Midnight Club: L.A. Remix Review

Racing games have been a staple in the arcades.  Since the original Pole Position, it wasn’t surprising to see other racing games like Hang-On and OutRun provided alternative gaming experiences.  You could even find a futuristic experience in S.T.U.N. Runner.  The Need for Speed series has been around for a long time, first starting out racing along streets in high-powered cars.  However, there was a set route that the cars used.


Eventually the Need for Speed series started focusing on illegal street racing with the

L.A. Remix looks very impressive on the small screen.  However, it still doesn’t have the horsepower of the current consoles.  There is some aliasing on the cars, and you don’t get the details that you would otherwise see.  Still, there are some nice particle effects like smoke or trails when using the Nitrus or Slip Stream Turbo.


Since L.A. Remix is based off of Los Angeles, Rockstar San Diego has gone the extra mile to make the game look like Los Angeles.  They haven’t recreated Los Angeles exactly, but you can see several landmarks.  I’ve been to Los Angeles a couple of times, so there are a couple of landmarks I recognize.  The most notable for me are Los Angeles Convention Center and the Staples Center, and you can see both.


A lot of your driving occurs at night, since you are racing illegally.  You can see the headlights illuminate the street, with the lights brighter close to the car.


Since the PSP isn’t as powerful, you have that fog that makes it occasionally difficult to see where you need to go or the traffic that you are facing.  The pop-up can make the turns come up faster than what you expect.  Because you need split-second reflexes, this is important.


You don’t see yourself or the other character like in the big console versions, but you get to see their portrait on your Sidekick.  They are black and white photos, so you don’t need to have a large amount of detail.  Sometimes it is hard to determine that you are actually looking at a face.

The music in the game consists of a large number of rap and alternative tracks.  They are all licensed tracks, so there is something that you probably recognize.  However, if there is a track you absolutely can’t stand, you can hit L plus down on the D-pad and move to the next music track.  You can also go the previous track by hitting L plus up on the D-pad.


The engines in the cars are distinct.  You can hear the engines rev up right before the start.  Wheels squeal at the beginning of the race.  When you get enough Slip Stream Turbo built up and hit the jets you hear the wind blowing faster, and when the effect wears off, you hear a slight release from the engine.  When the Nitrous is released, there is a loud bang letting you know that it has kicked in.


There are several characters you interact with, shown on your T-Mobile Sidekick when you get a call from them.  Their voices sound close, but something just seems a tad off.  It’s almost like the voice acting from the Final Fantasy series.

The developers have their work cut out for them when developing a racing game for the PSP.  The PSP doesn’t have any triggers, and the analog nub isn’t in a good position for controlling acceleration and breaking.  Using a button doesn’t feel quite as accurate or precise as using a trigger, but that’s what Rockstar San Diego decided to do. The X button is your accelerator, and Triangle activates your brake.  It’s difficult to drive around the city to a challenge under the speed limit.  I found myself constantly jerking when driving to my next challenge.  However, I feel like there is more control with the X button than the right analog stick in the PS3 version.


As typical with most racing games, the analog nub controls steering.  R is your handbrake to make those quick corners.  Up on your D-pad flashes your headlights to initiate a challenge.  Left, right, and down on the D-pad changes the camera angle.  Square activates your Nitrous and Slip Stream Turbo, while Circle activates your special abilities and power-ups.  Select brings up your GPS map to show where you can go on the map to find your next challenge.

L.A. Remix is an open world racer where you start out at the bottom of the food chain.  You are new to the area and you have two goals: to get a fast ride, and to get respect.  You do this by winning races and earning cash.  You start out by buying your first car.  It’s a little beat up, but it does have some quickness to it.  If it makes you feel any better, think of it as the Millennium Falcon on four wheels.


Once you get hooked up with your contact and a set of wheels, you are given some objectives to complete.  Some objectives are specific, such as defeating a specific person in a race or series of races.  Others are to gain a certain amount of reputation points in a certain area.  As you increase your reputation you increase your ranking and you are able to take on more difficult challenges.  If you don’t have a high enough rank, some racers won’t give you the time of day.


When you bring up the GPS, you can see the challenges available to you at that time.  Green are easiest, with yellow and red challenges getting progressively tougher.  Once you decide which challenge to go to, you drive there with a little help from the mini-map in the lower left-hand corner of the screen.  Unfortunately you have to drive to the person heading up the challenge.  At least you don’t have to worry about the cops in L.A. Remix and can get to the next challenge unobstructed as fast as you want to.


As you drive through the campaign you encounter different kinds of races.  Tournament races give points to each racer after each race and the racer with the most points at the end of the tournament wins.  Ordered races have you go through specific points in the city in a specific order.  Circuit races are similar, except that there are multiple laps.  Time trials have you complete laps in a specific vehicle with a specific time to beat.  Red light races start from the nearest red light and end at a landmark on the other side of town.  You may also be required to deliver cars to a specific location or damage a customer’s car that hasn’t paid their bills.


While the game is open-world, there are some things that L.A. Remix fixes that you don’t find in a game like Burnout: Paradise.  For instance, if you want to redo a race in Burnout: Paradise, you have to drive back to the original starting line.  In L.A. Remix, you are asked if you want to restart the race.  However, get used to seeing that screen often.  The rubber-band logic is something you haven’t seen this side of Madden.  The races are challenging and if you don’t drive a perfect line you can find yourself in back with no way to catch back up.


There are a few abilities that will help you get back up to speed.  First of all, you can upgrade your ride at the local garage.  You can not only change the color and overall look of your car, you can change the fender, bumper, hood, spoiler, and other items.  While some of the changes are cosmetic, they help out the performance of your car as well.  There aren’t quite as many options as the console versions, but you should be able to upgrade your car to your liking.


In the race you can do a few things to help you gain speed.  While Nitrous is available to help give you a quick increase in speed, you can get something called Slip Stream Turbo by following behind another racer.  After following behind a racer long enough a gauge fills up and you can activate it.  You can also unlock special abilities through career mode.  You can use Agro to plow through the streets.  When you unlock Zone, it simulates the adrenaline rush of driving as fast speeds.  This makes it feel like time slows down and lets you turn corners more accurately.  Finally, Roar gives out an engine rev that creates sound waves that force cars out of your way.  You charge up these special abilities by driving cleanly.


Los Angeles is a big city to explore, so it will take a while for you to be able to figure out your way around the city.  Once you do though, you can see shortcuts that you might not have seen at first.  These can definitely help you get through the races quicker than if you didn’t have them available to you and can give you the upper hand in finishing first.


You also have several different kinds of vehicles.  Muscle cars have a different feel than exotic cars, which are different than tuner cars.  You also have motorcycles you can acquire as well, and they drive much differently than the cars.


The races are fast and furious, but the stakes aren’t too high most of the time.  With every race you gain rep and some money.  As your car takes damage or cops give you tickets for trying to evade them, it takes away the money you can use for doing upgrades or buying new wheels.  While it can be frustrating to finish races towards the bottom of the pack, you still gain money and rep, so it isn’t like the race was a complete waste of time.  It does mean that if you constantly do that you won’t progress quickly.  Making upgrades to your car as soon as you can helps.  Still, the game difficulty ramps up harder, and the cops quickly become to be a pain that constantly slows down your progress within the game.

The game can take you a while, because of the difficulty and all of the cars you can actually get.  However, there are a lot of races to handle in L.A. Remix.  During the original game, you can gain access to a Tokyo campaign.  You also have a few online options.


You have the ability to play games with up to four players.  You can race several kinds of races, but there are a few games unavailable in the console version.  A few variants of Capture the Flag are available, as well as a version of Tag.  There is something called Paint.  As a car crosses checkpoints, the area gets coded for the color assigned to that car.  When you have a specific amount of checkpoints painted, that car wins.

Ron Burke is the Editor in Chief for Gaming Trend. Currently living in Fort Worth, Texas, Ron is an old-school gamer who enjoys CRPGs, action/adventure, platformers, music games, and has recently gotten into tabletop gaming. Ron is also a fourth degree black belt, with a Master's rank in Matsumura Seito Shōrin-ryū, Moo Duk Kwan Tang Soo Do, Universal Tang Soo Do Alliance, and International Tang Soo Do Federation. He also holds ranks in several other styles in his search to be a well-rounded fighter. Ron has been married to Gaming Trend Editor, Laura Burke, for 21 years. They have three dogs - Pazuzu (Irish Terrier), Atë, and Calliope (both Australian Kelpie/Pit Bull mixes).
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