It’s hard to make a driving game fun. Really it is—I mean, what do you do in a driving game besides jam your foot down on the accelerator and occasionally turn the wheel? But Midnight Club: Los Angeles is going to try its level best to pull it off.
But will it succeed?
Midnight Club: Los Angeles really doesn’t have much in the way of plot—you’re a new street racing soul who’s just hit Los Angeles—a surprisingly realistic Los Angeles– looking to make the big scores. And to that end, you’ll…well…jam your foot down on the accelerator and occasionally turn the wheel. Repeatedly. Over and over and over again.
I know, it’s a graphic oversimplification, but at the root that’s exactly what you’ll be doing. Of course, since what you’re doing is kinda sorta technically criminal…you’ll be doing this in the most underground, often criminal of fashions. You’ll be introduced to the world of illegal Los Angeles street racing by a guy named Booke, who sets up your races via officially licensed T-Mobile Sidekick cell phone. And you’ll eventually get hooked up with a few others, including Karol, who’ll offer you use of a garage as a safehouse; Annie, one of the best drivers in Los Angeles; and Andrew, a young man with a lot more enthusiasm than good sense.
Now, that’s not where this game ends, though—Midnight Club: Los Angeles will make up for its incredibly simplistic game play (like I said, foot, accelerator, wheel turns slightly) by offering you an INCREDIBLY vast array of options. It’s downright unsettling just how many options there are.
First, you’ll be able to, eventually, choose from a whole lineup of cars. Muscle cars, exotic cars (including a Ford, which surprised me…the Ford GT, specifically), something called a “tuner”, which strangely included a PONTIAC, and a motorcycle. Now, once you’ve got your base ride finally settled on, you’ll then be able to launch into a series of options. Everything from paint and body work down to the very floor mats will be available for your selection. No, seriously—you can CUSTOMIZE THE FLOOR MATS.
But there’s a not inconsiderable down side to the whole affair. While you’re given a whole wide field of options—probably too many options for the kind of game you’re playing—you’re going to have to grapple with an intense initial level of difficulty. The car you’ll start with isn’t exactly the best car. The car I wound up with handled like a brick with wings, and trying to win those early races was pretty tough, even at the easiest levels of racing. Traffic got uncomfortably dense in a lot of places, and all I can think is, how am I supposed to win a race when I’ve got all these Sunday drivers and commuters out at Ridiculous O’Clock at night? It doesn’t even make SENSE, seriously.
But still—if you can’t get enough of modifying your car or motorcycle, and are desperate to take it through the streets of a shockingly realistic simulation of Los Angeles, then Midnight Club: Los Angeles is going to be EXACTLY what you’re after. Otherwise, try a rental or take a pass.