Publisher: Rockstar Games
Developer: Rockstar San Diego
Release Date: April 12, 2005
Midnight Club 3: Dub Edition is one of those arcade racers which seems to come along only once in a very long time that is packed so full of content that you won't want to stop playing. The sheer amount of cars, races, and customization options are unmatched, and to be blunt, Midnight Club 3 is the best racer of this generation.
In Career Mode, which is the main part of the game, the player is thrust into the import-tuning world of underground racing. Given just enough money to start out with a car and add a few customized options, you're dropped into the middle of San Diego and tasked with racing to win money and to progress. There are also multiplayer and arcade modes as well, which can utilize races and vehicles that are unlocked in the career mode of the game.
There are several different classes of cars that can be purchased and raced: motorcycles, tuners, luxury, and muscle. There are over 50 licensed vehicles to be found in the game, from Volkswagens to Lamborghinis, and each one has a plethora of customization options that can be utilized to really make the car your own.
When in the garage, you can choose the car that you want to trick out. The standard engine and transmission upgrades are all there, but what really sets this title apart from the rest of the pack are the details that can be applied to each automobile. Neon lights, hydraulics, decals, badges, tinted windows, new taillights, hood scoops, spoilers, front and rear bumpers, rims, paint jobs, it's all here. The sheer amount of customization options almost makes for a game in itself; it's easy to spend 45 minutes tweaking the look of the new car you just bought or won. Designing the look of your car is extremely fun, and adds to the experience immeasurably.
Once you've got your car the way you want it, you head out into the city to race. You have the option to freely roam the city looking for secrets (there are several Rockstar logos hidden throughout each city which unlock something when collected) or just getting the feel for the quirks of the town. Throughout the city are rival vehicles, regular races, tournaments, and races involving certain car types (luxury, motorcycles, etc.) Participating in these races is as simple as driving up to them and pressing the circle button. From here, the game loads up and you begin the race.
There are several different types of races, once you get started. There are circuit races, which involve doing several laps, and there are ordered races, which require you to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible. There are also tournament races that require you to get the fastest lap time in three total laps. Each race requires a different strategy in order to win. For instance, in a circuit race, your nitrous is refilled after each lap, so it's important to choose when to use it on each lap. For the ordered races, you only get a limited amount of nitrous boosts, and then you have to rely on your ability behind the wheel. In the races where you attempt to beat the best lap time, you don't get to use any nitrous at all.
The racing mechanics are really quite good. There's an incredible sense of speed when you're behind the wheel of the car, but not so much that you don't feel in control. The city streets are packed with non-race traffic that you have to avoid, but running into them usually doesn't produce catastrophic results like in Burnout 3. When racing behind one of your rivals, you can trail them and build up a "draft meter," which, when full, allows the player to hit the nitrous button and get a boost of speed, without having to use the nitrous. It's an excellent way to encourage the player when they're out of nitrous and are right behind the first-place car on the home stretch. Fill up that draft meter and pull out to the side, hit the nitrous button, and watch them disappear from your rear view.
One of the other interesting aspects of the game is the special abilities belonging to each class of automobile. There are three different types, called Zone, Agro, and Roar. The Zone ability slows time down, allowing extreme maneuverability and accuracy in driving. The Agro ability turns the car into a runaway train of sorts, and when you run into cars with this ability activated, they fly out of your way while you remain unaffected. The final ability, Roar, sends out a sort of shock wave, blasting cars ahead of you out of your path and allowing you to pass through unscathed. It can be likened to the parting of the Red Sea. Fulfilling certain race requirements, like crashing into other vehicles to build the Agro ability, can fill your meter and allow you to unleash your power. While you can win races without utilizing these tactics, it becomes almost impossible to win without using them later on in the game.
While the game feels easy in the beginning, the difficulty ramps up considerably as you unlock the other cities and progress further into the game. You can travel back and forth between the cities quite easily by going to the moving company garages located in each town. Each city brings with it new challenges and also new and greater rewards. It takes quite a long time to progress through the entire career mode, so you'll definitely get your money's worth out of this game.
Graphically, Midnight Club 3: Dub Edition is quite impressive looking. The customization on the cars all looks unique, and are perfectly shiny and excellent. When your car takes a beating during the races, it smokes and the windows crack and the side panels get all scratched up. The neon lights reflect off the ground, the city looks quite alive with all the traffic, and the car models are almost perfectly like the real thing. The game is beautiful to behold in motion, and it's just exciting to participate in these races and almost feel like you're really there. The only downside about the graphics is that it occasionally slows down, and runs at 30 frames per second instead of a much smoother 60. This is a minor complaint though, and really doesn't do anything to detract from the overall experience.
The game also sounds fantastic, drawing you in even further. The tires screeching, cars wrecking, nitrous burning, engines revving, it's all perfectly real life and it comes together perfectly. The different genres of music are all represented and are not distracting as I expected them to be. You can switch on all the genres, or only listen to a single genre, or turn it off completely. There are some interesting voiceovers in the cut scenes which are also well done, serving not only to make you feel like a member of the underground racing scene, but also as a tutorial when you earn new cars or learn new techniques.
The game is easy to navigate, thanks to clean menus and good help screens. The garage is laid out in an excellent fashion, and it becomes simple to customize your vehicle and to buy new ones. Everything about this game is polished to the highest sheen possible, and it all looks, sounds, and feels like underground racing was meant to be. It's almost overwhelming.
There is an online and offline multiplayer mode as well, helping to add real legs to an already incredibly deep racing game. There are multiple options for multiplayer racing, and it's about as flawless experience as you can expect.
Midnight Club 3: Dub Edition just oozes style and is chock full of substance.
There are literally only a handful of racers released in the past few years that can even come close to the experience that this game provides; the customization, sense of speed, longevity, sound, and graphics all are about as perfect as can be expected. Rockstar has really outdone themselves this time, crafting a great racer that everyone can enjoy.
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