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Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition

Platform(s): PlayStation 2, Xbox
Genre: Racing
Publisher: Take Two
Developer: Rockstar

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PSP Review - 'Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition'

by Agustin on Aug. 6, 2005 @ 3:42 a.m. PDT

Midnight Club 3: Dub Edition is the quintessential racing game for any true aficionado of the automotive and racing lifestyle. Midnight Club 3: Dub Edition is the only game to offer a full range of street vehicle culture including over 50 fully customizable licensed vehicles. The full spectrum includes import tuners, motorcycles and luxury rides all of which are fully customizable in both style and performance. Compete head to head with the best and most stylish racers in 3 of America’s premier cities, Detroit, Atlanta and San Diego, each with multiple living and breathing neighborhoods. Now, through the combination of Rockstar San Diego's technical prowess and DUB's notoriety as the pulse of the automotive lifestyle world, we are poised to once again push the boundaries of speed and style well beyond anything ever seen before in racing game.

Genre: Racing
Publisher: Rockstar Games
Developer: Rockstar Games
Release Date: June 27, 2005

Buy 'MIDNIGHT CLUB 3: Dub Edition': Xbox | PSP | PlayStation 2

Upon the release of Grand Theft Auto III, the media bid its final, belated farewell to the offensive antics of Mortal Kombat and Doom. Sorry, Midway and Id; a new Big Boy is in town: Rockstar Games. Guns, killing, hookers, stealing and more, all rolled into one devious (demonic?) package – finally, the early '90s were no longer the era for uninformed pundits to dredge up. Grand Theft Auto III was so shocking, even those completely unfamiliar with the state of the gaming scene would knowingly cringe at the mention of any single aspect of the game.

This, and a range of other violent romps including two GTA sequels and an especially maniacal title by the name of Manhunt, cemented Rockstar’s reputation as the most controversial videogame developer on the planet. The guys at Rockstar have fielded blame for everything from petty theft to multiple murders, all connecting back to the fact that the perpetrators owned the games. Crusading, perhaps opportunistic lawyers (the word “opportunistic” being placed before “lawyer” is a little redundant, is it not?) unleash fresh salvos upon the developer almost on a monthly basis. The Christian right condemns them completely, blames their rise on the doings of Satan.

Now they can’t be all that bad, can they?

Case in point: The Midnight Club series. While based on street racing – yet another illegal activity being emulated in a Rockstar game – each game in the series has sat with a lovely E rating (and will hopefully stay with such ratings, lest a Hot Coffee-style easter egg be ripped from the code by an attention-seeking, hex-editing geek). They bleed with a style reminiscent of the hit film The Fast and the Furious -- although with less crime involved. There are no guns, no merciless killings, no hookers to be slapped, just straightforward arcade racing fun with real-world cars and real-world customizations. The series recently turned 3 with the release of Midnight Club 3: Dub Edition, a coming of age that has been stretched into a near-exact PSP port of the same game.

While the words “exact port” look great on paper, in practice it means “ not really optimized for the PSP in any way, shape or form.” The controls are spot on, and, once it arrives, the gameplay a near-perfect clone of the Xbox and PS2 versions, but players will spend at about a tenth of their time with Dub Edition staring at a two-dimensional wheel graphic slowly spinning, spinning, spinning, giving ample time to chuck one’s PSP straight out the bus window long before the ominous screen gives way to the racing game hidden beneath. Midnight Club 3 plays and looks just like it should, but as a final product, it is simply not a playable portable title.


Yet contrary to popular belief, there is a game hidden behind the loading screen. The experience kicks off with a... well, a loading screen.

Afterwards, a rough-looking Hispanic man gives a basic guide to the directive of the game, pulling players into his universe more than adequately in the process. His tattooed body and raw, almost comical accent are the perfect introduction to the stylish, ultra-urban vibe Rockstar San Diego is trying to push on the player. They succeed fully.

You’ve got your intro. You’re ready to get into your first car, and –

Wait.

There’s that loading screen again.

No matter how many times I see that screen, I never, ever get used to it. I hate to interrupt the “game review experience” here, but it must be done in order to get across how broken Dub Edition is on the PSP. The game intrigues you, impresses you, then runs off into a corner for almost a minute and a half, leaving you feeling cold and yearning for something to do. Perhaps this is the best way for the PSP to work, from a societal standpoint. We’ll all have time to read, enjoy our families, draw, pull out our old Gameboys and play a different videogame... The opportunities opened up by Dub Edition’s rampant loading problems can only help us build a better world in between sessions, right?

I digress. This is a hard game to review, because there is so much complex good, yet so much simplified, easily detectable bad. So for the bulk of this review, I promise to focus on the good – but do not be shocked upon reading the final assessment paragraph, where I will once again sum up the game as the whole product that it is, and knock Rockstar San Diego off their high horse once again.

Midnight Club games are fantastic examples of what a free-roaming racing game should be. Giant, embellished-upon replicas of cities, lush lighting with day and night changes, and complex, constantly tracked traffic patterns are interchangeably the icing and the cake, all being necessary parts of the experience in this game, though largely frivolous when applied to other, probably deeper racing games.

If you’ve played Midnight Club 3 before, then you know what to expect here – exactly what to expect here. Everything, and I mean everything, is perfectly intact, with the only obvious omission being online play, which can be forgiven considering how early in the PSP’s life it is. (At least the console has online games, right?)

Surprisingly, the game not only plays like its console brothers, but has actual improvements in a few areas, namely texture work. This is especially impressive on the PSP, a console so far notorious for downgrading textures quite a bit in comparison with the current generation of games being release on the ‘Box, ‘Cube, and PS2. This is a testament to the tuned focus on detail that most branches of Rockstar are renowned for, and will hopefully continue when Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories hits the PSP this fall.

The only true problem once the gameplay kicks in is the framerate, which occasionally stutters slideshow-style, and quite often hiccups suddenly, dropping the speed of both game and visuals. Perhaps those spruced up textures really were a bit much for Sony’s handheld wonder to handle? Problems are slightly worsened in the multiplayer mode, which is plagued by pop-up and slowdown, but given the five-player limit, compromises must be made to fit a game this demanding on the PSP. Word of advice: Play with five friends only if enough patience can be had from all parties.

Another slight problem lies with the sound settings for the PSP. While not exactly a huge issue, a pair of headphones is required in order to hear the full range of sound present in the game. I would knock the game further for this if not for the fact that the PSP speakers are fairly atrocious on their own anyway, and we should all be using the included headphones when doing just about anything requiring sound on our PSPs. With a huge, multi-genre, completely awesome soundtrack running along with every playable moment of the game, why wouldn’t you want to use your headphones for this one? This, along with every other Rockstar game, is among the best soundtracks available on any console, anywhere. While the PSP gives some surprisingly tough competition in this regard, given its status as a “new console” -- Lumines has one of the best soundtracks of all time -- Dub Edition holds its own deftly.

And here’s that paragraph I was talking about: The Final Assessment. Frankly, Midnight Club 3: Dub Edition is a broken game. The loading screens will take up many hours of your life if any substantial play is put into the game – I kid you not, hours. While the gameplay sandwiched in between is among the very best to be found on the PSP, the load screens honestly are so long that the game feels unfinished, unprofessional, like something meant to be put on demo at a trade show under controlled settings to impress passersby, not a game to pay $50 for and play on the go, like a good PSP game should be able to do. This game is aggravating as a portable release, and would have still been annoying on a standard console. Pretty lighting, tight gameplay, the impressive feeling of carrying a current-gen home console title in your pocket – all of this seems miniscule when the game cannot feasibly be played in a portable setting. Hopefully, Rockstar San Diego have learned their lesson and their next game will pack all the flair without punching the player in the stomach to get there. Perhaps this game should have seen release later in the PSP’s lifespan, during a time when most developers would have a much better hold on the ins and outs of the PSP hardware. As it stands, Midnight Club 3 is a technical curiosity, one release before its time, left to stand next to the limelight it should have been able to bask in.

Score: 6.8/10



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