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reviews >> xbox
Midtown Madness 3

written by Shaun McCracken

Game Information
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Developer: DICE
Year Released: 2003
Players: 1-2
ESRB Rating: Everyone

Visuals 9
The cities are accurately detailed and have the busy and lively look that was missing in the Project Gotham series.
Audio 7.25
Average music, annoying voice acting and a broken custom soundtrack feature. Yay.
Gameplay 8
Not much variety in the mission mode, and the arcade mode isn't long enough. At least the engine is fine..
Replay Value 7.5
The mission mode probably wouldn't take that long to complete for most fans of the genre (provided you don't keep getting lost like I do), and the arcade mode is way too short with no waypoint/course editor like you see in Midnight Club II. Those who plan on going online may find some extra legs in the game.
Reviewer's Impression 7.75
I had more fun just wandering around the large cities smashing into cars than the actual races of the game. I feel that there was just too many missed oppertunities to make this a memorable arcade racer.
Overall 7.75
Your milage may vary on this one. Those who don't plan on going online with this game may just want to give it a rental. It looks nice, and controls fine, but the actual "meat" of the game is just lacking. It's not very addictive, and it's not terribly long, but then again, it's not exactally a terrible game. I'm afraid that maybe most of the focus on gameplay was devoted to the online mode, which pretty much screws 85% of the remaining Xbox owners who aren't online.

The Midtown Madness series always seemed like it would be a perfect fit for a game console. For those who don't know, the first two installments were only found on the PC. This time, the third installment of Midtown Madness appears as a console exclusive on the Xbox. For some reason, though, something seems missing from the start. Yes, there are accurately detailed cities, licensed cars and insane driving. But the first two seemed to be a lot more focused on racing, while this one seems scattered on what it wants to do. Is it an arcade racer or is it a mission-based racer? It doesn't share the same open-ended feeling like Midnight Club II, and that's disappointing to see here, especially when you essentially have two large playgrounds to play on. What is here is half mission-based driving with some arcade races thrown in. On paper, that doesn't sound bad, but the way it's done definitley will disappoint.

As I said above, Midtwon Madness 3 is a game of two halves. Actually, when you toss in the online mode, it's more like three thirds. You have the mission (goal) based driving stages, you have an arcade mode with checkpoint races (with or without opponents), and there's the online mode. That basically sums up the game. The mission mode is pretty much the most unsatisfying part of the game. It's never really inventive with it's goals other than the subject matter. You may have to race against an opponent, against the clock, or deliver items ala Crazy Taxi. What's worse is the that you almost always have to go against another opponent who has to have annoying remarks (that woman in Washington DC is loathesome). There is a bit of redemtion of the game in the arcade mode. Here, you have a choice of free-roam, blitz or checkpoint races. Free-roam just lets you explore the city without any objective. It's kind of fun going around launching your car off jumps and smashing into crap, but it's unfufilling. You'll never accomplish anything because there's nothing to do other than find new paint schemes for your car. The Blitz race is kind of fun, as it's you against the clock to make a mad dash through the checkpoints. Problem is, there's not enough of the races, and they can go pretty quick. The checkpoint race is pretty much stuff I've seen in the past in other racers. You and five CPU opponents clear checkpoints to the finish. Like the Blitz races, there's not enough of them, and they go by fast. It would have been nice to see that ACTUAL racing was the major "meat" of the game rather than an uninspired mission mode. There's also online play via Xbox Live, and from what I've heard from other sites, it does save this game. If I had the chance to go online, perhaps my attitude towards this game may be different.

The engine itself isn't too bad. Here, Digital Illusions serves up two large and accuratley modeled versions of Washington DC and Paris. These models of the two cities are actually better than the ones given in Midnight Club II. But it seems like a waste when there's not a hell of a lot to do when it comes to goals. The handling, while arcadey, is easy to get the hang of, and makes driving fairly easy. See, if the developers would have remembered of that little arcade game San Francisco Rush, and had been influenced by that to come up with over the top racing events, this game would have been a lot better. It really would have filled a void that seems missing in the arcade market. But like I've said through this review, it's a lot of wasted oppertunities.

The visuals of MM3 are pretty good. Most of the textures (actually, all except for the grass) are well detailed and sharp. The car models, quite a few real-world models, look excellent and feature some good damage modelling. The lighting is great. The sense of speed is right on key, and the framerate is smooth. The cities are not empty or vacant, like Project Gotham Racing. The streets are filled with cars, and the sidewalks are lined with pedestrians. Both cities look busy, and that adds a bit to the realisitic look of the game (of course, the game design is far from realistic). The only real problem with the visuals is with the fade-in on the horizon. Some of the buildings a far distance away will fade-in. But seeing how large the city is, it's obvious some sacrifices had to be made.

Where the visuals shine in MM3, the audio falters. While not everything is bad, there are technical problems, most notably with the soundtracks. For some reason, no matter how many songs you have in your custom sountrack, the game has trouble shuffling the songs, or even paying them in order. It seems to get stuck on the last song in your soundtrack, and will just keep playing it over each race. That's a bug that should have been fixed, and for those who like to use custom soundtracks, it's an irritating one. The in-game music is tolerable, but neither memorable or awful. The character voices, however, are annoying as hell. You'll either be listening to an annoying woman who gloats over everything, or a backseat driver with a very stereotypical French accent. You might just want to shut them off.

Final Thought

I wanted to liike Midtown Madness 3. I was happy to see that the once PC franchise had made the jump to home consoles. But when I actually played the game, I was unimpressed by what was done here. The mission mode is boring and irritating with mo real variation. The arcade modes are fun while they last, and it's a mystery as to why they didn't add more events to both race varieties. If you plan on getting this game for the Xbox Live feature, you may be happier than I was playing the game offline. I just saw way too many missed oppertunities for something that could have equaled a great arcade racer. DICE kind of misfired on this one.