Midnight Club 3 DUB Edition Review

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Graphics: 7.5
Sound : 8.5
Gameplay : 6.5
Multiplayer : 7.0
Overall : 7.1
Review by Andy Levine
The Midnight Club series has been the dominant arcade racer on the market due to its breakneck speeds and free-roaming environments. Despite its popularity on the PS2 and Xbox, Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition hardly lives up to the reputation. For reasons, such as the unbearable loading times, shoddy physics system, and unexciting gameplay, Midnight Club 3 for the PSP hardly lives up to its console counterparts.

The most notable feature in DUB Edition is obviously the new customization enhancements. With the help of DUB Magazine, Rockstar was able to include a vast array of customizable parts for every vehicle, including rims, spoilers, body kits, exhausts, and even some beneficial engine mods. Throughout the career mode, different parts will become available in the garage. The amount of adjustable components is jaw dropping, so it is very easy to spend hours at a time in the garage tuning every last gear in your transmission and shining the last spoke on some 22” chrome spinners. Unfortunately, none of the aerodynamic or other visual modifications will affect the car’s performance. In real life, adding a spoiler would increase the downforce and allow for better handing, but in Midnight Club 3 everything is done simply for the sake of appearance. Towards the beginning of the game it is hard to balance your finances towards both the performance and visual fields, but saving up enough money after a few series races will allow any gamer to chrome out their ride.

In the career mode, different car classes will divide up the citywide tournaments and certain car club challenges. The car classes range from Tuners, Exotics, Choppers, and several other general distinctions of automobiles. In order to gain entry to said competitions, the illegal street racer must challenge other racers in order to prove their worth. These typical races involve a series of checkpoints that must be reached, though how you reach them is completely up to you. Taking place on the crowded streets of San Diego, Detroit, or Atlanta, the path racers take to make it to the finish line is entirely up to them. While this is still your typical Midnight Club series in action, the car club races are a nice added touch. Throughout the career mode certain car clubs will challenge racers in the city to see if they have what it takes to beat the best. These races offer a lavish monetary reward and will also allow for the purchasing of more parts at the garage. Races sponsored by DUB are quite different from the typical checkpoint races. In these official events, the racing takes place one at a time on a closed circuit course, and the driver with the best overall time wins. The winner will receive a pimped-out ride for them to enjoy any way they want to. These cars have already been through the DUB experience, so clearly they have all of the works done. While racing alone isn’t nearly as fun as whipping around the city with competitive computer A.I. opponents, a balanced blend of the different types of events makes for a solid single-player campaign.

The same foundation was used for Xbox, PS2, and PSP, but sadly the handheld doesn’t do justice to the Midnight Club name. To start off, the menus feel extremely choppy and the loading times are simply ridiculous. This reviewer’s PSP would go into its sleep mode during every loading screen—and this really provokes a sense of wonder as to why it takes so long to load. After waiting for minutes, one should expect for all of the environmental data to be loaded and ready to go, but unfortunately this is not the case. The races feel like they are running at around a mere 20 frames per second, completely throwing any tangible sense of speed out the window. Midnight Club is known for the exhilarating rush felt when traveling at speeds of over 200MPH, but this conversion doesn’t work at all on the PSP. Anticipating turns is easier, partly due to the lack of traffic, but mostly due to the lack of rapid movement. The races are also uneventful for the most part, and while the occasional 40-foot ramp or multiple car police chase will have you on the edge of your seat, the majority of races can be finished without breaking a sweat. The different car classes also sport special moves to give the gamer even more of an advantage. Exotic cars can slow time for a few seconds when they need to maneuver around an obstacle, and the SUVs have the Roar ability, allowing them to scare traffic and pedestrians from their path. These abilities can be charged up during the race, but after a short period of time you will have more power-ups than necessary for one race. With these special moves, along with a speed boost that can be earned by drafting behind your opponents, there are enough arcade features to keep the game interesting. The cruise mode allows the gamer to drive around in one of the three included cities with absolutely no restrictions. Even with slow frame rates, having an open city at your disposal always has its benefits. There are enough jumps and destructible objects to keep anyone busy for a while. However, the insufferable loading times and the lack of a decent frame rate damage a potentially successful title.

Considering the PSP’s limited hardware capabilities, Midnight Club 3 doesn’t look too bad. The cars do have an awkward appearance where doors, bumpers, and side skirts don’t appear as though they are actually part of the vehicle. Thick black lines separate different parts of the car and, while this is easier to discern which parts to customize on a car, it still looks out of place. As mentioned before, there isn’t much here regarding the sense of speed. Normally one could expect to be rushing through crowded cities at breakneck speeds with cars whizzing by as every second could be your last. While this would be true for both the PS2 and Xbox versions, the PSP fails to deliver the much-needed dramatic feel to Midnight Club 3. On the bright side, the free-roaming environments look impressive with their slick streets and damageable objects, such as trash cans and glass window panes. The texture details are a little bland in some areas, but for the most part everything looks nice and smooth. The seemingly endless customization abilities will allow any vehicle to remain aesthetically fresh, and developing the perfect setup is always a satisfying achievement. Even though Midnight Club 3 has its fair share of graphical glitches and doesn’t maintain steady frame rates at high speed, there are certainly much uglier games out there for the PSP.

The audio performance in Midnight Club 3 is surprisingly good considering how much work some other areas of the game need. The soundtrack is filled with rap, hip-hop, and rock songs that will keep your attention while racing. The music tends to appeal more toward the urban culture style, but there are enough songs for everyone to find something to enjoy. Each car class also has a distinctive sound, so the difference between the whining tuner cars or the roaring muscle cars is clearly audible. The cities are complete with complementary honking horns, blaring police sirens, and screaming pedestrians running for their lives. Even little sound effects heard when almost colliding with a car or when blasting the nitrous are effective in invoking a sense of user involvement. All of the little sound effects working together lead to an above average audio experience.

Midnight Club 3 for PSP has support for up to 6 players via Wi-Fi, but unfortunately the on-line modes aren’t particularly entertaining. While there are the typical circuit races based on the checkpoint racing method, modes such as ‘King of the Kill’ and ‘Capture the Flag’ make the multiplayer feel different from single-player racing. Power-ups are scattered all over the world, allowing you to become invisible, freeze your opponents, or perform a variety of other dastardly deeds. The battle modes will offer a few hours of fun, but nothing more. Killing a few hours is certainly possible with Midnight Club 3’s Wi-Fi support, but the lack of an extensive on-line feature is disappointing.

In conclusion, Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition for the PSP certainly isn’t the marvelous arcade racing title that we were all expecting, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth checking out. If you don’t mind waiting more than a minute between races, and can deal with everything being done at a slower pace, than this game will do just that. The multitude of customizable features for the cars is the most impressive selection seen on PSP, but the gameplay doesn’t compare with titles such as Wipeout Pure or Ridge Racer.