In an age where AAA publishers are hoarding massive franchises, it’s rare to see any previously successful IP go a few years later without a new entry or reboot. It’s even weirder to see such a franchise sitting in the dust of a publisher’s catalog for over a decade without being rekindled or sold to fund other projects.However, this is exactly Midnight Club The series, once a staple of any racing game fan’s library, has now found itself in it. forgotten and decayed.
That said, until January 2022, when Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick casually mentioned the series on an investor call announcing the company’s acquisition of Zynga, he listed Midnight Club among Take-Two’s largest list of franchises.
As a fan, I was surprised to learn that Zelnick even knew he had the keys to the Midnight Club in his back pocket. I’m certainly not alone, as the drop in name has sparked a new wave of speculation about the revival of the street racing series, as a job listing has been discovered at Take-Two-owned studio Visual Concepts, looking for a producer job on “an unexplored future”. An announced open world driving game with a major license”.
Getting caught up in the hype, I decided to fire up my PS3 and go back to the latest entry in the series – 2008’s Sun-Drenched Streets Midnight Club: Los Angeles – The goal is to assess whether Midnight Club still has a place in the racing game scene, which has changed a lot since the widespread financial bust and the quiet days of Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl.”
In 2022, the game certainly offers an interesting mid-2000s time capsule, from a car roster made up of Fast and Furious movie props, to a soundtrack featuring Noughties artists and some great productions Implants, like the T-Mobile Sidekick, in-game phones, look more like pagers than modern smartphones.
To me, all of this nostalgic furniture evokes fond memories of my teenage years burning through the game for the first time, demonstrating skills honed in Need for Speed 2. I probably wasn’t good at many other games at the time, but at Midnight Club, I owned the streets, even if – in hindsight – it was only because they didn’t have super-skilled online players.
Compared to modern arcade racers like Forza Horizon 5 and Need for Speed Heat, I had no trouble escaping the harsh realities of online gaming, proving Midnight Club: Los Angeles at its most retro one side. It prioritizes traditional single-player games, a decidedly old-school philosophy that’s a bit refreshing in today’s age of live-service gaming. Sadly, any modern midnight club revival is unlikely to be in the same spirit. Sadly, it’s also unlikely to include any Burnout Paradise-style split-screen multiplayer mode. For better or worse, online multiplayer is mainstream today, and – honestly – I think Midnight Club is a franchise with untapped potential.
Let’s imagine. An open-world map of car clubs of players who compete against each other in a series of races in town, chased by cops outfitted with Need for Speed Hot Pursuit-inspired spike bars, barricades, and an EMP explosive arsenal. Something like that might appeal to the dedicated player base that has made Take-Two’s own GTA Online so lucrative over the past decade. Still, the idea of a new Midnight Club game trying to appeal to an audience similar to GTA Online is ironic.
For many Midnight Club fans, the inclusion of deep car customization into Grand Theft Auto back in 2013 was one of the first signs of trouble for the Midnight Club franchise. After all, if Rockstar (and by extension Take-Two) can leverage one of Midnight Club’s biggest selling points to enhance the profitability of what is already their most profitable franchise, why would they bother investing in another entry for the series? In hindsight, this change had serious ramifications not just for Midnight Club, but for the arcade racing genre as a whole.
When Midnight Club: Los Angeles hit store shelves in 2008, the racing genre was flooded with arcade-style games. In that year alone, Burnout Paradise, Need For Speed Undercover, Racedriver: GRID, and MotorStorm: Pacific Rift were also released — each offering a slightly different iteration of the arcade mode. Of those four franchises, two are basically dead. The other two have had a tumultuous decade, marked by mediocre reboots in the form of Need for Speed (2015) and Grid (2019). Rebooting any kind of game is always risky (for every DOOM or Tomb Raider, there’s a SimCity), and while neither attempt at NFS or GRID ended in too bad a way, both only drew mixed reviews reviews, and largely failed to reignite fan interest.
Meanwhile, GTA Online and Microsoft’s Forza games are taking their place at the top of the coveted arcade racing genre, while other established racing franchises like Gran Turismo are realigning themselves to benefit from a surge in interest in sim racing Benefit – spearheaded by iRacing, Assetto Corsa and rfactor.
Finding a place in the land for the new Midnight Club will undoubtedly be a daunting task, but learning from the mistakes of its surviving contemporaries is imperative if it is to make it happen. For example, when both Need for Speed and GRID prioritized delivering an over-the-top story over good, proper racing gameplay, they both faced backlash from fans. So maybe a grittier, more down-to-earth story about ordinary people seeking adrenaline to break through the brutal monotony of everyday life is the ticket to success — especially since it can offer an alternative to the always optimistic and exaggerated stories . Forza Horizon game.
Speaking of Forza Horizon, I think any ambition to instantly transform Midnight Club into a series akin to the current king of arcade racing should be resisted. While Forza games have achieved mainstream success by being a generalist, offering plenty of shallow experiences rather than focusing on any one area, one of Midnight Club’s main strengths is that it’s always focused on street racing. Originally taken from a real-life Japanese street racing group, the series has won over all its fans with a simple formula that lets you drive a Nissan Skyline with a flashy body kit around busy city blocks , surrounded by the wailing of sirens and ruthlessly chasing some poor punk pink notes.
Midnight Club deserves a reboot now. Maybe it can offer something unique and provide the nitrous oxide necessary to rekindle the once-thriving genre. Or, it might finally prove that the gaming world has evolved from arcade racers full of tribal tattoos and neon lights. Either way, I’d rather find out than keep watching my favorite team sit down and pick up the dust.
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