| This 3rd installment of the MidnightClub series, is the greatest arcade racer, and “underground” racer, to date. With over 65 customizable, real-world licensed vehicles, ranging from cars to motor-cycles.
In career mode, the game’s an open city racer that has you free roaming around 3 different City’s, looking for different challenges, races and tournaments to compete in. As you complete key races, you earn cash and the game slowly progresses unlocking new vehicles classes, and upgrades/modifications, and new challenges and city tournaments become available as well. (a new addition to the series is ‘circuit racing’, with the side-roads closed off, creating a formal race-track, offering a more traditional style of racing)
Your main hub is a garage in each city, where you keep track of all your vehicles, upgrades, and purchase new vehicles as well.
If you’re already a Midnight Club fan, you know what to expect from the gameplay, fast, intense, blazing arcade racing action, with little attention to real-word physics. With optional power-ups, (Zone, Agro, and Roar) all vehicle class specific power-ups that, although may sound over-the-top, are executed perfectly gameplay-wise, and really add a lot to the races (dare I say; even a bit of “strategy”)
The graphics are a mixed bag, although the detail and overall polish can’t really compare to Gran Turismo 4, it’s still got it own visual style, and the motion blur and screen shake, really help give you that sense of incredible speed. The vehicles themselves look amazing, and have damage modeling. The lighting and reflections are also really well done, giving the game some added polish. Overall, it looks great, but some of the details in the cities, like textures and models of the city traffic around you, are very blocky looking, but the simple looking traffic is understandable when you take into consideration how much this game is throwing at you on screen at once.
The cities are full of dense traffic, and pedestrians are everywhere (who may even stop to look at how sweet your car looks, or crowd around at the end of a race) the cities are also littered with debris, and obstacles you can run through. These subtle effects are small, but you can’t help but notice when the biker racing ahead of you is kicking up newspaper and litter trails behind him, as he zooms through a narrow alley-way. Very nice.
The sound is another area where this game really shines. Everything from the engines purring or roaring, to the “WHOOSH” of a near miss with traffic, to the subtle “whizzing” sound of when you’re traveling at top speeds, is incredible. It all adds up to make for an amazing balls-to-the-walls racing experience. The Soundtrack is also very big, including over 100 licensed songs, ranging from hip-hop, dance-hall (reggae), rock, techno, and drum ‘n’ base. (no matter what your tastes, you’ll find something you like here.)
One thing I miss from Midnight Club 2 is… they removed the AI racer banter. In the previous installment, the characters you raced, exuded just that, character. There were little CG intro scenes before and in-between races, giving a taste of their character and backstory. And during races they would throw insults and threats while racing. Although I found some of it annoying at the time, and most of the dialogue cheesy and stereotypical, I find by not including it, the game loses some of it’s personality, and makes it more of a straight-forward racer with little-to-no story. It’s not a big gripe I have, and I’m sure there a lot of people who are glad that the annoying voice-overs are gone.
Multiplayer is also incredibly fun, with optional split screen, networking or online racing, with a race editor to create and save your own courses (even recreate you’re own drag strips ala’ Need For Speed Underground) and then take them online. There’s a maximum of 8 players online, with a unique migrating hosting system, that always ensures un-interrupted races (so when the host disconnects, the game keeps on going) You can also create or join online racing clubs, keep track of friends with a buddy list, and just show-off your suped-up ride, and compare styles in free-roam online. (there are plenty of other online modes, but I haven’t tried them all yet, and can’t comment on the specific game-modes)
The gameplay and control is what makes Midnight club, Midnight Club. It’s an arcade racer at heart, with easy to handle cars, and really good controls. (that you can completely remap to your liking in the options menu, allowing for manual shifting as well) Even when your blazing at super high speeds, you still feel like you’re in control. Heck, even when you’re in mid-air, you can still have control over your vehicle.
Another negative I have to point out to MC fans, is that the cities are a bit smaller than Midnight Club 2’s, and don’t seem as layered, or multi-storied as before. Of course with all that’s been added this can be over-looked, and compared to other games in the genre, Midnight Club 3 still offers, by-far, the largest and most diverse cities and tracks.
Overall, I think this is a “getting-your-money’s-worth” game. The single player career mode offers plenty of different race types, tournaments and the game represents a wide range of car culture (classic muscle cars, import tuners, sport bikes, choppers, luxury sedans, exotic high-end concept cars, and SUV’s) And even has some hidden easter eggs, in free roam, that lead to unlockables, giving the free-roam an actual purpose as well. And with continually spawning race challenges the game offers a limitless career mode, even after you’ve beat the main tournaments. The game will just keep on going, until you’ve acquired your perfect collection of customized “Dubbed out” vehicles.