Midnight Club: LA Remix

November 11, 2008

The PSP is something of a dumping ground for watered-down console ports. Despite the “Remix” in the title, Rockstar’s newest portable edition of Midnight Club is a full-fledged title that doesn’t feel like a trimmed down version of its console brothers. The game feels fast, the locales are detailed and offer varied events on a myriad of courses.

Midnight Club: LA Remix is a checkpoint racer, and that makes sense considering the open-world nature of racing through southern California instead of turning left repeatedly on a NASCAR track. Rockstar does their best to keep things interesting though by varying how the checkpoints are handled. Some events feature a collection of points that can be hit in any order, others play leapfrog with only two points – where you are and where you’re going next, and some events are inspired by the grand prix in that they are three races in one.

One place LA Remix hurts in is load times, which are certain to be a PSP limitation rather than a software one. Controls are tight: steering with the analog nub feels much better than I expected, and the emergency brake is responsive. It needs to be, because you’ll be making last minute turns a lot. Most events take place at night which can make it harder to see your next checkpoint. This makes races more exciting since you’ll constantly have a “don’t want to miss my turn” mentality, but I can’t help but think that it isn’t intentional.

Presentation is top-notch, and Rockstar hits you with it from the starting line. The opening cinematic is breathtaking, the driving and tricks – nitrous bursts, going up on two wheels, etc. – feel organic and rewarding, and the sheer amount of vehicles and deep customization are amazing. Gear heads will have a lot to do here.

Midnight Club: LA Remix is difficult, sometimes a bit too difficult. After the first half-dozen or so races you’ll find yourself needing to repeat most events a number of times. Combine this with the typical “cruise around, find event, take part in event, rinse, repeat” nature of an open-world racer and you’ll find yourself frustrated. Like any good racer, however, LA Remix really gets its longevity from its multiplayer component. Numerous modes like capture the flag and paint (analogous to king of the hill) make sure that racing against real people never gets old, and the breadth of environmental options (day/night, weather, random traffic, etc.) available ensure that no two events need to be exactly the same.

Midnight Club: LA Remix is what a portable racer should be. It’s gorgeous, it’s fast, it offers deep customization, the multiplayer is fun, and the single-player is varied enough that playing alone on a car trip is a great option as well.

Pros: deep customization, fun multiplayer modes

Cons: too many races take place at night

Plays like: Midnight Club: Los Angeles, Burnout Paradise

ESRB: T for Mild Suggestive Themes, Mild Violence, Strong Lyrics – if they won’t be turned away by the difficulty LA Remix is appropriate.

Score: 4/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.