Due to the wealth of special techniques at your disposal, there’s an almost endless variety to how you can play Midnight Club 3. If you want, you can spend an entire race focusing on building up your shockwave meter by doing power-slides, or perhaps you prefer whizzing past oncoming traffic to build your bullet-time (Zone) meter. You could even try your hand at crashing into various lamp posts, cars, post boxes, trees, or pretty much anything else really, to build up your ramming (Agro) meter. Or if you’re a driving purist, you can ignore the power-ups altogether and just race as God intended. The smart play is probably somewhere in between.
Also, because the three new power-ups are linked to specific car types (Tuner, Luxury & SUV), the game encourages you to create a battalion of vehicles that don’t all look and play alike – again adding to the longevity and variety of the game.
The ever popular open city environments are back from the previous versions of Midnight Club, and although it can be difficult to find side routes and shortcuts that are more effective than the most obvious routes, the option is there. This open structure is more important when it comes to one of the best features in the game called “unordered races”. The challenge with unordered races is to hit all the checkpoints in a map, but in any order you choose – not only does this make for a fun blast around the city, but it also adds an element of strategy and planning.
When playing online in multiplayer games, the interface works well and there are plenty of options to keep you busy. From Capture the Flag to Tag mode, there is always a style of race to keep you happy. Although there’s nothing particularly revolutionary on offer, you just can’t beat the feeling of racing against real opponents, or gloating when you dash past the finish line ahead of the pack.
Visually, Midnight Club 3 looks stunning and has a kind of over saturated vibrancy that works perfectly with the vivid spray jobs on the cars. The environment looks great and is well populated with other vehicles and pedestrians (sorry, you can’t run the pedestrians over). Think Grand Theft Auto, but with safety features and more detailed environments. Considering you can go anywhere at any time, this is a great looking game, and sometimes it’s fun enough just cruising around the city.
The competition is fierce in the street racing genre, with Need For Speed Underground 2 and Juiced also vying for your attention. But the third incarnation of Midnight Club is well refined, and brings some solid new features as well as an impressive graphical environment.
I’ve played a lot of driving games, but this is the first time that I’ve actually felt a sense of attachment to my customised car (a good ol’ Lotus Elise), and surely that’s the way that every auto-modder should feel.
If you have a burning need to fit a cold air induction kit, or sports exhaust to your car, but can’t afford either the kit or insurance costs, a street racing game could go some way to satisfying your desire. Not only does Midnight Club 3 let you create fully customised cars, but it also provides you with a variety of different racing environments to try them out in. OK, it’s not Gran Tursimo 4, but it’s not trying to be – Midnight Club 3 is all about fun, and it delivers by the bucket load.