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Midnight Club: Los Angeles Review

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★★★★

When console fans of a certain age gather and discuss the golden age of gaming, the most controversial issue is often how modern games are just too damned easy, and how the structure of contemporary classics such as GTA IV are too forgiving in comparison to the Herculean challenge of nostalgic masterpieces such as Donkey Kong and Mega Man. Yet while it’s true that gamers in 2008 have it easy, crushingly difficult gameplay and uncannily intelligent rivals make Rockstar’s latest venture an arduous challenge, even for racing veterans.

Although the game is brought to life by dazzling graphics, intuitive car handling and a sprawling recreation of Los Angeles that’s a genuine thrill to explore, minor scrapes with rival racers or stationary objects can send your motor into a wild spin, a problem exasperated by the fact AI-controlled vehicles are tough as nails and the smallest of errors can cost you the race. Even worse, while the twisting city streets are packed with short-cuts that allow players to nudge ahead of the pack and can make for heart-burstingly close finishes, using the map during the heat of a race can be irritating as many streets aren’t labelled clearly and it’s often hard to angle the map for the best view of where you’re supposed to go, again spoiling your chances of victory when the end is in sight.

Naturally, many of these problems are irrelevant in the game’s delirious multiplayer mode, which allows you to enjoy the high-octane thrills online without cursing the computer and earns the game an easy four-star score. But if your digital races are purely solo affairs, Midnight Club’s intense difficulty and punishing action is guaranteed to drive even hardened gamers around the twist.

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