- Review Price: £30.00
Over the past two or three years things have got pretty crowded in the street racing driving game arena. In fact, since the first Midnight Club appeared, we’ve seen the genre grow in both choice and popularity. But despite this explosion in the virtual tuning and racing universe, there’s one area where Midnight Club blows the its peers out of the water: competition.
Thanks to the open city for the career mode, the excellent visual effects and extensive customisation, there’s a lot more to this game than first meets the eye. But Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition shines brightest when players are aggressively racing past each other in an attempt to give their competitors a good view of that new rear spoiler that they’ve just had fitted, while making good use of the game’s power-ups – the latter often resulting in a memorable moment of shouting and jeering among friends (or enemies).
To add a bit of realism to the proceedings, there are over 50 officially licensed cars, including tuning favourites such as the Misubushi Evolution VIII and Nissan Skyline GTR. But if you want to look a bit different rolling down the strip, you could always go for a Dodge Viper (as long as you’re not planning on going round too many bends) or even a Lotus Elise, just so you can show that Dodge driver that handling can be more important than raw power. OK, so the lineup can’t compare with the 700+ cars at your disposal in Gran Turismo 4, but the point of this game is to create an individual automotive masterpiece, not just nip into the nearest Mercedes showroom.
Just like GT4, MC3 has a thumping soundtrack to drive the action along, and the music licenses must have cost Take-Two as much as the car ones. With the likes of Kasabian (the band that took pride of place on the GT4 opening video), 50 Cent, Sean Paul and Iggy Pop, there should be something there to suit everyone’s musical taste.
There are many aspects of Midnight Club 3 that separate it from the pack and give it a compulsive and competitive atmosphere that’s hard to beat – the multiple routes in the open city give you a liberating sense of freedom, while the blur and sparks that jump from the bodywork when vehicles crash into each other make you cringe at the thought of the damage your pride and joy is taking. Add to this the aggressive nature of the opposing AI drivers when racing against the computer, and you have a single player game that’s a joy to experience while also being tough to crack. It’s not rare to start out a race ahead of the pack only to see a Hummer H2 and a couple of Cadillac Escalades simultaneously overtake you at lightning speed a couple of seconds later, smashing past and even smashing into the rest of the traffic on their way to the next turn signal arrow – it’s like these guys really want to win the race, and they’ll do anything to make sure that you don’t.
As if the foot to the floor, seat of the pants racing isn’t enough, Midnight Club 3 throws in another angle to spice things up a bit – power ups. You start off with a lot of the upgrades you had to earn in Midnight Club II, such as grabbing a speed boost by slipstreaming an opponent, but there’s plenty of new stuff to get your teeth into. Depending on your vehicle type, you can either earn a ramming attack for your “luxury” car that sends opponents and anything else that might get in the way flying in random directions, with the SUV’s you can use a shockwave to cause traffic around you to lose control and move out of your way (I’m not sure that Jeeps really come with this option), and last, for the tuner cars, in true Max Payne style, you can use a pseudo bullet-time slow motion effect, affording you precise handling and control over your car in heavy traffic or corners – just what’s needed to jump up a few places in a tight race.
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.