Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition Review
Fans of the franchise will find a lot to like about Midnight Club 3. And those who have never experienced the series would do well to give this entry a try.
- High-energy arcade racing that's never boring
- A superdeep career mode, complete with three full cities to race through
- Excellent online play
- Great visuals, including a dizzying sense of speed
- More than 60 licensed cars and a ton of ways to customize them.
- Occasionally serious frame rate problems, especially on the PS2
- Some of the arcade mode games just aren't all that great
- Voice acting is still pretty hammy; thankfully, there isn't a lot of it.
With the street racing market becoming increasingly flooded with overly commercialized, hokey, and downright stereotypical games, Rockstar's Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition is a welcome offering. You won't find any bikini-clad babes gyrating over the hoods of cars, cellular phone company logos intruding on the scenery, or lame story modes featuring The Fast and the Furious rip-offs. Instead, you'll find a thoroughly entertaining arcade racer with lots of licensed cars, a slew of ways to customize them, and a high volume of various play modes. Sure, it isn't without a few notable gaffes, but all in all, Midnight Club 3 is a deep and enjoyable game that will definitely satisfy fans of the genre.
Like the Midnight Clubs before it, Midnight Club 3 offers up a huge, open-ended city for you to race in. Well, there are actually three cities. You'll begin in San Diego, but you'll eventually be able to open up the cities of Atlanta and Detroit as well. Each city is chock-full of back alleys, hidden shortcuts, and special jumps that you'll be hard pressed to discover until you've spent ample time driving around. Thankfully, the game provides a cruise mode where you can just drive and explore, which isn't nearly as boring as it sounds, because there are also some hidden Rockstar logos strewn about that will earn you goodies when you collect them all. It's also useful to just get familiar with all the nooks and crannies of the city, as knowing your way around is immensely beneficial come race time.
Most of the races in Midnight Club 3 are checkpoint races. These checkpoints are scattered all over the place, and oftentimes there are multiple paths that will take you to each one. Half the challenge of the game is trying to find the best path to each checkpoint. The one problem this methodology does bring up is that it can be quite frustrating the first few times you engage in a particularly challenging race because you won't know where all the required turns and potential obstacles are. This does lead to a fair amount of trial and error that isn't altogether detrimental (especially since using the free-roaming mode does really give you a good idea of how the city is laid out), but it definitely has its annoying moments. Fortunately, there are also point-to-point races and timed races to provide some variety to the action...and they're far less taxing to boot.
Midnight Club 3 is an arcade racer through and through. If you're looking for even a modicum of realism from this game, you might as well forget it. The physics are geared toward big jumps, taking tight corners at ridiculous speeds, big, exaggerated crashes, and frenetic action. The controls are generally tight and easy to pick up, though it will probably take you at least a little time to get accustomed to the different car classes. With more than 60 licensed cars available, there's a lot to choose from, including tuners, muscle cars, trucks and SUVs, motorcycles, and luxury automobiles. H2 Hummers, Cadillac Escalades, Mitsubishi Lancers, '64 Chevy Impalas, and Kawasaki Ninjas are just some of the many vehicles you can race with. Though nearly all the cars are fast and loose, every car type has its own strengths and weaknesses, each of which comes especially in to play with the game's unique special moves system.
Yes, that's right. The cars in Midnight Club 3 actually have special moves. While that might sound a little wacky, it's not quite as bizarre as it sounds. Basically, there are three types of special abilities assigned to the car classes. Big, intimidating cars can use an ability that basically knocks all the traffic around you out of your way; others can use an "agro" ability to inflict extra damage to cars you hit; and the speedier vehicles can use an effect that slows down time, letting you simply maneuver around any traffic that gets in your way. These abilities are handy, though perhaps not quite as well implemented as they could have been. The slow-down ability, for instance, slows down time almost too much, and it doesn't last nearly long enough to really be that useful. Similarly, the intimidation ability the big vehicles use sometimes just doesn't do anything except push the car in front of you farther ahead. Still, when the abilities do work, they're satisfying. And when you couple them with the preexisting nitrous and slipstream speed boosts, things can get pretty crazy.
Perhaps the best thing about Midnight Club 3's racing is that the difficulty never feels artificial. If you wreck once, or even twice, you still have a perfectly solid chance to catch up and win the race, as your opponents are prone to wrecking and spinning out as well. Similarly, if you catch the lead and can avoid wrecking or doing anything stupid, your opponents won't just magically overtake you. This makes the actual racing a lot more satisfying than in the last game, which kills off a lot of previous frustration.
The bulk of the offline racing you'll be doing in Midnight Club 3 will likely be in the robust career mode. You begin with about 20 grand in your pocket and an introduction to a local garage owner, who sets you up with a ride of your choice and an "in" to the underground street racing scene. Make no mistake, if you're looking for some kind of dramatic tale of intrigue or anything involving a lot of interaction with your typically stereotyped street racing characters, you won't find either here. The career mode focuses squarely on the racing, which is a welcome change from the hackneyed attempts at driving game stories that other similar games have tried.
There are multiple types of races to engage in during the career mode, all of which are structured around the basic checkpoint, point-to-point, and time trial races available throughout. Basically, you start by getting together with various hookmen who will challenge you to a short series of races. Impressing them will get you shots at longer series of races with assorted car clubs, each of which revolves around specific car types. So if there's a club that races with nothing but trucks, you'll need to have a truck or an SUV in your collection to participate in the races. While this might seem like a chore, it actually isn't, thanks to a number of tournaments that seem to ever-so-conveniently pop up right around the time a new car club challenges you. In these tournaments, you can win new cars. And they're almost always the precise kinds of car you need to move forward. Apart from all these main races, there are also a number of side races available in each city that don't help your career but do provide you with extra cash. That's good, because you'll need it to fully trick out your whip.