The Midnight Club series has been around since the early days of the PS2, and basically is the first to create the street racing genre. If you've played the previous two games, then you have an idea how these games play. Basically, it's racing from checkpoint to checkpoint in open city environements. The last Midnight Club game that was released in 2003 may have clicked with a lot of people, but I really couldn't get myself to really like the game. Yeah, it was fast and had an arcade feel, and it didn't look too bad, but the gameplay was more difficult than I could tolerate, and the open city environments made racing more difficult for me to enjoy. So, if I didn't like the previous game, why do I like this one so much more?
Simply, Midnight Club 3 DUB Edition (MC3) is a much improved game. Yes, the open city enviornments are still there, but at least the design is a little more thought out. But the really big improvement is the fact that the game now features licensed vehicles. The previous games lacked licensed cars, and the ones they provided didn't look that great. But how does having licensed cars make a game better? Well, for one, you'll care about what you drive and what you want to drive later on. Another thing is that, like EA's Need For Speed Underground games, you can customize your vehicle with different body mods and paint styles (and in many cases, the customization is much broader than EA's game). Not only does the car have licensed vehicles, but they're also categorized by tuner, truck/SUV, luxury, muscle, exotic, chopper motorcycles and sport motorcycles. The variety bests EA's racer, as well as other street racers, because not only do you have the variety, but you will HAVE a use for them. And in case if you were wondering what vehicles appear in the game, here's a small sample: the Mitsubishi Eclipse (04) and Evolution VIII, the Cadalliac CTS-V and Escalade, the Lotus Elise and Esprit, the Dodge RAM SRT/10 and Viper, as well as a couple of Lamborghinis. This is just a few of the 40 or so cars offered in the game.
Now I know what you're thinking: "cars don't make the game, gameplay does". And that's true, so let's get into that. MC3 does play pretty similar to previous Midnight Club games that have been released. As I said before, I really didn't take to the open city environments too much in the previous game, so why do I feel different about this one. For one thing, the cities are better designed this time around. The first city you start in is San Diego, which offers many stretches and cleaner turns, and it does feel like a good place to begin. The next city is Atlanta, where the roads become a little more complex, and offer a less sprawled feel like San Diego had, and then the last city you unlock is Detroit. Now even though I feel the flow of the cities are better, I still have a lot of hate and frustration towards some of the races they've designed. Some checkpoints follow a pretty ordered path, but sometimes you'll find abrupt turns, or worse, having to hunt one down through a huge gap between points. The races are found throughout the city, and range from single races, to races with certain locals, to club races and championship races. They also come in the form of ordered, circuit and track races (track races actually have walls and are not open city).
The cars have a better sense of grip and handling than the previous game. In MC2, I felt the cars were a little too nimble, and lacked a sense of weight. MC3 now has a better feeling of weight in the cars, as well as a slightly more realistic approach to handling. Yeah, it still has an arcade feel, but at least they don't feel as twitchy. I do have a problem with how collisions are handled, though. I found myself in quite a few situations where I would hit a wall or a car and to a 180 degree spin in the opposite direction. While the cars feel like they have weight in turns, it doesn't always seem the case in collisions. While racing, the developers have included new "moves" that can help you out. Depending on which type of car you have, you can have access to "zone", which slows down time; "roar", which is a blast of force that tosses traffic and opponents out of your way; and "agro", which will allow you to plow through cars without stalling or spinning around. You would thing that things like this would be a little out of place in this kind of racer, but they're actually very beneficial and an important key to winning.
Visually, MC3 seems to have sold out in some way, and conceed to the style that other street racers such as Need For Speed Underground and Street Racing Syndicate have done by using the "wet road look". While that is there, the game also pulls off some nice, colorful light effects, as well as some pretty cool blur effects when you pass by cars and buildings. In terms of texturing, the game actually looks pretty good, a little better than EA's NFSU games, and also begs the question of why Rockstar San Diego can pull off a large environment with nice textures and effects, but the ones who do the GTA games have problems with color balance and texture quality. The cars look nice, but seem to be a little too shiny for my tastes. Unlike NFSU, though, you can cause physical damage to your car, which is a nice touch. The framerate stays solid most of the time, with noticeable drops only occuring during races that have rain. The sense of speed is excellent, almost to the point that games such as Burnout 3 have achieved.
The sound is excellent. If there is one thing that Rockstar knows how to do, is put together a great soundtrack. While I don't like every song in the game, I appreciate how they dip into many genres, and offer something for everyone. Not only that, they've got some great music in here that I've actually heard of. It keeps getting better, as there are many more song tracks in this game than most other racing games out there, much more than EA pulls out. And if you don't like what you have here, you can use custom soundtracks, which was lacking in the last MC game. In terms off effects, they're really good. The engines are loud and the effect you hear when you pass cars is pretty cool. It would be nice to have the "whoshes" when you pass objects as heard in Burnout 3, but this is still some solid stuff. My only gripe is in the voice acting, which isn't bad, but mired in sterotyping.
What's New In The REMIX Version
For those of you who waited for the price to drop on this one, the wait has paid off. In the re-released Remix version, you'll have access to over 20 new cars, such as the Scion tC, the Chevrolet SS-R and the Dodge Charger SRT/8. On top of that, you get the added "Tokyo Challenge" series, which brings the Tokyo stage from MC2, and adds new races, as well as a refreshed look. The Tokyo Challenge is seperate from the regular career mode, but any money or cars you win in Tokyo can be used in San Diego, Atlanta or Detroit. You'll also get some new music thrown in as well. The overall gameplay hasn't changed, but it adds a lot more to the original package for added value. For those who have an MC3 save on the Xbox, everything you have is transferable in this edition.
I didn't really enjoy Midnight Club 2, simply because it was a frustrating racing expereince. But MC3 really improved much of what was wrong with the last game, and even though this one does provide a deal of frustration sometimes, I still found it addictive and fun. The car selection is pretty good (although where's my Subaru WRX?), the visuals are nice and the music is among the best of any racing game. Not only that, the open environment actually has a use beyond racing, with the Rockstar logos to collect that really echoes the console San Francisco Rush games of the past. Oh, before I forget, let me say that this game is online too. If you like street racing games, or any racing game, this is well worth picking up. If you hated previous entries of the franchise, give this one a try, because it does feel like a much better game. Finally, EA has some serious competition.
Oh, and if you still haven't picked up Midnight Club 3, but are interested in the game, pick up the REMIX version. You'll get a new course, new challenges, extra music, but still have the original game as well. If you already own MC3, it's up to you wether or not having these extras is a value to you, because gameplay wise, it's still the same, just some extra races, challenges and cars are thrown in. This is the "ultimate" version of MC3, and is a steal at $19.99.