L.A. Rush is the latest in a long line of street racing titles that have sprung up over the last few years. It seems that Publishers just aren’t cool unless they get down with the kiddies and release their own take on the genre, so Midway had no option really. Anyone expecting a modern take on the Rush series will be a little disappointed as L.A. Rush bears little resemblance, and while not devoid of likeable qualities, suffers from a rather uninspiring story mode.
The story mode is where you’ll spend most of your time, and the setup is a decent one. You play Trikz (a fake name if ever I heard one), a renowned L.A. street racer. It just so happens that a race promoter (Lidell) hates Trikz and uses his connections to rob him of his prized cars. The story mode therefore sees you attempting to get back your stolen cars through an awful lot of racing.
Ok, it’s not a brilliant story, but when we’re talking about street racing, there’s a limit to what can be done. It’s a shame, then, that this story is told very poorly. You hardly ever see a cutscene to move things on, with most story development via phone calls from your sidekick (Ty) or Lidell’s woman. It’s not involving at all, and the game becomes about entering one race after another, with no real reason in sight, and little motivation to move on to the next.
The driving model is actually a lot of fun, with a nice arcade feel to the cars, allowing you to move at very high speeds while still maintaining an element of control. The environment is huge and is packed full of insane jump possibilities and fun sections of road to navigate. The streets are jam-packed with traffic, too, and while it’s a great sight to see, they do cause a few too many problems. I found it pretty hard to see traffic in the distance, making traffic dodging much more difficult than in games like Burnout or Midnight Club 3 and they are often too congested to weave in and out of.
When you combine the traffic problem with opponents that have rubber-band AI, every race is a potential disaster. As the game uses money to determine what races you can enter, with wagers needed for all key events, losing a race can effectively void the last few races you took part in. You do have to finish last (out of four) to win nothing, but when ploughing into an oncoming vehicle on the last straight is all that’s needed for your three opponents to fly by, it’s all too easy to throw away money.
This leads to a very un-enjoyable game at times. You can unlock other types of races, but they tend to cost an awful lot to enter, and the risk just isn’t worth it until you have a nice sum of cash in your pocket. Even acquiring your cars costs you money, as you have to drive them back to your crib with Lidell’s maniacal thugs on your tail, attempting to total your ride. By the time you get home you’re left with a steep repair bill.
In an obvious attempt to give the game added appeal, you can drop your car off at West Coast Customs and let them pimp it out for you (at a cost). The problem here is that you have absolutely no say in what happens during the pimping, much like the TV show. This removes any customisation from the game, and puts it a huge step below the likes of Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition, which excelled in the level of customisation you had at your finger tips.
It’s sad the game becomes a chore to play at times, because the overall presentation is pretty damn good. Visually it’s great, with a brilliantly modelled city, a great sense of speed, a huge amount of traffic on the roads and a very solid appearance. In homage to Burnout your car will even start to shake at high speed and crashes are seen via a crash-cam, showing the carnage in blurry slow motion. It runs smoothly, too, with slowdown only occurring during moments where the screen is filled with traffic. It doesn’t have the same glowing, flashy feel of Midnight Club 3, but it beats it on a technical level. Simply driving around the city is good fun; free from the restraints of the story mode you’re able to take in the sights and admire the job the artists have done.
Audio is as you’d expect for a racer of this type, with a selection of hip-hop, techno, and rock, and while not featuring anything to my particular musical tastes, it more than does the job. The voice acting for the main characters is a little suspect, though, with the script being the main culprit. It just isn’t very good, and feels like you’re part of a bad urban soap opera, and not involved with illegal street-racing gangs. Sound effects are all adequate, even featuring the odd comment from pedestrians that amble around the city.
The Story mode will take you some time to get through (helped by the constant steps back you must take to earn money), but once you do complete it, there isn’t an awful lot else to the game. Multiplayer is limited to split-screen and a Quick Race mode simply lets you jump to a section of the city and take part in set challenges. The lack of online play is disappointing as the racing action is enjoyable – it’s the story mode that makes it a chore to play.
L.A. Rush is another Midway game that simply doesn’t live up to its potential. With a great game engine and genuinely enjoyable racing, it’s a shame that the story mode, annoying AI and lack of multiplayer modes prevent the game from being a blast to play. Cruising round L.A. is fun for a while, but you’ll soon get bored.