Racing to 31 – 31 racing game greats: #7 Midnight Club: Los Angeles (2008)

It’s that time of year again and I find myself racing toward another birthday and to the ripe-old age of 31. In celebration I thought why the hell not have a racing themed countdown – so here we are, down 31 racing games that have defined my enjoyment of the genre over the last 31 years. Enjoy!

MCLA_coverBy Jove I played a hell of a lot of Midnight Club: Los Angeles. For a game that came out in mid-2008, it is truly a testament to how much I enjoyed Rockstar Games’ open-world racer that I was still playing it pretty heavily to keep myself awake during the rather inconveniently time-zoned 2010 FIFA World Cup.  Checking my achievements, its even more telling that the last achievement I got for the game was in December last year.

Perhaps even more important though, is I was able to look past the incessant underground racing ‘tude and American college-boy sass, despite the game trying its absolute hardest to do make me do otherwise.

To put it plainly, Midnight Club: Los Angeles is an open world game, built around an unbelievable racing game.  While being able to cruise around a city that I can only guess resembles Los Angeles is great, it plays only a bit role, with the jostle between heavily tuned and ‘hotted-up’ cars taking centre stage.

Not to take away from the artistry that went into creating the world, because the city truly is a beautiful playground, with a stunning day-night cycle, and some incredible scenery that is almost worthy of an in-game bus tour.  But while its visually stunning, its no more than a backdrop for some tense street races, as you barrel through alley ways and buildings in the city, tear up the steep and windy hills of the rich and famous in Beverly Hills, and weave your way through traffic to edge your nose ahead of your smack-talking opponents.  Who, by the way, are some of the hardest computer-controlled opponents I’ve ever come across.

Oddly, although the races are tense and winning will come less often than you’re used to, I found Midnight Club: Los Angeles‘ pace oddly relaxing.  For me, racing games aren’t relaxing experiences, perching myself on the edge of the lounge and grip with controller to within an inch of its life.  So it was a strange experience having a racing game that I could just lay down, relax, have a few races and, for all intents and purposes, wind-down before bed.

I may never step back into Rockstar Games’ rendition of Los Angeles, but there is something about the game that is a constant pull telling me to put it in for just one race. Which more often than not is where the rather impressive Playstation Portable Midnight Club: Los Angeles Remix comes in.  Okay, maybe just one more race.

Play Midnight Club, or perhaps you have another favourite open-world racer? Let me know in the comments, and be sure to check out past games in the 31 racing game greats countdown below!

#31: Stunt Car Racer   #30: Badlands   #29: RVF Honda  #28: Lotus Esprit Turbo Challenge  #27: Nitro  #26: Super Grand Prix  #25 Super Cars II  #24 Super RC Pro-Am #23 Sega Rally  #22 Wipeout 2097  #21 Micro Machines V3  #20 Gran Turismo #19 Need For Speed: High Stakes  #18 Colin McRae Rally 2.0  #17 Wave Race: Blue Storm #16 Grand Prix Challenge  #15 Project Gotham Racing 2  #14 F-Zero GX  #13 Mashed #12 Burnout 3: Takedown  #11 Ridge Racer  #10 Outrun 2006: Coast 2 Coast #9 Forza Motorsport 2  #8 Motorstorm: Pacific Rift  #7 Midnight Club: Los Angeles  #6 Dirt 2  #5 Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit  #4 Shift 2: Unleashed  #3 Sonic All-Star Racing: Transformed  #2 Forza Horizon  #1 F1 2013: Classic Edition

Midnight Club LA screen