First off, just to clear this up from the previous review, if you're connected to Xbox Live, there is now a patch that fixes the broken difficulty problems and makes the game far more accessible.
Open world racing games have come a long way this generation, each trying to out do anothers attempt. Test Drive gave you an entire island in Hawaii, Burnout Paradise gave you a ficticious city which was quite large in its own right and now the newest, Midnight Club LA which faithfully recreates a lot of Santa Monica, Downtown and Beverly Hills.
Racing is pretty straight forward although unmodded cars handle like a boat in the Pacific Ocean but as races are won and your skill level increases in each particular car, parts become available. Modding is pretty straight forward, purchase parts and off you go. No need for mucking around with settings, although plenty of time to make some amazing paintjobs with the custom paint section which is very reminicent of the Forza Motorsport games.
Time of day cycles through the night, rain appearing every few days here and there in different parts of the city which is handled nicely. Puddles appear as you near a rainy area and then the clouds appear darker and the sun disappears. Graphics are beautiful and the amount of city life around is amazing. Freeways are busy, footpaths have lots of pedestrians and of course cops patrol the areas so its not uncommon to get into a police chase mid race.
Overall this is a great arcade racer, a ton of racing modes, times trials, pink slips, wager races and promised new areas released for free on Xbox Live as well as sme great online game modes with friends. Highly recommended (But only if you can get the patch as previously mentioned).