Midnight Club: Los Angeles Discussion
GC 2007: Midnight Club: Los Angeles Preview
One of Rockstar San Diego's goals with the game is to have players racing as often as possible, and to keep them from sifting through menu screens as much as it can. This streamlined presentation looks to work really well at this point as most menu pop-ups aren't separate screens but rather quick notifications that tell you what place you finished in and how much money you earned. You never leave your main view, and a single click of the button removes the menu and you're right back racing.
Starting a dynamic race against an opponent is as simple as flashing your lights in his or her general direction, and then racing them to the starting line. Yep, you read that right. Even getting to the race is a race in Midnight Club: Los Angeles, proof that you'll rarely find yourself just driving around without another car breathing down your tailpipe.
A new concept in Midnight Club: Los Angeles is the use of Reputation Points. You'll earn these just for racing, though the better you place the more you'll earn. Your Reputation Point total will dictate what cars you have at your disposal, which races you can partake in and so on. Whereas in past Midnight Club games it was possible to get stuck if you weren't quite good enough to beat a race or two, the Reputation Point system will ensure that even if you suck behind the wheel you'll be able to progress, albeit slowly. The harder the race you take on, the more you'll earn, so winning one long race may earn you multiple times the Reputation for winning a short sprint, giving you plenty of incentive for taking on the longer and riskier races.
After a race, it's likely that your ride will be all banged up, so you'll want to get it fixed before the next run so that you don't crash out. Instead of having to retreat to your garage to get repaired, a new Quick Fix option will allow you to get your ride integrity back up to 100%, though it won't exactly look pristine. Shoddy paneling and so forth will be used to repair your car, so though you'll be fully protected, you will have to head back to your garage in order to refit it with the right, snazzy-looking parts.
Midnight Club's version of Los Angeles isn't a 100% accurate representation, but rather a "best of" version of the city. Being as the real city isn't exactly designed for racing at 150+mph through downtown (not to mention the traffic), Rockstar San Diego has taken the liberty of tweaking the city's layout to make it as fun as possible. You will, however, be able to deftly navigate the city if you know its actual layout pretty well as it's fairly close to the real design, just not exact.
One rather impressive stat for you is that the size of Los Angeles in the newest game is equal to the size of all three cities in Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition put together. Indeed, it's a large metropolis for racing, and we doubt you'll quickly run out of new areas to explore.
This time around, you won't have to race through the city streets only at night. Midnight Club: Los Angeles features a full day/night cycle replete with a dynamic weather system. Shadows and such will move and stretch as the sun sets, and the skyline will turn a nice, other-worldly orange to reflect LA's clean air. Inclement weather like rain will randomly kick in, forcing you to take things a little more carefully.
Aside from the lighting, the time of day will actually reflect gameplay as traffic patterns will work based on realistic traffic congestion. In the mornings and evenings, traffic will be a little heavier as people travel to and from their Hollywood (read: food service) jobs. There won't be stop-and-go traffic, as that would simply be bad for gameplay in a racing game, but you will need to dodge more vehicles during these hours. So plan on saving those long and hard races for the middle of the night or very early morning . . .
To help you navigate the city, two different map options are available. The first is an in-game overlay that you can pop up on top of your racing screen, allowing you to drive while you keep track of where you're going. You obviously don't want to race like this, but it helps in getting from place to place.
The much cooler and more advanced map is seen through your GPS system. Bringing this up takes you to a full-screen 3D map that accurately displays lights and weather depending on the current situation (it'd be dark but lit with streetlights at night, and clouds will slightly obscure your view when the weather's turned bad). From here, you can pick certain spots or even an individual car you want to race and it'll be marked on your in-game map, and the standard arrow system will help you find said point or car. It's an impressive system.
Perhaps our most favorite part of the demo has to do not with the cars themselves (which we'll get to in a second), but rather the camera options. New to the series is an in-car view that accurately displays each vehicle's dashboard, steering wheel, instrumentation and more. Your driver's hands are in view, and you'll actually see him shift when necessary.
Out of the car, the third-person camera has had a lot of work done to it, and the results are very, very cool. When you take a tight turn and skid around the corner, the camera pans in and to the side of your car, leaving your vehicle on the outer edge of the camera as it swings in towards the center of the screen. It gives the impression that it's barely able to hold on at that speed, and very much looks like what you'd find in a Hollywood chase sequence. Other camera tweaks include a slight shake when you shift to infer the kick of the engine, and a close zoom when you use nitrous or are drafting. It's all very cool stuff.
As for other features, Rockstar told us that online play will indeed be present in the game, though it's keeping mum for now on details behind that. Likewise, customization and motorcycles will both return from the last game, though again, Rockstar is keeping its proverbial lips sealed for the time being on those elements as well.
IGN recently had the chance to speak with Jay Panek, a producer at Rockstar San Diego, and he wasn't afraid to take us under the hood of the game.
IGN: The Midnight Club franchise has been known for its innovations (motorcycles vs. cars, open world trackless racing), what were the motivations for introducing these elements?
Jay: Our main motivation since the birth of the franchise has always been to give the player freedom, and to combine that freedom with an incredible sense of speed. To choose their own path, the vehicles they want to drive, and the races they want to participate in; we wanted to give the player options and choices beyond what was previously offered in racers. This thinking naturally led to including motorcycles, race editors, and vehicle customization; while later influencing the way we laid out the career modes, online play and just about every other decision that has gone into the games. For us, the goal has been to create the perfect racing game - based partly in reality with real world locations, and partially in fantasy, as the game allows you to drive incredibly recklessly.
IGN: What was the original inspiration behind Midnight Club? How did that game come about, and what was it you set out to achieve in that game?
Jay: The inspiration came from a core group of guys that really loved racing games but wanted something more than just racing on tracks. All the racing games out there were boring, with no vibe and generally lacking any imaginative quality. With Midnight Club we wanted to make a game that truly fulfilled the fantasy of driving at incredible speeds, through real 3-D cities. Building in all the fantastical elements of amazing vehicles, intense opponent AI, real life locales and cops, we set out on our mission with Midnight Club Street Racing.
IGN: Is Midnight Club: Los Angeles the game that you'd always intended to create from day one?
Jay: The new consoles are certainly allowing us to create an experience that we couldn't before, but if we were still making the game we envisioned 8 years ago, we'd be doing something wrong. The game is always evolving and you have to be open to that. With every new game you have to challenge the ideas that you've come to hold as truths. Something about Midnight Club: Los Angeles that we are really happy with is that you never leave the world. Going from career to arcade to the race editor to online is all done seamlessly. No backing out to a main menu and suffering through a collection of load screens. We've stuck to the original principles - freedom and speed, and used them to make a game for the high definition era.
IGN: What lessons from work on the previous titles have you applied to the game? In other words, what things have you avoided and what have you worked to highlight?
Jay: This is a great question, because this is exactly how we've progressed through all of the iterations. With each successive game, we're very critical of the previous one. Since the original Midnight Club we've really improved our city design with each new game; not only in terms of graphically, but also to make them feel better for racing. We've placed a lot of effort into the vehicles, how they look and how they handle. A good example of that is when we introduced bikes in Midnight Club 2; we were the first racing game to race bikes versus cars and the reason is simple: it's very tricky to pull off! We've obviously learned a lot since then, and are glad to be able to keep bringing them back and keep improving. Obviously I'm always reluctant to discuss the specifics of how we're doing these things, because there are so many other games trying to do what we do.
IGN: The game looks to exist somewhere between being an arcade racer and a simulation. What sort of experience are you working towards?
Jay: We always aim to make a fun game first and foremost. We've always liked the arcade feeling based in real world environments, but the cars must be great to handle and the driving very responsive. We give you real vehicles in real places, but we let you do some wild stuff. Call us crazy, but this is fun to us. So many racers are stuck in simulation, going 0-60 in 6.2 seconds. Big deal. YOU can do that driving home. Why would I want to do that in a video game too? We give you vehicles and a city that you can have a connection with, something in reality, then we let you do things you just can't do in the real world. Take a jump off a parking garage at 150MPH, land and weave through traffic to the finish line? These are the things we find fun and try to incorporate into our games. The game is meant to be a driving fantasy.
IGN: What we've seen of the game looks to have done away with most of the menus and screens that usually pop up in racing titles. Can you explain how this works to our readers, and how the team has ensured that the player will still always know what they've accomplished and what they're working towards?
There is a lot going on in the city and always plenty for the player to do, so to keep it clear, the player has a mission log that tracks the progress on all missions. For us, doing our utmost to keep you in the game world as long as possible is an important part of the experience.
IGN: The dynamic weather elements look really cool. How much of an effect does weather have on game play?
Jay: Roads are a little slicker when wet, but not enough to be frustrating. For the first time in the history of the franchise there is a 24-hour day/night cycle. Everything from weather to traffic patterns in Midnight Club: Los Angeles change during a 24-hour day. We did discover one way the time of day and weather affected game play that we weren't expecting. The city looks totally different at night than it does in the day. This may seem obvious, but it actually makes a race you've done at night seem brand new, because the visual clues you use at night to hit a shortcut are different. That, with the weather and traffic changing throughout the day, will keep the player on the edge of their seat for a long time.
IGN: In the demo that we were shown, after flashing your headlights at a car to initiate a race, you then raced the car to the starting line, thereby making a single race actually a sequence of two races. Why is this, and how does it work?
Jay: In earlier versions of Midnight Club, we used to have to follow a cruising racer to every race. As I said earlier, we take a critical look at the previous games and try to evolve them for the next iteration; this is one of those things we talked about before that we weren't entirely happy with. After a while, it felt like more of a chore than game play. In Midnight Club 3, we introduced the concept of racing the other racer to the start of the race. This meant the player didn't have to hold back if the other racer hit traffic or something. The player could take any path he wanted. We're back to that freedom thing. With Midnight Club: Los Angeles, we've taken it a step farther. You still race to the starting line, but at any time during that drive, you can flash your lights at the competitor to immediately begin the race. The player isn't tied into these races to the starting line if he doesn't want to do them, but if the player does want to race to the starting line, he is rewarded for his efforts.
IGN: The game's progression now relies on Reputation Points. Can you explain how this setup works?
Jay: With Midnight Club: Los Angeles, we really wanted to make every race count for something. So every race you complete, whether it is in career, arcade or online mode, rewards the player with points. These points drive your progression and unlock things like vehicles, as well as performance and visual customizations. The amount of rep points you earn is entirely up to you. Racers in the city are represented with colored icons on your GPS. These colors represent their difficulty. The more difficult the opponent, the more reputation you earn.
IGN: Why did you choose to base the game in Los Angeles? Why not create a fictional city?
Jay: Los Angeles is an iconic city with a strong street racing culture. It's a great choice for the game. A fictional city would be a lot easier to make, but in the end, it's a fake place that players have no connection to. With Midnight Club: Los Angeles we licensed real places in LA which gives the city even more authenticity. You can spend hours just driving around LA looking at iconic landmarks and finding back alleys to use as shortcuts in races. If you look at the past games, you can see we achieved something similar with Paris, Tokyo, Detroit, and San Diego to name a few, but never with the level of detail and scale that we're able to achieve with Los Angeles.
IGN: Since traffic is dependent upon the time of day, can you skip time to take on harder races in the middle of the night when there will be less traffic?
IGN: Can you spill any of the beans with regards to online play yet?
Jay: The Midnight Club franchise has been a genre-leader in terms of online play since the second game in the series, Midnight Club: Los Angeles looks to continue, and expand upon that tradition. In addition to all the career races being available for online play, we also have Capture the Flag and other battle modes. Like I mentioned earlier, playing online earns you rep points which progresses the player and unlocks more vehicles and parts. Something we noticed with previous Midnight Club titles were the number of people who were just cruising online. They were just getting 8 people in a cruise and messing around. They would call out a race to a landmark somewhere in the city and go. With Midnight Club: Los Angeles, we've expanded on the cruise mode. Now, while in an online cruise session, players can access races, battle modes and the race editor and create races for the group. Everyone in the session can elect to either participate or keep cruising. Those who choose to race are taken to the race start but are still in the same session with those still cruising. This way, you can stay with your friends in a session and you can still do whatever you want. I mentioned the Race Editor. While people are doing whatever they want in cruise, a player can go into the Race Editor, while still in the cruise session with his friends, and make a new race. When he's done, he can post the race to everyone in the cruise session. After a race, everyone is back in cruise and free to do whatever they want.
July 3, 2008 - Rockstar Games, a publishing label of Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc. today announced a new release date for the fourth installment of its critically-acclaimed and genre-defining Midnight Club franchise, Midnight Club: Los Angeles. Set for release on October 7th in North America and October 10th in Europe and developed by series creator Rockstar San Diego, Midnight Club: Los Angeles will give gamers the unprecedented freedom to race through a hyper-realistic LA.
[Edited by SuperSkyline89, 7/30/2008 6:30:54 PM]
July 23, 2008 - It's been a while since our first good look at Midnight Club: Los Angeles - nearly a full year, in fact. Since then, Rockstar San Diego has been set up in the garage and busy putting new finishes on nearly every piece of its latest entry in the highly successful franchise, and our recent hands-on time with the title has proven that the studio's efforts look to have paid off greatly.
Much of what I saw in my latest hands-on time had been revealed to us at our demo last August, but this was my first time getting my hands on the wheel, and as of now, the game drives quite well. When you punch the gas from a standstill, your car will kick and fight to get up to speed, its rear end lurching from side to side as the tires struggle to hug the road. Rockstar San Diego has done a great job in this regard in transferring the feeling of these extremely powerful engines to a plastic controller, perhaps even instilling a bit of fear and respect for the rides as you work to maintain control of the multi-hundred horsepower vehicles.
Once you're up to speed, the controls become both utterly responsive and realistically touchy. If you're in a high-powered exotic ride, like an Aston-Martin Vantage, for example, the car responds immediately to your inputs, but you need to be careful as it's so fast and agile that you can easily push things too far and wind up taking yourself out of the race. It's a great mix of control and chaos.
Seeing the Action Cam in, err, action, is one thing, but it's something else to drive with it. Rather than being stuck directly to your car, with your ride essentially remaining static in the middle of the screen, the Action Cam follows your car on a loose line, bobbing and weaving around the action. It looks like it's taken straight out of a Michael Bay film, minus the terrible dialog and forgettable characters. I prefer to race via the dashboard view, however. Each dashboard in the game is uniquely modeled after the car's real-life counterparts, with working gauges and so forth. The attention to detail here is great and helps give each car that extra bit of something unique to help it stand out from the crowd.
We'd gotten a look at the game's GPS system beforehand, which takes you zooming from an overhead, realtime look at the city straight down into your car, but I saw another sweet use of it this go 'round. After a race is set up, you can head to the GPS and scope out the checkpoints for the race to figure out which route you're going to take. That's cool, but even better is the fact that since the system is running in realtime and in 3D, you can zoom in and around the map, and even change the angle, and look for shortcuts to take in the race. This'll help you learn the ins and outs of the city faster than mulling about on your own and immediately helps level the computer's advantage of having built-in knowledge of LA, which is awesome.
The GPS will also allow you to track down any racer that you've identified in the city. Once you find another racer and flash your lights to begin a one-on-one race, said driver will be added to your GPS and you'll be able to track their whereabouts anywhere in the city. No more having to drive around the city to hunt down opponents - they're all trackable at any time.
A number of elements from previous Midnight Club titles are making their return in Los Angeles, but with cool tweaks. For example, you'll once again have access to special moves, but rather than being pre-assigned on a per-class basis, you'll be able to assign a custom special move to any car you want, including the new EMP move which disables all vehicles in a nearby radius.
The police have also seen a change in their ways. They'll now target anyone caught speeding and generally driving recklessly, including your opponents, which can be to your advantage. They're also dynamic this time around, patrolling the streets and looking for "bad" drivers. Speeding will catch their attention, as will taking a shortcut through private property. Once you're being chased, you can opt to pull over and pay a small fine, or attempt to get away at the risk of a bigger fine, but with a handful of Reputation Points as a reward if you can escape. A cool twist is that even if you pull over, the game is still "live", allowing you to wait until the cop approaches your window before peeling out and giving yourself a head start as he races back to his car.
A number of different race types will be available in the game. Circuit Races will have you hit checkpoints one by one in order, Unordered Races will you have you clear checkpoints in any order you wish, while Freeway Races will pit you against one other car on the current freeway. The cool thing about these races is that it allows you to focus on dodging traffic and beating the other car without having to navigate the city all too much since they're mostly straightaway races. Red Light Racer has you start at a streetlight and race to another spot in the city any way you wish, while Wager Races and Pinkslip Races will have you gambling your cash and car stash away. The list of race types goes on and on - if you can think of an option, it's probably here.
The last bit of the game that I got a look at is Midnight Club: Los Angeles's customization options. Like the previous games in the series, you'll have a ton of parts to tweak and choose from to outfit your car in almost any way you see fit. Performance upgrades allow you to tweak your car's internal bits and improve its handling, speed and whatnot. There's also an interior/exterior bit to the garage that'll allow you to swap out for new hoods, bumpers, spoilers, seats and much, much more. The two upgrades are separate, so you don't have to settle for a specific hood just to edge out a few more horses from your ride.
There's a full vinyl and sticker editor as well, with multiple layers to work with, as well as tons of options for the type of paint (and color, obviously). In other words, there will be tons of options at your disposal for making your car unique.
Midnight Club: Los Angeles is currently slated to ship on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 on October 7th in the US, and October 9th in Europe and the UK. A PSP version entitled Midnight Club: Los Angeles Remix will also hit shelves the same day.
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