Midnight Club: LA Remix Review

LA TItle

Title: Midnight Club LA Remix
Developer: Rockstar Games
Game Type: PlayStation Portable
Download: 573 MB
NA Availability: 
Digital Download
EU Availability: Digital Download
PSTV Support: Yes

Diving into more of the games that the PS Vita can play, I am working on fleshing more into genres that the site doesn’t have many reviews for.  This was started this year with our first educational game review with the PS Mobile game, Math Swatter.  I also plan on extending the sports genre later on this year as Ill when MLB 15: The Show releases as a digital download.  With that, I move onto a genre I have very little on, the racing and driving genre.

Taking a look back on the site, I have very few racing games in our reviews.  There are full driving and racers like Need for Speed: Most Wanted and Gran Turismo PSP, which was recently updated to be a direct download in the North America region.  If you include Jaggy Race, I only have 3 reviews for racers off the top of my head.

While I have some Vita-specific racers planned in the future, I have a blast-from-the-past review for you today.  While the Vita doesn’t have a lot of racers, the PSP library has a few good ones as Ill.  As I dive into a game that is compatible with both the PS Vita and the PlayStation TV, here is my official review of the PSP title, Midnight Club: LA Remix.

Story

LA Story

The plot of LA Remix has a similar theme and progression to it as the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions of Midnight Club: Los Angeles.  You’re a newcomer to the city and you look for contacts to hook you up with cars, customization options, and you use these to try to work your reputation up to becoming the top racer of the city.

The story has little differences.  The biggest difference is that there are two different campaigns in the game.  You can do a campaign in a modified version of the Los Angeles map.  Once you’re done with that, though, you can also take the story further by doing a campaign in Tokyo, Japan.  The Tokyo section was not in the full console versions of the game, though they do support a much larger city map than Remix does.

Gameplay

LA Game

Just like the main console release, Midnight Club LA Remix is a 3D open-world racing game.  As you play through the game, you will be driving your car around a large open-world version of Los Angeles while finding races to participate in as well as new cars and customization options to buy with the money you make as you keep racing.

The biggest different with the map from the console release is that it’s a lot smaller.  Instead of taking the entire map that is in the full console release (assuming that was even possible with the PSP hardware), Remix’s version of Los Angeles is based on the version of it that was in one of the previous Midnight Club games.  It’s still pretty large in size, but not nearly as large as the map is if you were playing LA on the PlayStation 3.

Most other things are the same, though, from the characters as well as the selection of cars and motorcycles you can unlock and buy.  As you play through the game, you will have access to nearly 60 different vehicles across both LA and Tokyo.  This isn’t an exact list from the console version, but more of a mix-up of cars taken both from that game as well as Midnight Club II.  Even though it’s not all the same, there are a lot of different cars for you to buy, tune, and drive.

Actual gameplay goes through races as well as throwing in an RPG-like Reputation system.  You can find races on the map as you drive your car around.  They’re marked on your map as well as mini-maps of Green, Yellow, and Red spheres around the cars of the racer you’re set to challenge.  These are also set as difficulty levels, with Green being Easy, Yellow being Medium, and Red being Hard.  You can spawn the races by running up to them and flashing your lights at the driver.

LA Game 2

This is where the Reputation System comes into effect.  Progressing through story requires reputation.  Just as the story suggests, you gain reputation by proving yourself against the other racers in the city.  When you win races, you gain Reputation, along with money that is used to buy cars and tuning.  You can also win Reputation by beating your opponent to the starting line after you flash your lights at them.  Reputation works in levels.  This is where the RPG feel comes into effect.  You will be “grinding” races to get to the higher levels to unlock new races.

Thankfully, races are a lot of fun and this doesn’t seem as grindy as it sounds.  Every race is very fast-paced and intense as you go against the AI.  These races also play like they do in the console games.  As you go through each race, you will follow markers that appear with arrows to tell you where to go.  You can see these markers on the 3D map or in your 2D mini-map.  Following these is key to finishing a race, as if you miss one, the next will not appear and you won’t be able to finish the race.

The races are fast and intense, but there is one thing to note.  The traffic in each race is fixed.  While most racers have random traffic around the races, LA Remix has fixed traffic.  That means the bus that was right in your way on your first attempt will be in the same spot the next attempt.  This makes the races able to be memorized to be easier, but it takes a bit away from the realism.

On top of that, it isn’t the hardest racing game around.  Most of the races are very doable from the start and as long as you tune your cars and buy the better cars, you shouldn’t have an immense amount of trouble.  There are also other power-ups for each car type, like being able to get a slipstream Nitro Boost by following the car in front of you for a few seconds.  This adds a bit to the gameplay, but also makes it a little easier to win races.

All in all, the game has a lot of content.  Each individual campaign should take you several hours, if not more.  With some extensive tuning options for the cars, it should take you even longer if you want to buy and upgrade all of the vehicles available to you, all the way up to unlockable police cruisers for each city.  It’s got a casual feel to it, but there’s a lot to do.

Controls

Controlling the game on the PS Vita isn’t too hard to do.  First of all, the controls won’t use more buttons than you have available on the Vita.  One thing to note is that the R and L button functions are extended to the R2 and L2 buttons if you’re playing on the PlayStation TV.  There’s not a lot to control, but the option is there if you’re more used to the triggers than the R1/L1 buttons.

Controlling your car around the city and races is done with the Left Analog Stick.  You can also move the camera with the D-Pad, which I would recommend redirecting to the Right Analog Stick.  You can also use the D-Pad along with the L button to change the music track that is currently playing.  The X button is used for the gas and Triangle is used for the brakes.  The E-Brake is used by the R button and the Square and Circle buttons are used for Nitro Boosts and Special Abilities.

All in all, it’s not a hard control scheme to learn, though it isn’t quite like many racing control schemes.  If you’re used to the controls of Need for Speed: Most Wanted on the Vita, there will definitely be some adjusting to be had.

Presentation

LA Pres

The presentation of the game is a pretty important part of this, especially since we’re playing this on the Vita.  When you have Midnight Club: LA Remix on the PS Vita or the PlayStation TV, there is some noticeable jagged edges compared to the PSP.  There are a lot of jagged edges on the car models as well as some clipping where parts of your car will go down into the road.  The clipping doesn’t happen often, but the jagged edges and visual degradation is very noticeable.

Another thing is that there is some very noticeable lag and slowdown when you’re in your garage.  When you switch between cars or modes in the Garage, like the Showroom or Tuning options, you will see some noticeable loading sequences as well as lag and frame jumping.  Thankfully, this never happens in races, but it makes using the Garage a bit awkward at times.

If you can handle some visual downgrading, the game actually runs very well during races.  They are fast and smooth all throughout.

Summary

Midnight Club: LA Remix is: Decent
Midnight Club: LA Remix is a  fast open-world racer for you to play on your Vita and PSTV.  On the downside, the visual presentation took a major hit on its way to the PS Vita, there is lag in the Garage, and the Reputation System’s RPG-like nature makes it very grindy.  On the outside of this is a racer that won’t test your patience, but proves to be a fun experience.

7/10

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