Despite being inferior to the home console version, LA Remix is still an entertaining racing game.
Let’s suppose you’ve just arrived to Los Angeles with a lot of money in your pocket. What would you do? In the case of Midnight Club LA Remix’s main protagonist, the answer is simple: you would buy the fastest car you can afford and challenge some underground racers to participate in illegal tournaments. As you win more races, you receive reputation and money which takes you a bit closer to becoming the best racer in the city. Welcome to Paradise.
Something that immediately caught my attention was the city itself, since Los Angeles is beautifully recreated. Some of the most iconic settings are here, including Sunset Boulevard, Figueroa Street, Chinatown, The Chinese Theater, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica Pier, Mulholland Dr. and Staples Center, to name but a few. The painstaking attention to detail is baffling and if you ever had the chance to visit real-life Los Angeles, you’ll definitely recognize most of the landmarks and icons from each of the different neighborhoods.
Once you finish the “LA Career”, you unlock Tokyo and this portion of the game’s shorter than the first one. Apart from the main campaigns, you can play quick races, arcade more and there are some local multiplayer modes to play with a friend who also owns a PSP. Overall, the game offers enough content to keep you racing for a long time.
So the cities are well crafted and there’s a lot of content, but the core of the game involves racing so let’s focus on that for a minute. Like first-person shooters, most racing games feel generic, but Midnight Club has always felt different to other titles because it includes special abilities you can use while you race. Abilities can only be activated when you act aggressively, drive clean or drift. Usually, using these abilities at the right time is the difference between winning or losing a race, so you need to pay close attention to your competitors to find the perfect time to use the abilities. Some abilities let you crash into cars without taking damage, another one slows down time and my favorite pushes nearby vehicles to the sides of the road.
The game adopts a free-roaming structure, so you usually get to choose which race you want to participate in, you can enter tournaments, you can visit the local garage to purchase new cars or improve the ones you already have and so on. Some tournaments are on a “best out of three basis” and in other ones, the first contender to receive three points wins. There are also traditional races and delivery missions where you have the opportunity to drive some of the rarest cars in the world and deliver them before time runs out to get a large amount of money.
Between races, you can go to the local garage to buy new vehicles (cars and motorcycles) or improve the vehicles you already have. There are dozens of parts to customize your cars and motorcycles with and you also have access to some cosmetic changes. Something I found particularly tedious is that to have access to more missions, the game forced me to play random missions to raise my reputation. This translated into playing a lot of similar races until I got enough money or reputation to unlock more important missions.
Difficulty has always been an issue in Midnight Club games and this entry in the series is no exception. Although Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition Remix was incredibly hard, in LA Remix, the opposite is true. During the first few hours, I found myself winning race after race and I rarely struggled to beat my opponents. To be fair, difficulty does ramp up as you progress through the game, but it seldom feels extremely challenging.
It’s worth mentioning that Midnight Club LA Remix also came out for home consoles (read: PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360) and the PSP version of the game’s different to those. For instance, in the PSP version of the game the police don’t chase you and the only way to get caught is if you crash into police cars and you’re unable to escape from them. Additionally, this recreation of LA is smaller than the one from the home console versions because the city of LA from the PSP version was taken from Midnight Club 2. As a way of compensating this, the developers decided to add a campaign with the city of Tokyo and this content was taken from Midnight Club 3 DUB Edition. Finally, there are no cutscenes and those were replaced by simplistic phone calls where someone (usually a rival) informs you of an upcoming race or tournament.
The PSP version of Midnight Club LA is clearly inferior to the experience of playing the game on home consoles. The lack of content and smaller scope definitely hurt the experience. Nevertheless, Midnight Club LA Remix is still terrific and even if there are some meaningful differences between the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions and the PSP one, LA Remix is still an entertaining racing game.