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Midnight Club LA Remix

For: PSP

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Product: Midnight Club: LA Remix | Developer: Rockstar London | Publisher: Rockstar Games | Format: PSP | Genre: Racing | Players: 1-4 | Networking: wireless (adhoc) | Version: Europe
 
Midnight Club: LA Remix PSP, thumbnail 1

If you're the type of person who thinks that hatchback cars look great and consider the most amazing modification ever to be installing a 'Woodland Scent' dangling air freshener, then Midnight Club: LA Remix is almost certainly not the game for you. Please leave this review as swiftly as possible using the exits provided.

However, should you possess an insatiable desire to learn more about the nefarious street-racing culture that permeates every urban conurbation on the face of this planet (so the Fast and the Furious films have led us believe, anyway), then there's every chance that Rockstar's latest PSP speed-fest will turn you into the kind of person that will happily sit through an entire episode of Pimp My Ride without at any point thinking "I wouldn't be seen dead driving that embarrassment down the local high street".

As the 'remix' in the title might suggest, this is essentially a downsized port of its 360/PS3 big brother, Midnight Club: Los Angeles. It's the very definition of high concept: you nonchalantly cruise around challenging rival racers to indulge in checkpoint-based dashes through the darkened urban streets in order to earn both money and respect.

Those of you who consider yourselves to be free spirits will be overjoyed to learn that LA Remix doesn't attempt to hem you in with a restrictive race structure; as soon as you've selected your automobile in Career mode (undoubtedly the main focus of the game) you're given free reign to explore the side streets and back alleys of the city that 3.8 million souls call home.

This open-ended approach is initially jarring, but thanks to some handy prompts (delivered via a mobile phone, just like in Rockstar stable mate Grand Theft Auto) it's almost impossible to find yourself at a loose end. By responding to the various messages and calls you receive, it's not long before you're happily skipping from one event to the next, earning cash and boosting your status as you go.

The races themselves come in subtly different forms but essentially stick to the same checkpoint-centric premise. Because you're racing in a living, breathing city, the routes offered are refreshingly chaotic, twisting and turning around the winding network of streets. On-screen markers show the direction of your next checkpoint, and once you've burnt enough rubber to get there another marker magically appears to illustrate where you should be heading next.

Some races require you to hit each checkpoint in the order in which they appear but others simply stipulate that you visit each one in the sequence of your choosing - the obvious caveat being that you have to do so before your rival does, otherwise you come away with nothing.

You'll also be expected to find your own way to the finish line in some of the more testing events - as you might expect this requires a fairly in-depth knowledge of the road layout but thankfully you'll get plenty of chance to familiarise yourself with the surroundings before such races come knocking.

Throwing your ridiculously pimped-up vehicle around night time LA is a breeze thanks to the tight controls. The cars respond quickly to even the most delicate of analogue nub movements and pulling off insane handbrake turns is relatively straightforward – a definite bonus when you consider that navigating the sprawling city streets in a race situation often calls for split-second changes of direction to both avoid oncoming traffic and keep yourself in the lead.

Visually, things have naturally been simplified to fit the experience within the humble PSP hardware, with car models and roadside detail taking a huge hit. Thankfully, the upshot of this sacrifice of definition means is that LA Remix runs at a solid (not to mention silky-smooth) frame rate.

With its unrelenting focus on seat-of-the-pants street racing LA Remix is fun for a while, but its biggest failing is undoubtedly its repetitiveness. Granted, there are a few different race objectives thrown into the mix but the core gameplay isn't anywhere near as varied as it could be. Although two cities are featured (Tokyo being unlocked as your progress) it's hard to honestly tell the difference between them and the change of location doesn't result in a change of gameplay.

Thankfully a much needed nitrous boost is given in the form of some gloriously entertaining multiplayer modes. Although LA Remix only supports local wireless multiplayer, the available options do much to spice up the experience. Furiously racing around the city in a heated session of Capture the Flag is great fun, as is the Tag mode. You can also make use of a myriad of power-up items that push the game closer to the likes of Nintendo's weapon-filled Mario Kart.

The PSP has been blighted with several low-quality console ports that make the mistake of taking their source material and fatally compromising it by removing so many elements that it ultimately ceases to be a faithful recreation. It's encouraging to see that LA Remix manages to buck the trend and retain the adrenaline-fuelled action that has made the rest of the series so enjoyable. Unfortunately, such accuracy means that the game also showcases Midnight Club's regrettable predilection for shallow and repetitive action.

Editor's Note: Sorry about the lack of screenshots. We've asked, but the person responsible for sending them is probably at the Golden Joysticks living it up. Check back soon. 

 
Midnight Club LA Remix
Reviewer photo
Damien McFerran | 31 October 2008
LA Remix is as polished as the bonnet of a freshly-waxed Lamborghini Murcielago and almost as fun to drive thanks to tight controls and enjoyable wheel-to-wheel racing. Sadly though, the ride is ultimately marred by a distinct lack of variation
 
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