Midnight Club 3 Reader Review
This is one of those games which I did not buy for a long time. I own it for the PS2, but I just don't get time to use my home consoles anymore - I am sure many of you know what it is like to pay the mortgage, juggle the girlfriend and work, and enjoy all the other leisurely pursuits out there.
So a PSP is a great way to continue playing games during my 50 min commute to work and I had always wanted to go back to MC3. But given that I own the PS2 version and the fact that Eurogamer scored it at 5/10 I could not bring myself to buy it at full price. But thanks to those friendly folk at Game, I found it on offer just before Christmas 06 for £12.99. Bargain I thought, even at £12.99, a game I have wanted to play since Sept 05 has got to be worth it. I even shelved Pro Evo 6 which I had only bought a week before.
Not as bad as Kristan suggests
Let me start by saying that 5/10 is misleading. The UK version which I am playing would seem a much better game than the US version that Kristans reviewed. Maybe Rockstar sorted out some issues, or maybe Kristan and I have completely different views, but for me the loading times and the frame rate concerns are not an issue. Yes the loading times are longer than other PSP titles, but not that much longer than say Wipeout or Pro Evo. The test for you as a gamer is whether you want to play the game enough to have to load in each new race fairly often, rather than a three lap race on Wipeout or a 10 minute game of football. As for frame rate concerns, they have not been an issue at all. I normally play racing in first person view, but for the bikes I use third person and neither seemed to suffer anything similar to what Kirstan suggested. After playing hundreds of races, I can only recall one occasion of stuttering which caused the cars to jitter off the line.
Therefore, the test of whether you like this game or not will be based on the gameplay.
To summarise, the game is set in three cities: San Diego, Detroit and Atlanta. Detroit and Atlanta open up later. Each city has a range of racers and races to play, some of which progress the game, others are just there to play. Races are selected in a sandbox mode by driving up to the smoking flare or racer and flashing you headlights. To progress the game, you must challenge the other street racers and win the race. These racers can be challenged in any vehicle. Some of the other races available can be accessed in any vehicle too, but the trophy races have to be raced in specific vehicle types.
There are 5 main types of vehicles: muscle cars, SUVs, tuners, sports bikes and choppers. Each vehicle has a class type from D (lowest) to A (highest). As you progress the game, different classes open up to buy. The cars are from named manufacturers, so you will recognise the cars on offer. In addition, all the cars can be further modified with body kits, wheels, decals, etc. This the DUB part of the game, which I will come onto later.
In addition to the cities, racers and cars opening up as you progress, early on in your career winning races allows certain 'specials' to be used - Zone, Agro, and Roar. Zone is available for tuners and sports bikes and enables you to slow down time for about 5 seconds to say, take tight corners. Roar is for muscles and choppers and sends a shockwave out from the vehicle throwing other cars out of your way. Both Zone and Roar are gained by power sliding and driving well. Agro on the other hand is crap. It makes the car invincible for a short time to enable you to plough through traffic. However, to gain Agro you have to plough through traffic first, which both slows you down and damages your vehicle.
Great for the ASBOys
The game opens in San Diego and you have relatively small funds to buy your first vehicle from the garage. This is where I agree with Kristan and the car selection is very annoying. As you scroll through the names of vehicles, if you stop for half a second on the car, it will be loaded and come screeching onto the garage floor, the loading takes about 3 or 4 seconds, but given the potential large numbers of cars to go through it can be very annoying. But given that this is not a huge part of the game I can forgive it.
Once you pick your car you can race it or modify it. Modifications early in the game are small, because you don't have any money, so it's best just to race it. But when you start winning money, it is likely that you will be frustrated with the level of your winnings.
The game is a Dub affiliated game and therefore it wants you to modify your car, stick on huge bumpers, fat tyres and the like, but then gives you very little money to do so. What's more, you have to make a decision whether to modify you existing car or sell it and combine it with your winnings to buy a faster car. If you do the latter, you will two thirds of the way through the game before you start to modify your vehicles. Upping the financial rewards would have sorted this out. And allowed you to both modify and buy new faster vehicles.
I have to admit when first playing the game on PS2 I was annoyed with all the mods that can be done. I was of the view that when I want to play a game I want to do just that and not piss around with pointless body kits. But after playing the game for a while, I thought, 'when in Rome', and started messing around with the mods. It was surprisingly fun to do, and I now have some ridiculous looking cars that teenagers with ASBOs would be proud to drive.
Once you play the game proper and get past the basic early races, you really get a good race. Kristan's criticism of the AI is understandable, but when you come across a race that snakes all around the city, jumping over motorways, flying past the front of trams, skirting under 18 wheelers, the AI works perfectly. These races are complete highlights and I have yet to play similar races in any other racer on any other platform. The closest racing that I can think of was playing two player gridlock on the first burnout. It is sheer fun.
With regard the types of races, most are ordered checkpoints, but there are some circuit races thrown in. A real disappointment is the lack of the unordered check point races. These were huge highlights in MC1 and 2. But I am yet to complete city 3, so they may still crop up. There are some track circuits, where you race solo to beat lap times, but I find them dull, so I don't play them.
The music is pretty fitting, even if it does get a bit repetitive, but there are much worse games for that out there.
Is it worth it?
In conclusion, I really rate this game. It takes a good few races to acclimatise to the style, but once you have your first tight race you will be hooked. It is not as good as MC2, but it has been in my PSP all through Christmas and Pro Evo has remained on the shelf, which for me is testament to the quality of MC3. If you like racing games and want very close racing battles, through a heavily populated city, this is the game for you. And if you can pick it up for near a tenner, absolute bargain.
7 / 10