L.A. Rush marks the first game in the franchise to come direct to consoles after the arcade-first releases of San Francisco Rush, San Francisco Rush 2049 and San Francisco Rush: The Rock.  Eschewing the futuristic timeline of the previous games, L.A. Rush takes us to present-day Los Angeles where you take the role of Trikz Lane, a young street racer. 


With licenses complete from West Coast Customs, Twista, Rides Magazine, MTV and others, it seemed like the game has all the necessary tie-ins for massive consumer success…or a major flop.  With Pitbull Syndicate behind the developer’s reins, makers of the Test Drive series, odds were hopefully more towards success.


This year’s E3 left me with high hopes for the game, as well as sore ears from Twista’s rapping at the Midway party.  Hopefully the final game will hold onto those hopes while not making my ears quite as sore.

From the moment the first cut scene in L.A. Rush hits, the quality of the graphics is evident.  The colors are bright, the scenery is lushly detailed and the cars are obviously fine-tuned pieces of machinery.  The graphics were nice enough at E3 but they’ve gone and improved them even further.  I would honestly have to say that this game is nearly as pretty as Burnout Revenge. 


There’s no real draw-in or anything that detracts away from the race experience.  Everything looks just about the way it should, and, in fact, considering that Pitbull Syndicate went and mapped sections of Los Angeles for the game, it looks amazingly realistic.


The only real drawback is that during a wreck, some of the shattered pieces of car can be seen to be solid triangles, and not tiny ones.  It dosen’t happen all the time, but it’s quite noticeable when it does.  The other thing is a clipping issue.  You can’t hit pedestrians for one reason or another, but if you’re in a wreck (which slows down time) and a pedestrian is walking towards you, sometimes they’ll walk right through you car, which is quite disconcerting.

Unliked many urban-themed games, L.A. Rush doesn’t limit itself to only the hip-hop genre of music.  While that genre is quite amply represented, especially with Twista being a featured character in the game, there’s two other radio soundtracks, one techno and the last rock.  This adds more music to the game, although there’s always the option of custom soundtracks for those who want their music to be played while they’re racing along.


The voice acting in the game is quite well-done, with Bill Bellamy and Orlando Jones taking up two of the major characters in the game, as well as Twista playing an amped up version of himself and the folks from West Coast Customs showing up.  The other sounds, the cars and everything else all sounds very good as well, and in the case of the cars, really helps to give you the sensation of speed.

There’s not too many ways that you can really screw up the controls in a racing game.  The triggers handle braking and acceleration as does the right analog stick.  The left stick as well as the directional pad controls steering.  Y changes the camera, B is the hand brake, X is your rear view and A is your nitro.  If you want manual transmission, the white and black buttons shift down and up, respectively.  Also, select is your map and start pauses and brings up the menu.


As stated, there’s not too many ways that you can screw up controls in a racing game.  One way, however, is to make them too tight or too loose.  Early on, the controls are extremely loose.  Combine that with a lot of traffic and a high rate of speed and it equals a lot of crashes which ultimately lose races.  What’s even worse is the crashes take upward of 15 to 30 seconds to take place.  It leads to a lot of frustration.

In L.A. Rush, you play Trikz Lane, the young superstar of the underground racing circuit in Los Angeles.  You’ve achieved fame, fortune and glory, along with thirty-five extremely nice vehicles.  While throwing a party at your mansion and giving an interview to Rides magazine, Lidell Rey party-crashes.  One thing leads to another and Trikz makes the mistake of hitting on Lidell’s girlfriend, Lana.  With a major race coming, Trikz and his friend Ty Malix go to train for two weeks.  When they return, they find Trikz’s mansion trashed and all of the cars (including the hummer they drove up in), stolen or repossessed.  All that’s left is one older car which started it all for Trikz.  Now he has to use that car to find and get his cars back and then win Lidell’s two-million dollar race.


The storyline plays out very nicely through phone calls and cutscenes.  It moves along quickly enough and keeps you into the game.  As mentioned before though, the races are a problem, primarily because (other than the first race), they all cost money, and with all the traffic and crashes, it’s not that easy to win starting out.  This also means that you’re redoing races over and over to get enough money to trick out your cars and enter other races.  The fact that you can’t restart a race immediately after if you don’t place high enough is another issue which only serves to remove more money from your bankroll. 


With five sections of Los Angeles to play around in and a good number of races and missions in each, there’s a lot of gameplay to handle, with the game clocking in solidly somewhere between twenty and twenty-five hours, depending on your play style.


Other than the Story mode, there’s also Quick Race, which allows you to race in any of the five districts of Los Angeles in one of five different races:  First is Race, where you merely are trying to win a street race.  The second is Cruise mode, where your speed is locked to a minimum and you can’t go beneath that speed to make your objective.  Next is Mission Mode, which gives you one of the game’s missions, which you must complete to unlock the next mission for play.  There’s Roam mode, which is basically a free roam which can help you explore the city for knowledge in Story mode.  Last there’s Lowrider, which allows you to particpate in High Bounce and Standing Tall events against other cars.


The game supports multiplayer as well against one other player.  It’s rather odd that the game is Xbox Live aware but isn’t online.  It’s more of a minor lack than anything else, although having online, especially for a racing game, would have made it a much better experience in this reviewer’s opinion.

If it wasn’t for the problems with crashes in the game causing so much frustration, this game would easily be worth the fifty dollars that it’s going for.  However, when you throw in the large amounts of traffic in the game and the crashes that can cause, it’s hard to imagine playing through the quick races more than required to explore the game.  The game is long enough that a rental won’t quite do the trick other than letting you know if it’s worth buying or not, which is true for any game, and it’s hard to recommend it for an immediate purchase due to its drawbacks.


Honestly, the game could have used a little more work behind the scenes.  The city is quite large, though, and there’s a lot of cars to unlock, which definitely helps.  It’s just hard to say if that can offset any frustration from the drawbacks in the races themselves.

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