Release Date: October 10, 2005
Midway is banking on the theory that racing game fans want a game that combines elements from the genre's top players. Hints of Burnout, Need for Speed Underground, and even Grand Theft Auto (okay, that one's not totally a racing game) run through the veins of Midway's upcoming pimped and juiced arcade-style racer, L.A. Rush. Midway has adopted an open-ended approach for the Rush series, which has become known for its super-floaty physics and liberal doses of shortcuts. WorthPlaying was able spend some time with a preview version of L.A. Rush, a game that is jumping onto the furiously fast bandwagon just a tad late.
Although the only available modes in the preview build were race, cruise, and roam, the heart of the game will be the story mode, where you play as Trickz Lane (2 hip 4 u!), a young man who was raised by foster parents. Trickz (ugh) also became known for high speed joyrides that led to many close calls with the law. Years of outrunning cops helped hone his skills as a street racer. Eventually taking a job in a garage, Trickz was able to delve deeper into the underground racing and tuning scene. The story mode will require you to take on missions in your quest to recover cars that were stolen from you by your street-racing rival, Lidell Rey. While playing through this mode, you can expect to take part in events such as circuit and point-to-point races, a la Need for Speed Underground.
Now, stop snickering about the storyline, because we're going to get into the gameplay. A combination of Burnout, Need for Speed Underground, and Grand Theft Auto has got to be good, right? Judging from the preview version, it's honestly hard to tell how the final product will turn out. Instead of putting you on a relatively linear track against a few other drivers like previous installments, you race around (and sometimes through) open city blocks, much like the racing missions in Grand Theft Auto.
Midway recognized the important role that shortcuts and big jumps have played in the Rush series, and they're doing their best to translate these aspects to a more open-ended racing environment. For example, semi-trailers used for hauling cars are conveniently left on the side of the road for you to ramp off of. Jumps such as these may serve as a shortcut to the next checkpoint and put you ahead of your rivals. Certain jumps trigger cut scenes that show off your car in slow motion, as seen in Grand Theft Auto.
When you're racing against your opponents, you'll have the chance to pick up nitrous boost icons that you can later use to blast yourself into the lead. Traffic plays a larger role in L.A. Rush than in any previous game in the series, so you have to be even more careful when you decide to give your engine that extra juice. If you do end up crashing, depending on how serious the wreck is, you'll be treated to a real-time cut scene of your car and the unsuspecting commuters' cars being flipped and mangled in slow motion.
In the pick-up-and-play cruise mode, you are placed on a linear strip of road, and you have to weave through heavily scripted traffic. The catch is that your cruise control is locked in at a predetermined speed, and if you drop below that speed, it's game over. It's like Speed, sans Keanu and a bomb. Crashing into other cars or driving off the road are the likeliest causes of sub-speed situations. You also have a clock to worry about, as fast times and longer distances are recorded. This mode has an addictive quality to it, and you may find yourself trying to go further and faster over and over, in spite of the simplistic gameplay.
Fans of previous entries San Francisco Rush and San Francisco Rush 2049 may be disappointed with the car physics of this preview version. The big, floaty physics just don't seem to be there. Either that, or the jumps aren't as breathtakingly massive. The fact of the matter is, San Francisco is known for its hilly, jump-friendly streets, and L.A. is not. To be fair, the only available area on this preview disc was Hollywood (lack of) Hills. The final version will sport that area, Santa Monica, South Bay, South Central, and Downtown.
Other features that the final game will supposedly boast are licensed vehicles, including the Nissan Skyline and Dodge Magnum R/T. Speaking of licensed material, car upgrade packages will be done in the name of West Coast Customs, and aftermarket parts will be from real manufacturers such as AEM and Extreme Dimensions. Unfortunately, this preview copy didn't have upgrading available, but it's supposed to play a major role in the game.
Hopefully, Midway takes care of the lackluster graphics before the public release of this game. The sense of speed is quite lacking, and the car models, especially common traffic-going vehicles, are boxy, low-polygon treatments (the actual playable cars are better looking). The reason that the graphics and game speed aren't so hot yet is most likely the result of the processing power it takes to make a living, breathing, open-ended world. Don't expect the crazy speed and sharp graphics of the venerable Burnout 3: Takedown. The soundtrack will feature big-time artists such as Lil' Kim and Twista.
So, L.A. Rush will let you pimp out licensed cars and offer open-ended gameplay like Need for Speed Underground, use mission-based elements like Grand Theft Auto, and sport heavy traffic and spectacular crashes that are reminiscent of the Burnout series. I had a great time with previous Rush entries, but it looks like L.A. Rush may become lost in the shadow of other proven series that share similar gameplay. Sure, it'd be nice to have all of the best arcade racing games melded into one title, but at this point, and keep in mind this is only a preview, L.A. Rush looks like it has a ways to go before it measures up to its influences.
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