Midnight Club: Los Angeles South Central DLC Hands-On

Rockstar's open-world racer expands into some of LA's least glamorous neighborhoods.

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Los Angeles is a big city. So big, in fact, that Rockstar San Diego wasn't able to squeeze all of it into Midnight Club: Los Angeles' original retail release. Sure, you could find most of the glitzy neighborhoods such as Beverly Hills and Santa Monica, but nowhere to be found on that disc were Watts, Crenshaw, or Inglewood. In other words, a big chunk of LA's southern face was left off of the map. Through the use of downloadable content, Rockstar will be fixing that with next week's South Central download, available March 12 on both Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network.

The 1955 Chevy Bel Air, one of nine new vehicles.
The 1955 Chevy Bel Air, one of nine new vehicles.

In a rare move for new DLC, Rockstar will be making the entire geography of the pack available for free. That means that you'll be able to spin donuts on the quad at USC, speed through the streets of Compton, and develop a sudden hunger any time you drive past Randy's Donuts at no cost aside from the time it takes to download the new expansion. It's a hefty chunk of real estate that amounts to about a third of the size of the original map, so there should be plenty of sights to take in. But downloading this pack for free also means that you'll be relying on your own imagination; it's only with the premium version that you get all of the new races, cars, and other miscellaneous features.

This premium expansion will set you back $9.99 and touts a feature list that includes nine new vehicles, 26 new races, 10 new delivery missions, new parts and vinyl, and a handful of new music tracks. The three vehicles that we had a chance to test-drive were a 2008 Range Rover (slow to accelerate, but an absolute bully on the road), a 2008 Mercedes-Benz CLK63 AMG (quick from a stop and great handling), and a 1964 Chevy Impala lowrider (great for pretending to be in a Snoop Dogg video, but also for smashing into other cars).

As far as the new races go, the developers at Rockstar claim that they've tried to make these new events feel different from the original game by adding more variety in terms of vertical possibility. What that means is that they've attempted to add more jumps, shortcuts, and off-road sections than previously seen. In our experience, the races do feel a bit more adventurous than ones seen before--with a common theme being detours that often veer into the LA River--but this still isn't Burnout Paradise. Cautious driving is still very necessary, considering that there's no quick-respawn when you crash head-on into another car or clip an object that spins you backward.

With freeways like a tangled ball of yarn, you know you're in Los Angeles.
With freeways like a tangled ball of yarn, you know you're in Los Angeles.

If you're still early into the life of illegal street racing, you'll find that the new content integrates into the existing Career mode by interweaving South Central characters and races alongside those found in the original release. But if you're already done, you might be lured back by an additional 250 achievement points and 10 new trophies that come with the premium download. You'll be able to grab it when it's released on March 12.

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