Xbox 360 Preview

Midnight Club: Los Angeles - South Central DLC

Come and find me in tha Club

The Fast and the Furious has a lot to answer for. It caused Need for Speed to head underground and inspired a whole sub-genre of racing games devoted to pimping out rides ready for a spot of unlawful street racing. It also inadvertently gave rise to Rockstar's Midnight Club series, which has enjoyed some deserved attention as an unadulterated arcade racing experience with all of the tricked out trimmings you could ever want. Midnight Club 3 introduced licensed vehicles and most recently Midnight Club: Los Angeles took the series to a new level, utilising the incredible Rage engine that powered its big sandbox brother, Grand Theft... something.

Inevitably, the game looks amazing and plays rather well too, scoring a highly respectable 82% back in October. So, we're quite excited to see that Rockstar have been busy beavering away on some pretty substantial DLC for the game that will expand the city limits to incorporate an entirely new area for us to explore. The clue is actually in the title - the notorious South Central region of LA is yours to tear up in typical street racer style, sporting huge spoilers, even bigger exhausts and a whole load of garish neon lights should you so fancy.

While the announcement of DLC for Midnight Club: LA may have been eclipsed by another slightly higher profile downloadable episode for GTA IV, there's still plenty in the South Central pack that should pique your interest. Most significantly, South Central expands the overall map - which was pretty expansive to begin with - introducing an area around a third of the size of the original layout. South Central continues in the same vein with locales loosely based upon their real-world counterparts while providing an alternative take on the genuine article. So, where in reality, South Central LA is a run-down ghetto, Midnight Club's take is slightly less so, instead opting for a cleaner version with less of the urban grime and felonious activities save for your own illicit street racing.

As a result of all this added real estate, there are loads of new events to complete using the add-on's nine new vehicles. We went along to Rockstar to get some hands-on time with the game and got to try out a lurid green drop-top Chevy that slid around like Torville and Dean after a massive drunken bender. It's straight out of Boyz N the Hood, riding like Doughboy's pimped car, complete with bouncing suspension. Taking time to get to grips with the rules of the road, we encounter the fuzz a few times and get ourselves arrested on each occasion. Soon we're ready to attempt a race, still in our green nightmare and we inevitably lose spectacularly missing a turn after several nasty head-on crashes. We're not off to a good start.

A few races later and we're trying out a tasty fully customised Range Rover that feels nice and sturdy on the roads, especially after the twitchy handling of the Chevy convertible. Just when we're starting to feel confident however, we somehow manage to roll the 4x4 behemoth, flipping it onto its roof. We're beginning to think that maybe we're not very good at this. Our next race after a shaky start turns into a comfortable victory after using a few shortcuts that are helpfully marked on your radar as light grey lines. Rushing through an abandoned train yard at an eye-watering speed we also hit some ramps to gain some incredible air, shooting over the top of one of our rivals in the process. South Central apparently provides just as many outlandish arcade thrills as the full game.

Finally, we get to break out a proper racing car in the form of the Mercedes CLK63 AMG and boy, do we feel the difference. It's nippy, agile and great fun to drive. Using the technique for boosting past rival racers by using their slipstream, we manage to find our way to a few hard earned victories and even manage to outrun the cops on one occasion. From our sample of just three of the nine new vehicles, we can already see that there's a fair bit of variety in the South Central content. On sale March 12th from the PlayStation Store and Xbox Live Marketplace for around 6.99 GBP and 800 MS points respectively, you get 12 new battle maps, 26 new races, 10 new delivery missions and over 100 new red light races for your money. There are also new music tracks, new decals and new rims as well as full body kits for each of the new vehicles. That's a lot of newness. The area expansion itself is free, adding four new neighbourhoods including Crenshaw and Compton, but if you want to get all of the missions and vehicles, you'll want to pick up the premium download.

As the second of Rockstar's recent major downloadable expansions, the South Central pack is further indication of the company's commitment to extending the shelf life of their games. This and The Lost and Damned could only be the tip of the iceberg in Rockstar's ongoing plans for DLC. Either way, it's nice to see great support for such excellent titles. There'll be a full review on its way soon.

E3 Trailer