A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that the focus of this game is illegal street racing. Players careen through the streets of a realistic looking representation of Los Angeles with little regard for the property damage they cause or the people they narrowly miss running over (the game's makers have made it impossible to actually strike a pedestrian with a car). Parents of new teen drivers might want to consider a recent study which suggests that playing some racing games can increase one's willingness to take risks while driving in real life. Players also engage in virtual gambling activities, wagering money and authentic cars that have been licensed to appear in the game by real-world manufacturers. The language used by characters isn't particularly offensive, but the background music includes lyrics that some people will find objectionable.
What's it about?
MIDNIGHT CLUB: LOS ANGELES, the latest entry in Rockstar Games' eight-year-old street racing franchise, puts players in the shoes of a daredevil driver who slips behind the wheels of customized cars to race through the streets of Los Angeles, from the city's downtown skyscrapers through Hollywood and Beverly Hills all the way to the beaches of Santa Monica. The goal of the game is to increase your driver's reputation and fatten his wallet by winning races so you can buy new rides, trick out the cars you already own, enter more challenging races, and become a street legend.
While the game's illegal street racing action will be a turn off for some players, others will delight in the game's delicious sense of speed and realistic settings. Careening at lethal speeds through the streets of L.A. requires completely focused attention and deft hand/eye coordination; you can't hit pedestrians (the game's makers have seen to that), but you can still crash spectacularly into buildings and other cars. Some races can be very difficult, but as you explore the city you will find no shortage of events and challenges to enter, ranging from simple checkpoint races and tournaments to jobs that require you to deliver vehicles undamaged to your garage's customers or cause damage to the vehicles of those customers who fail to make their payments. You can even create your own race routes in the race editor mode.
Is it any good?
Regardless of one's taste for street racing, it's difficult to fault Midnight Club: Los Angeles for its presentation. The city architecture looks lovely, as do the cars, but the real treat is a dynamic camera that is capable of seamlessly zooming from street level to a bird's eye view of the city in a split second. It's not just eye candy; this trick offers the very practical benefit of providing a clearer perspective of the city's layout and the locations of various goals, all without pulling the player out of the game world. Expect to see this neat feature pop up in other games.
The game's only real downfall is that, despite its thrilling races and undeniably high production values, it can become a little monotonous. Whether you're playing online or locally, behind the wheel of a car or the handlebars of a motorcycle, racing against someone or trying to drive them off the road, everything boils down to driving really fast through the same city over and over again. As complaints go it's not a particularly bad one. Still, unless you have an extraordinary passion for fast driving, your attention will likely start to wane well before you've done everything this lengthy racer has to offer.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the dangers of street racing. Do you have any friends who street race? What is it about this potentially lethal activity that they find appealing? Some municipalities have gone so far as to pass legislation that gives police the right to permanently confiscate the cars and revoke the licenses of drivers they catch street racing. Do you think such measures are an effective deterrent? Why do you think street racing drivers don't choose to pursue a legal form of amateur or professional racing instead?
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.