midnight Club appears to have adopted a simliar concept to the Whiz candy-bar phone from GTAIV, and it looks like messages from real and AI players will pop up on the phone from time to time. You won't use it to access everything; for instance, we joined multiplayer games via a regular menu.

A gauge at the bottom of the screen shows vital information, including speed, damage, and boost. If you have too many crashes during a race, your vehicle will reset, and though you'll lose some time, you'll get a shiny new ride and a topped-up boost as a consolation prize. You'll get only a few boosts at the start of each race, but you'll be able to get bonus boosts by driving through garages during a race (visible by a gas-pump icon on the map) or by staying in another player's slipstream for several seconds. A special gauge will flash for a brief moment, and if you tap the boost button at the right time, you'll get a quick surge of speed. Much like in GTAIV, you have a map of the city on the bottom-left of the screen that will show your current location as well as other important information, such as checkpoints and the finish line.

According to Rockstar, Midnight Club will have circuit races as well as the point-to-point street races we played. In addition to races, we got to try the game's battle mode, which we're pleased to report is a blast. The two battle games we tried were Capture the Flag and Keep Away.

Capture the Flag requires you to collect a flag and dump it at a point shown on your map while avoiding other racers. At your disposal are a number of power-ups, and some of the ones we saw could briefly freeze our vehicle into a solid block of ice, make it invisible or invincible, hit it with a magnetic pulse, or send it flying in the wrong direction. The flag holder is visible on the map, as well as in an onscreen list of players, but we found it hard to see who had it when we were focused on the action.

Keep Away is a variation on Capture the Flag, with the winner being the person tagged "it" for the longest period of time in the round without being rammed by other competitors. You won't have to reach a finish line in this mode, but rather you'll race the streets at breakneck speed while avoiding other players. We played Keep Away using bikes, and because of their exceptional handling and speed, we found it a real task to catch some of the better players--although we imagine you will be able to choose vehicle classes before each race, which may even up the playing field.

The soundtrack featured plenty of appropriately fast electronic numbers, although we didn't recognise any licensed tracks in the mix. Vehicle effects sounded accurate, with throaty muscle cars, purring exotic imports, and the high-pitched whines of bikes. Interestingly, we heard pedestrians shouting out to us on occasion when we came close to hitting them (it doesn't seem like you'll be able to hit them), and while we doubt they'll have the same vocabulary range as those in GTAIV, it seemed like an amusing addition to the game.

Bikes are particularly nimble, making them a hard target in the Keep Away mode.

Midnight Club: Los Angeles looks like it will be a solid entry in the series, combining sharp visuals with a real-world location, a decent range of licensed vehicles, and, perhaps most importantly, fun, addictive gameplay. We'll bring you more coverage as the game moves closer to launch.

Written By

Former staff writer for GameSpot.co.uk, now marketing guy for a certain major online retailer....

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Discussion

98 comments
poopmaster369
poopmaster369

i want to see what cars and bikes they have and how good it is

RB327
RB327

this games looks awesome! Good graphics!

xanxxx
xanxxx

Rockstar has improved the graphics of midnight club series dramatically. Midnight club: LA will make a big splash this month!!

Moh_fan123
Moh_fan123

Does this game have online freeroam? and aslo can you customize your car?

jadeninja
jadeninja

It has to have more than 40, MC:3 had 60 something and MC:3 remix had 80 something

Karmazyn
Karmazyn

Wow another great game to spend your money on. What a month!!!

supersonikk
supersonikk

Hope this is better than Test Drive Unlimited.

georgeorjose
georgeorjose

it would be cool if they could let me download my own car, in this game and race it. yeah that would be cool. maybe next time.

BeastEator
BeastEator

notice that they say a "decent" range of licensed vehicles. I hope that there are more than the rumored 40 I heard about on da forums. even so, this game will be great!

marvingamebeast
marvingamebeast

kuvze need for speed is struggling to find new ideas mc:la ftw

bestbuy319
bestbuy319

i always liked the midnight club series spanning back to the launch title for the ps2

kuvze
kuvze

gonna rock this year...wonder if nfs can keep up..

ThePlatanoKing
ThePlatanoKing

not gonna b better than need for speed undercover but is going to b a great solid game

PrkaST
PrkaST

GTA 4 without Niko Belic ;)

STRIFE9288
STRIFE9288

so notquitesure, your basicly saying you need your mommy to hold your hand whenever you cross the street?? in real life street racing there are no borders that help you and tell you where to turn so why put it here. grow up

macdamaniac
macdamaniac

alright i know that everyone hates spam and i'm not really spamming, but i know that everyone wants (or should want) this game, and if you want it for FREE this is how...sign up for this website and complete surveys, its time consuming but easy. i'm not lying it isn't actually a trick like i thought it would be...click on the url below http://www.prizerebel.com/index.php?r=587850

Unabomber256
Unabomber256

Wow, that article told me next to nothing. It sounds like MC3 with better weather effects. Not that I'm not excited about it of course!

705H1R0
705H1R0

Hah, like that 300 even stands a chance.

wr12c
wr12c

cool nice and best Midnight Club in LA :D

initiald411
initiald411

notquitesure if you want normal tracks play GT5 or Nascar or something. This is for the street lovers an turners its what we do. OCT 20th lets ride, an I hope we can make crews an it looks like we can race online with our custom cars which is very important. Now only if we could free roam online that would be amazing.

me_TC
me_TC

interesting!!

notquitesure
notquitesure

i got rid of burnout because of the open world racing! whatever happened to normal tracks?! its amazingly frustrating when your going super fast and end up takin one tiny wrong turn and your done for..

JaredTrotterboy
JaredTrotterboy

who cares, Fable II is gonna blow every game out of the water, and the new comers won't get much swim time.

joshboy101
joshboy101

yeah soundtrack isn't good at all!

wallywallas
wallywallas

Top fo my list, baby. I played MC3 on my PS2 till the disc didn't work anymore. Only thing missing? Custom soundtrack. That would make me reserve this game RIGHT NOW!

LilBompie17
LilBompie17

THIS GAME IS AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

MODNAR11
MODNAR11

I guess it's time to re-kindle the Midnight Club.

jps3
jps3

only thing MC3 messed up on imo is not letting you race with any type of vehicle i.e bike and cars in the same race but either way i didnt really care cause i only use cars anyway...its always been midnight club for me ever since the 1st game...need for speed is trash btw to concain: all the MC's have had pedestrians where have you been?

shawnomac
shawnomac

every midnight club has had pedestrians plus a lot of the features that they mention. the multiplayer modes have not changed, nor have the online abilities. The best thing is the streamlined online that is similar to burnout.

concain
concain

I've always wanted to have pedestrians in racing game.

Heroldp813
Heroldp813

Man you got this game and need for speed. I think im just gonna have to get both

rachit_d12
rachit_d12

im not sure if its gonna be better than undercover....anyways will check the demos of both the games and buy the better one....

kingzkru89
kingzkru89

this game looks soo amazin im excited 2 play it!!!

ss1downtown
ss1downtown

ive got the first three and i still lay them today

sMeAgOl_VaDeR
sMeAgOl_VaDeR

this sounds really cool... i still don't understand if this is online or offline multiplayer?

tidyspidey
tidyspidey

"Bikes can pop wheelies, and you can also lean your weight to one side to help you corner more sharply. Cars, on the other hand, are able to perform two-wheel stunts. Besides giving you the chance to show off, these tricks stop others from getting a speed boost from your slipstream and can help you get through tight gaps" You could do that in MC:3.... not a new feature. Seriously though, I'm looking forward to this game far more than any other. Will pickup both the PSP and 360 version methinks.

DiGiTaL_SiNs
DiGiTaL_SiNs

I love the midnight club series, i hope this one doesn't dissapoint. BTW, Midnight Club 2 FTW!

mattcake
mattcake

"and fans of GTAIV's visual style will appreciate its overall look" Interesting, will it use the same depth of field blurring? I can see evidence of it in some of the screenshots but it doesn't appear as pronounced as gta4. I'm a big fan of gta4's look, like looking thru the real world wearing a pair of dirty glasses :)

marvelx3
marvelx3

looks good enuf to eat!!!

RD1109
RD1109

I hope if I buy this, it doesnt flop.

84montecarlo
84montecarlo

i think its gong to be a great game i've been waiting for this one!

hgyut
hgyut

we all know M.N.C game it's not bad for racing game but i hope more available options to upgrade your car . speed . wheels . outside form . & another things