By the time 2009 rolled around, I had got stuck into plenty of racing games. The previously featured GripShift and Excite Truck, Mario Kart on both DS and Wii, Burnout 3 and Revenge, Flatout: Head On, Test Drive Unlimited, and some rather questionable others [Mini Desktop Racing for one]. But no matter what sort of racing it was, I was at least willing to test the game out.
So in comes Rockstar, most recognised for the GTA games. I’d had a little experience with them, though I was always just driving around rather than doing any actual missions. And then I see a game for the PSP. By Rockstar. That’s not GTA. Midnight Club: LA Remix looked to be a GTA focused exclusively on the cars and racing, similar in format to Test Drive Unlimited. It was clear this was to be my next game, and I enjoyed it to the full.
The arcade feel, free-form nature of the progression, the ability to explore Los Angeles freely, a lot of cars to be driving and upgrading, and plenty of races of various types. Later I’d come to know the Remix map was not the full Los Angeles map, but a modified version of the one used in Midnight Club 2. The Tokyo map from Midnight Club 3 was also included in Remix, but while I completed every event within Los Angeles, I don’t think I ever completed everything within Tokyo.
It was the feel of the driving and the exploration that hooked me most, and I’d spend plenty of time just doing that. Police weren’t around in cruise mode on Remix, so I could do so without fear of losing all my money [which is exactly what happened when I first started LA Complete]. When it did come to the racing, I enjoyed all the events, and trying for the first place on all of them.
The cars had boost that could be used and refilled by driving through petrol stations, but there was also the slipstream boost, where a meter would fill the longer you kept within the air of the car in front, which would then light green for just a short while. That could be used for some easy wins if used right. There’s also the three classes of car bringing their abilities with them, with my favourite being the tuner class and its zone ability – slowing down time to make precision easier.
You might be thinking that this is a short one, and you’d be right. But the story is only half done. See, I’d played one half of the game. I’m not talking about completing Tokyo, but experiencing the full game on a console. By this time, I’d already clocked more than 1000 hours into GTA Online – most of which was racing. When it came to finally experiencing the true Midnight Club LA, I noticed several familiarities with the map of Los Santos.
Yes, Los Santos is based on Los Angeles, but it comes down to more than just that. The zoom in and out of the map – while not fully replicated in GTA V – felt familiar. The cars and the handling of them felt familiar. Even the voices of the pedestrians – not featured in the PSP version – sound as familiar as those wandering the streets of Los Santos. It does indeed feel that plenty of things were the inspiration for the world and mechanics of GTA V.
But with GTA V – and specifically GTA Online – also comes the fact that Midnight Club might never be revived. Los Angeles was the last release, back in 2008. Since then, GTA feels to have started including more racing within its missions, and Online having whole content updates full of racing events. Not to mention the race creator, which was also featured in Midnight Club LA, has also been added to with everything those content updates bring. While I’d like another Midnight Club, I can see how it will never return when the GTA series is so much more popular and can bring Rockstar-based racing to the masses.