Rad racing on the PSP
Lately, it seems the PSP has been neglected by a lot of Western developers, with no significant releases in quite some time. Meanwhile, Rockstar has decided to bring over the latest iteration in its Midnight Club series with Midnight Club L.A. Remix. While I’m not exactly the biggest racing fan, I do enjoy games like Burnout Paradise that give the player the freedom to explore, as opposed to a set list of races you have to do immediately. L.A. Remix retains this theme of gameplay, and more or less seems to represent its current-gen “big brother”, albeit with less content.
Midnight Club’s career mode starts off with a few quick and easy races that have little gameplay hints as you race, and after you complete a few of these more options begin to open up, such as harder opponents, tuning options, and even another area to race in, Tokyo, which is exclusive to the PSP. This is most likely added due to the lack of the full Los Angeles city being available in the portable version, though there’s still a whole lot of city to explore and should satisfy most gamers.
The racing itself in Midnight Club is checkpoint-based, meaning you need to drive through a marker on the road in order to progress. Thankfully, the developers aren’t so stuck up on exactness that you can just pass through the general area and get the checkpoint most of the time. One of the worst things about racing, though, is the frequent amount of load times. While they don’t feel significantly long compared to other PSP games, the load times come far too often, especially when you’re racing in the same place you just drove to start the race in the first place. Obviously due to the large areas, this was the only option for the developers, but it can be quite an annoyance at times. As you get a better reputation and more money by winning races in the career mode, you have more options in the way of cars and parts, a staple of pretty much any street racing game these days.
Controlling your car is easy, and thanks to the customizable controls you won’t have to worry about being stuck with the analog stick if you’re a fan of the dpad for racing like me. . Driving itself has a very aradey feel to it that is fairly generic, but it works well enough that I have no major complaints. There is a good sense of speed that affects how you turn and move around, and when you collide everything slows down in a dramatic fashion.
There are some other modes other than the career mode, including an arcade with a myriad of options, quick race, and local multiplayer. The arcade mode itself sports gametypes for just driving around the city, different races, time trials, and frenzy, with the objective to reach different checkpoints while driving through heavily populated areas and getting random nitro boosts.
L.A. Remix has some of the best visuals in a PSP racing game, with amazing model detail on the cars and bikes. The lighting sets the mood just right, from the late night racing to a clear and sunny day near the beach, and a lot of effort went into making the city seem more alive, though there aren’t any pedestrians about. There are sometimes cops about that will chase you down, but outside of that the only other thing that comes between you and the other racers are motorists of the city. Interestringly, things like gas stations are interactive, and if you drive into a pump your car will explode with only minor damage, which is also true for most damage in the game itself. Street lights, gates, and all kinds of other things are destructible as well, which gives the game some personality, something that is lacking in other racers for the PSP.
Without some cool music, this just wouldn’t be a Rockstar game. With a small sampling of everything, you’ll be sure to find at least a few tracks to enjoy in Midnight Club. It is a shame there’s no custom soundtrack option, which was actually included in Rockstar’s GTA games on the PSP, but this is only a minor complaint. The sound effects, however, are one of the most standout parts of the game. The way the wheels screech and the horns honk sound crisp, clean, and above all, realistic.
While it doesn’t really change the genre, even on the PSP, Midnight Club L.A. Remix is a worthy racer for fans of the street racing genre. With all the different options in the arcade mode and the unlockables, it has a lot of replay value, though the lack of online multiplayer is a downside, especially for a game in 2008. Still, even though it’s not the next step in the racing genre, L.A. Remix is a great package and totally worth a look, if not for the great visuals, sound, and presentation, then for the large amount of gameplay and replay value.