Version tested: PlayStation 2
From the moment the disc boots, and the flashy titles screech past, one word fizzles at the front of your mind.
It's disappointing, but there's a palpable sense that you know what's coming when you pop a driving game into the drive slot these days. Especially if the game is set in a Californian city of any kind. Desperate, must-have elements that a game that wishes it was San Andreas must have are all present and correct, then: streaming tech, check. Racing around a large city, check. Hip-hop music, yep. A dash of Gangsta 'tude - also present. Heaps of gorgeous vehicular fun? Actually, no. Not this time.
The problem is, this game just isn't much fun at all. Which given that the games it's rushing to copy were occasional amounts of fun, is unforgivable. If you're going to copy a game, at least copy those things that made it a joy to play. Of course, it's not really trying to be a Grand Theft Auto game, because that would be far too much work.
Yet perhaps even more unforgivably, the Rush series has a glorious lineage that was dripping with fun, all of which has been thrown away to try to be like The Game That Every Other Car Game Tries To Be Like. The game's immediate predecessor Rush 2049, whilst having been played by few, was at least admired by those that experienced it five or more years ago. However, all of that magic is gone now, in a derivative and joyless bit of me-too game-making.
LA Rush is, to be fair, an impressively expansive game. Los Angeles gets the polygonal treatment, and Midway has successfully recreated a vast, and occasionally accurate representation of the City that Public Transport forgot. Also, for a small slice of country living, there are a selection of dull roads that lead outside the city.
You play Trikz, the improbably named street racer who's a made man. Unfortunately, in your bigness, you step on the toes of the equally improbable budget supermarket magnate and LA Boz, Lidel, who rains retribution down on you by stealing your collection of lovely cars.
And so, in a final crowning glory of improbability, you must compete to win the various races and missions he's staging to win back your lovely cars, earn some money, and also foment various misogynistic gaming stereotypes by using the money and cars to snap the knicker elastic of gold-digging females, culminating in a conquest of Lidl's mindless flesh-tube, Lana. It's a story about a wronged man, blah blah blah city cars girls blah blah and it's a bit rubbish. It's also, of course, filled with the now de-facto Gangsta gibberish, yo', which for a short while is even nudging the humorous.
The game is no stunner, but it's certainly happily ensconced in a realm of visual competence. There is good dynamic lighting throughout, with impressive specular lighting, reflections and plenty of sunlight and solar flare effects; the evocation of a sunny Californian afternoon is high-quality, and fans of the city should find much to make them happy.
There is good pop-in and draw distance, too. Here, the game puts San Andreas to shame, which is the only time it comes close. The models and textures are simplistic and uninspiring, however, which merely draws attention to the fact that this game is a large, but dull, artifice.
There is a decent selection of different missions. Street Races, naturally; Acquire Races (drive a car from A to B, if it doesn't blow up, it's yours); Retribution Races; Stunt Races; Endurance Races; Cross-town Races and Bonus Races. They sound different, but they don't really feel different.
There are a large number of famous LA Districts here. Navigating through them, the game features a nifty GPS system guiding you to your next destination. Yet, even though on the surface, LA Rush has size and variety on its side, much about the game's design sucks most of the fun out of it.
The men behind the badges, for a start. The Police, The Cops, the Police Cops. Oh my, these people are irritating. What are they here for? They're just flappy insectoid annoyances. They shout inane phrases at you, again and again, flit in the way occasionally, but offer no actual challenge. They seek to anger, but no more. Then, if they arrest you - which is unlikely - you pay a fine, and that's it. Pointless.
The course design is unfortunately also all over the place. There's a random selection of obstacles in the way, but only some are destructible; annoyingly there's no easy way of telling between them. Shortcuts and ramps are scattered around too, in places where they tend to be least useful, and as a result don't play the role that they used to, the role that I desire but this game doesn't deliver.
The single most annoying thing about the racing in this game, however, is the crash cut-scenes. Every time you crash (which in my cack-handed case is painfully often) you get played a long and pretty cut-scene, which (and I can't stress how angry this made me) you can't skip. Yes, it's pretty the first time ("Ooh, look at their shiny particle models. Great."). The second time you're forced to sit through it, you will want to vow revenge on the programmers responsible for the decision.
Musically, it's as expected, bland, generic hip-hop. Again. But this time, it's even more generic. Oh joy. I realise that hip-hop metathematics are currently de rigueur amongst the "unthinking facsimile" game-creation teams, but this music is irritating and forgettable even for the genre. It's only the general audio trickery and tomfoolery from the Pimp My Ride boys at West Coast Customs that prevented me from turning off sound entirely.
LA Rush looks fine, sounds generic and plays irremediably. If you've ever played any of the other Rush games, this game will be a disappointment. If you've ever played San Andreas, this game will be a disappointment. If you've ever played any of the bulging canon of recent Cars-and-Hip-hop games, you'll be disappointed. With so many other, better games that simply provide more fun in the same environs, it's difficult to recommend this game at all.
5 / 10