Midnight Zen: A Midnight Club: Los Angeles review


Posted by Eric on Monday, November 10th, 2008 in Reviews
Midnight Club: Los Angeles

The Midnight Club series has always been a favorite of mine in the racing genre. Los Angeles definitely does the franchise justice. The game is as fast-paced and thrilling as ever, and even tends to bring the borders of reality and simulation even closer; except when it comes to winnings and spending those winnings to upgrade your car. Underground racing games have always left this area far too exaggerated in my opinion, giving you way more than you’d ever expect to win in a real street race and getting to spend it at a parts store where the owner is apparently your bitch.

Since I don’t live in LA I couldn’t tell you as others might that significant landmarks are as easy or as hard to find in the game as they are in real life. From what I can tell, though, it definitely hits the spot when aiming to make the player feel like they are in a real city. Streets and buildings resemble everyday stores and stops, and the navigation screen is something of an eye-opener, bringing a Google Maps-like effect to the player after calling up the map. The traffic on the other hand...not so real. I often found myself easily keeping a steady pace over a buck-fifty on the highways and main streets. Hell, even the back alleys were a bit of a chuckle. Nothing, not even a dumpster, can withstand the sheer rage and madness of a Skyline roaring it’s way.

I’ve read/heard many complaints about the difficulty of the game, and I have to say... QUIT YOUR BITCHING! Rants range from checkpoints becoming difficult to find to the AI having some strange ability to rubber-band back to your general position. Seriously folks? Are we that spoiled with the difficulty curve on video games these days? Go back and play a few rounds of Contra would ya?

For me, this is where Midnight Zen comes to play.

Midnight Zen is simple. When you would normally feel frustrated enough to yell at an incoherent artificial intelligence and claim that it’s cheating, or when trying to take them out only results in taking yourself out, realize one thing: IT’S A RACING GAME. I’d honestly pay you the price of the game to take a fully loaded (and we’re talkin at least $60k) Pontiac Solstice or Nissan Skyline down the streets of LA at wide-open-throttle. When you scrape the side of a building or run down a few light poles I’d ask that you complain as if you were only playing the game; if you’re still breathing that is.

A Mazda RX8 in front of the Hollywood sign

Seriously... shut the fuck up already. You’d probably have a better chance of winning the lottery than surviving that head-on collision you just had with that Coke Truck back there. Yes, the AI is going to pass you. Yes, you can catch up to them just as they did you. Yes, Rubber-banding is a real term. It’s an actual gameplay mechanism in racing games’ AI that helps the computer continue to be a challenge to the player, making the players’ quest to actually keep first place as opposed to just finding the finish line, like in Gran Turismo or Forza. Imagine yourself in the AI’s position. If you were a minute or more behind first place, wouldn’t you hone your senses and skills to catch up and try to make first? Of course you would! If you’ve learned Midnight Zen that is!

The thing about MC:LA is that it really brings nothing new to the underground racing table outside of some new/updated car models, and a more accurate and believable map. Honestly I didn’t play through the entire game, but for the 15+ hours I did play, I can’t imagine the hours required to complete the "story" offering much else other than opening up more exotic classes of cars.

An in-game shot of the interior detail of a Lamborghini
An in-game shot of the interior detail of a Lamborghini

The game is still extremely fun. The motion blur in the graphics, sounds of the exhausts and tire screeching, and camera views, especially the one from behind the wheel, are what sets this game apart from others in the genre like Need for Speed. The bikes of course are another thing that gives this game the edge, though the selection was far too limited as compared to previous titles. Hopefully the guys at Rockstar will continue this genre in the direction it should go, instead of completely over saturating the market with garbage like our buddies at EA! (Hence the reason there’s not much new!)

The Bottom Line: 3.5 (out of 5)

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