Rockstar has been giving us looks at the latest entry in its Midnight Club series for a few months now. The newest entry in the franchise, Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition, continues the forward-thinking approach that has kept the series fresh since its debut in 2000 at the PlayStation 2's launch. At the time, the game's unique mix of racing and street racing culture had never been done. Since then, a full-fledged genre has sprouted up around tuner culture and street racing. We recently had the chance to get some hands-on time with a work-in-progress version of the PlayStation 2 game to see what it's got going on under the hood for this year.
You'll find four main modes in the game--career, arcade, cruise, and online--all of which should be familiar to fans of the series. Career is obviously where you'll be earning your name as a racing badass while also working your way toward owning the best ride around. Arcade is a less-pressure-filled tear through the city streets that's more for fun. Cruise mode is a low-key way to both explore the levels and get a feel for them. However, this year's game puts a new twist on it, because it will prove to be a nice showcase for your tricked-out ride. Finally, online is where you'll be busting out your wheels and taking on all comers on the Internet. While all of the modes are being tweaked and expanded to one degree or another, Rockstar isn't spilling the beans on everything just yet.
We tried our hands at the game's racing action with a few races in arcade mode, and we have to report that races will play out in much the same way as previous entries in the series. You simply have to get from the starting point to the finish line before your competition does. How you get there is up to you. Developer Rockstar San Diego has once again crafted a big city-sized sandbox to play in. You'll be able to take advantage of unexpected routes through buildings, in addition to more-traditional shortcuts that are peppered throughout the racing levels. This year's edition aims to feature the highest number of shortcuts yet seen in the series. While many of the shortcuts will be accessible via skillful driving, some of the more spectacular ones will rely on judicious use of your vehicle's nitrous to give it enough of a speed boost to make some of the jumps.
As far as the handling goes, it's no surprise to report that Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition maintains the same type of handling seen in its predecessors. The Midnight Club series has always had an accessible mix of arcade-style handling and physics. The mix lends itself to the game's stylized racing model, which encourages adventurous, high-speed racing and exploration. The end result is a fun game that lets you pull off interesting moves, like getting your car up on two wheels--and allowing you to race that way for short stretches.
Aside from racing around in the game, we were able to get a look at the robust car editor in it, which is just one area where Rockstar's collaboration with DUB Magazine is noticeable. Rockstar got specific input from DUB about which vehicles to include in the game, resulting in the most eclectic roster for the series to date. Aside from the expected selection of tuner cars, you'll find SUVs, pickup trucks, street bikes, custom choppers, and classic cars. And, of course, all cars are licensed, and all cars are destructible. While this is all cool, the partnership really pays off handsomely with regard to the game's impressive car editor. The input from the well-known car-tuning mag has pushed the editor in some new directions, and it's given Rockstar San Diego access to a warehouse's worth of parts and accessories that can be added to your car, including DUB's signature line of rims. The catch is that all the hotness isn't free. If you want to trick out your ride, you better race like a pro and win yourself the cash to make it happen. The new system has the added benefit of ensuring that your ride will be unique when you take it online. The massive amount of potential combinations you can create in the editor ensures that you won't blend in with the crowd. The system also allows you to hang on to cars you feel attached to if you want, which is in direct contrast to the previous games, wherein you pretty much had to ditch the early cars if you wanted to be competitive.
The graphics in the game are coming along at a solid clip, with a high level of detail and polish already on display. The massive cities are impressive and contain arguably the most shortcuts and signs of life--including pedestrians and traffic--the series has ever had. The cars are obviously the stars of the game, and they showcase impressive levels of detail that are best appreciated when you're in the vehicle editor. When you're in the game, the first-person camera (if you choose to use it) and the sheer speed of gameplay makes it a little tough to sit back and smell the graphical roses.
The audio in the game is still shaping up, so while the car sound effects and ambient sounds are in full effect, the game's soundtrack is still a work in progress. We expect that Rockstar will draw on licensed music, as it has in the past, to give the game a unique flavor.
Based on what we've played so far, Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition is coming along fine. The gameplay and graphical improvements, coupled with the input from DUB Magazine, is helping to shape the game up into its own unique animal. Longtime fans of the series, as well as racing fans who are looking for something new, would do well to keep an eye out for the game, which is currently slated to hit the streets early next year on the PlayStation 2 and Xbox. Look for more on the game here in the coming months, but until then, check out our interview with Rockstar and DUB on our media page.