If you've played enough of Midnight Club LA, there's a fairly good chance you know the lay of the land. The 'as-close-to-real-life' as it gets recreation of the more famous parts of the City of Angels was handled stunningly by Rockstar San Diego, and while the play area of the game was most certainly not to official Los Angeles scale, the idea the team can introduce areas as DLC ala the new South Central content pack, means Google Maps might need to reassess how punters interact with their awesome technology (only because I'd much prefer to take my own aggressive, fast-paced tour of somewhere like Los Angeles as opposed to just moving a map around).
So what's the skinny? Why should you spend money expanding an already pretty awesome map? Well, the good news here is you don't have to spend
anything to expand your map.
South Central is available as a free download and integrates into your existing game with ease. It expands the game by "one third", according the press release, and adds four new neighbourhoods to the racing fray. What you do
have to pay for is all the trimmings that will make adding South Central even more worth your extra driving time.
For 800 Microsoft Points (around AU$17.00), you get nine new vehicle, just as a start. Among these are the new Lowrider Class (to fit with the South Central theme, hydraulics intact) and SUV Class (replete with Soccer Mum-style Range Rovers).
The Lowrider was the first of the new vehicles I managed to get my hands on, and they definitely do handle very differently. You can feel the low-end weight, and playing jumping jack with the hydraulics is pretty rad (you can even drive with the car fully jacked up). There's also some serious speed with these guys once you get your top-end billowing through the streets. The Range Rovers, on the other hand, are a much slower vehicle, only heaps tougher. Again getting these guys up to a top speed is key, because you'll maintain a more consistent race line thanks to their resilience.
I was also handed the steering wheel (in the shape of an Xbox 360 controller) of the Luxury class Mercedes-Benz CLK63 AMG "Black", and this baby was awesome to drive - responsive, fast and just looked awesome.
Beyond the key new vehicles, here's a quick rundown of just what else to expect in the premium download:
- 26 new races
- 12 new battle maps
- 10 new delivery missions
- 100+ new red light races
- New rims
- New body kits for each new car
- New vinyl pre-sets
- Hydraulics/Airbags unlocked on all new cars
- New music
New music includes a lot of West Coast underground and popular hip hop and rap from the likes of Snoop and the sort of WC cats you'd expect to representing South Central. And representation is the perfect segue to the other stand-out feature for this update; and that's in just how it looks.
The overall visual polish of the game hasn't changed. It still looks like the Midnight Club LA you bought, but the addition of the highly detailed South Central area, replete with low-end housing, massive roads, off-the-track dirt-road shortcuts (around the oil rigs) and scary-looking back alleys, just adds to the new flavor.
Los Angeles, at the best
of times is a pretty ugly place (which I touch in my review
), and while South Central is essentially its lowest point (barring some areas of Downtown), you can't help but marvel at the job Rockstar San Diego did of recreating the infamous area.
From a driving perspective it adds a bit more freedom due to the wider roads and there're also quite a few more shortcuts and shortcut potentials hidden around here. What this does is allows the game to not just feel aesthetically updated, but also strategically, and despite the fact there's still a serious rubber-banding issue here, knowing exactly what shortcuts are going to help you and what solid race lines are going to keep your speed up (specifically in some of the new vehicles) gives the South Central map addition some serious legs as far as initial worth and replayability are concrerned.
The game still plays very much the same, but there's enough subtle variance in a few key areas that serious fans of the game will get a lot out of this DLC pack. All of this also bodes well for the continued growth of Midnight Club LA - who knows, maybe the goal is to eventually release a sequel in San Francisco where the LA DLC updates have actually expanded the map so far, you can drive from one game to another (actually I should patent that idea in case Rockstar read this and make the same decision).
Stay tuned for a full wrap-up review once we've nabbed the content on March 12 when it's released on the Xbox Live Marketplace. In the meantime, our full review of Midnight Club LA can be found here