Rockstar stopped by recently with updated copies of the PlayStation 2 and Xbox versions of Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition, the third entry in its street racing series. Besides letting us try our hands at both work-in-progress versions of the game, we were also able to get a look at some of the new moves added to your impressive array of car tricks, as well try out a bit of the single-player game to see how it's changed. Though there's still some work to be done, we're certainly digging the tweaks and additions that Rockstar San Diego has been making to the classic Midnight Club formula.
The single-player game will start you out, as usual, with a serviceable pair of wheels. You'll be given a decent amount of cash and allowed to select from a passable selection of vehicles that are within your budgetary range, which is technically in the area of "po." Thankfully, the game takes some pity on you and eases you into the experience with races that are challenging but not impossible to win, which will earn you the bling you seek. Once that's sorted, you'll interact with the colorful cast and begin your career as a newbie speed demon who's eager to make a name and some money for himself. The game offers just the right amount of handholding for old- and new-timers who need to learn or reacquaint themselves with the control system. Newcomers will be able to watch tutorial sequences that lay out the ins and outs of the mechanics for you, while old-timers can choose to skip the jibber jabber and head out.
When you start, you'll find basically the same move set you had at the end of Midnight Club 2, which should make DUB Edition feel like slipping on a comfortable pair of jeans. You'll once again be able to powerslide, which will let you take hard turns by oversteering and using your emergency brake to drift around corners. When you're in the air during one of the many insane jumps you'll encounter in your races, you'll be able to tilt your vehicle left, right, up, and/or down, which lets you hit the ground running at the best possible angle. Nitrous boosts return, allowing you to tear off at screen-warping speeds, assuming you've invested the money in some nitrous tanks (as you should). Slipstream turbo, an on the fly speed boost you can earn by positioning yourself in your opponent's wake during the race, is also back and is as useful as ever. Adventurous racers with a knack for being showy can once again make use of two-wheel driving, which lets you drive your car as it balances on two wheels. The last returning mechanic, weight transfer, is centered around the motorcycles and offers you precision control over your wheels by letting you lean into turns, perform wheelies, and duck to avoid wind resistance. These are all key elements to performing stoppies.
Whether you're a vet of the series or are new to it, these core moves will serve you well at the outset of Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition, which will give you a few ways to make your way through its three cities of San Diego, Atlantic City, and Detroit. You'll have the option to go through and participate in several different race types to clear enough goals to move on to the next city. A newly improved city map lets you pinpoint where to go and even prompts you with onscreen information to let you know you're near your goal. Each city will have a challenging set of races--such as city, club, and tournament variations--that you'll be able to compete in to win money and get some props from your fellow racers. Once you have enough, you'll be able to head out and take on some new competition.
How you choose to go up against the racing elite is up to you. If there are some competitions you want to avoid, you'll be able to skip them and still move on if you manage to clock in enough time with the others. If you find all the choices intimidating, you'll be able to go through and methodically clear enough goals to progress. This time out, the requirements for moving on have been changed, which frees you from having to buckle down and grind through goals so you can move on. However, if you're more focused on having the coolest-looking and best-running ride around, you'll likely want to earn some cash by getting through as much as you can in each city while lavishing money and parts on your four-wheeled baby.
Pimp Your Ride
Speaking of tricking out your car, Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition offers up a playground for customization fiends that looks to be a great way to kill more than a few hours, as well as encourage you to earn money and unlock hot stuff. You'll get started in your garage, which is where you'll manage your collection of wheels. You'll be able to buy new rides, and you can choose from more than 60 licensed vehicles, including SUVs, imports, high-end tuners, street bikes, choppers, pickup trucks, luxury sedans, and concept cars. Once you start to have a fledgling fleet of wheels, you'll be able to dupe your ride, allowing you to have multiple versions of the same car that you can modify differently. Additionally, you can also sell a car. And finally, the customization feature will let you customize your car however your heart desires (and however your finances allow).
You'll find four shops in the customization option of your garage that let you pimp out one aspect of your car. The performance shops lets you focus on five specific areas of your vehicle: engine, transmission, chassis, tires, and brakes. When tweaking your engine, you'll be able to modify the headers, exhaust, computer, nitrous, supercharger, intake, and even the engine. Transmission will let you tweak the clutch and gear kits. Chassis lets you play around with sway bars, air bags, and suspension. The tires and brake mods are more straightforward, although you can modify them to best suit the race conditions you'll find yourself in. If all this sounds too intimidating, or you just don't feel like sweating over every tweak that you can make, the game features a Knights of the Old Republic-style auto-upgrade option that automatically tricks out your car based on your current level of available funds.
The detail shop puts your focus on the little touches on your car by letting you tweak out license plates, decals, badges, and vinyls. For those players who are sticklers for authenticity, you can choose from different state license plate styles and decide which type of lettering you want on it. Decals add visual flair to the front, rear, and/or side of your car in standard or chrome colors. Badges can be added to the side and rear of the car. Meanwhile, vinyls come in the style and color of your choosing.
The body shop lets you give your wheels a distinct look by focusing on two main areas: body upgrades and wheels. Body upgrades let you modify the front and rear bumpers, as well as side parts, taillights, hoods, chop tops, wheelie bars, mud flaps, spoilers, and exhaust tips. You can use the wheel upgrades to pick out the right rims, tires, and even dimensions of your car's wheels.
Finally, the color shop lets you mess with your car's paint job, window tinting, rims, brake calipers, exhaust, neon, nitrous, trim, and heads-up display. Playing around with the paint job on your car lets you choose from matte, gloss, metallic, and pearlescent paint styles. A color shift option lets you play with sliders to come up with the best-looking hue for your car. Window tinting lets you tweak the color of your car's windows. Rims let you tweak the color and inserts on them. Brake calipers let you pick from different looks for them. Exhaust lets you pick the look of your car's tailpipe. Neon lets you pick the color of neon on your car and whether it flashes. Nitrous lets you add tanks to your car for speed boosts. Trim lets you choose the trim on your car. And finally, HUD lets you modify and customize the look of your heads-up display.
Now, before you sarcastically thank Rockstar for serving up another Midnight Club 2 with some new customization options, let us tell you about the new moves you'll find in Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition, which appear to be poised to make it more than an incremental improvement on its predecessor. As we mentioned, you'll start with the same basic suite of moves you had by the end of Midnight Club 2. While these are cool, they're hardly the only abilities you'll have by the end of Midnight Club 3. As before, you'll unlock some fun stuff as you progress. For Midnight Club 3, Rockstar San Diego has once again opted to take the action to the stylized over-the-top place the series has pioneered in its previous entries with the new agro, roar, and zone moves, which offer some very cool perks to certain vehicles.
All the Right Moves
Agro is a powerful ability that's pretty much what you'd expect from its name. When the move is enabled, you'll gain a new meter on the side of the screen--your agro meter--that will fill as you slam into other cars. When the meter is fully charged, you can trigger your agro power-up, which lasts for a few seconds. The ability turns you into an unstoppable juggernaut who can send anything he hits to one side (while it lasts), which is especially useful when you're about to overtake a foe or need to shake the police. If you want to get strategic with using the agro power-up, you'll find you'll be able to store up to five charges as you race, which you can use whenever you want. As you'd expect, such a powerful ability is reserved for the larger vehicles, such as SUVs, trucks, and luxury sedans.
Roar uses the same basic meter display on the screen, although you'll fill it by powersliding and drifting around corners. Once you fill the meter, you'll be able to unleash a powerful shock wave that pushes vehicles around you. The explosion-like effect is most effective at close range, shunting opponents around like a powerful wind when next to you and offering a respectable shove when they're farther away. The move requires some thought as you drive, because, while it's great on enemies, triggering it at the right time can create wicked bottlenecks on the road that will seriously slow down the opposition. The ability is only an option for fans of muscle cars and choppers.
Finally, zone is a slice of time manipulation for the imports, high-end tuners, and sports bikes that lets you slow down the world around you. To gain the ability, you'll have to race through a competition, risking close calls and collisions with competitors, which will, in turn, fill up the meter on the left side of the screen. When triggered, the move will let you slow down the world around you to a crawl, Matrix-style, allowing you to steer with significantly more accuracy than you would at the breakneck speeds during the heat of a race.
After trying the single-player game and messing around with the new move, we're pleased with where Rockstar San Diego is taking the series. The action is still as fun as its predecessors, but the new features help keep the experience fresh. This is due, in part, to the solid control that makes it easy to work the new moves into your repertoire...once you've opened them.
As far as the visuals and audio go, Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition is shaping up well. The game sports the same stylized look as its predecessors but fleshes it out with a higher level of detail and a healthy dose of style provided by its ties with DUB Magazine. The cities are massive playgrounds that feature nooks and crannies to be exploited as you make your way to your next checkpoint. As the third entry in the series, the visuals also reflect Rockstar San Diego's experience with building visual cues into the world around you that help clue you in to shortcuts. As for how it runs on both platforms, expect higher resolutions and a solid frame rate on the Xbox. This doesn't mean the PlayStation 2 is a slouch in the visual department, because the PS2 version comes very close to its Xbox cousin in looks. There were a few rough spots in our work-in-progress version that revolved around the camera, which can occasionally work itself into an awkward angle and a fluctuating frame rate. However, we expect the camera issue will be dealt with in the weeks before the game ships.
Based on what we've seen, Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition is headed in a positive direction, which bodes well for this third entry in the series. The new moves and features bring a decidedly different flavor to the Midnight Club experience that fits in nicely with what's been done before. If you've been playing the series for a while, Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition should be a fine reason to keep on enjoying it. If you're new to the series, this year's tricked-out version is as good a place as any to get behind the wheel. If Rockstar can buff up the rough performance spots, it should have another gem in its racing crown. Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition is set to ship this April for the PlayStation 2 and Xbox.