The Boy racer in all of us
There are definitely two schools of thought when it comes to modifying production cars into something a bit more spectacular. There is the school of thought that (quite sensibly) says “Why spend £30,000 on extras for a production car when you could buy a decent sports car for that?” There is also the school of thought that goes something along the lines of “Wow, if I buy this nitro kit, this engine upgrade and this paint job I can have the most tricked-out Vauxhall Corsa on the planet!” I clearly fall into the former category. I’ve never liked the whole mod scene, though I have a sneaking admiration for anyone who can drive some of these cars around with phat beats blasting without feeling like a complete Muppet.
Midnight Club III Dub Edition is the latest in a long line of city-based modded car racing games with very little to differentiate between any of them - however with its impressive graphics, thumping soundtrack and clever marketing it appears to be dominating the market alongside Gran Turismo 4. After Midnight Club 2, this time around they’ve substituted no-make cars for licensed models, from Mercedes and Pontiac through to Lamborghini and Ducati motorbikes. The handling is also distinctly arcade and leans towards more of a fast-paced, fun driving game than the simulator feel of other games on the market. Despite this - MCIII still has a comprehensive garage aspect that allows a car fanatic to upgrade literally every part of your car, including the mechanics, paint jobs, decal branding, neons, window tinting and heaps more. Anyone who has played any of the Need for Speed Underground series by EA will be on very familiar ground, though the cars do actually feel a lot more controllable in Midnight Club III than in NFS:U2. Midnight Club has also distanced itself by the inclusion of motorbikes to race with, allowing you to speed through busy intersections narrowly dodging traffic at 120 km/ph.
MCIII offers a wide variety of game modes ranging from Cruise (free-range driving through a city of your choice), Capture the Flag, Tag, Paint (where you have to mark territories around town as your own as other drivers do the same) as well as other race modes. Career mode sees you driving around a free-roaming city map (Detroit at first, with others to follow) challenging other drivers to races either for their rides or for big cash stakes. Naturally you can return to the garage at any time to buy additional upgrades or paint jobs or whatever, or just sell your collected cars on for better models. You will need to upgrade on a pretty regular basis if you’re to remain at the top of your game and keep up with other racers as opponents have a good degree of difficulty throughout. As well as the usual racing, there are several other options available during career mode. You can improve your skills to the point where you learn new tricks like being able to sound your horn to move traffic out of the way, flip up on two wheels and various other stunts depending on your car model. Despite these special moves being spectacular they still stay true to a racing game, without making it seem like a action driving shoot-em-up game.
The music in the game may not be to everyone’s taste, but they have included a fair mix of hip-hop, R’n’B, dance and even a little bit of rock - unfortunately there are no options to use customised soundtracks which is an annoyance at times. The LIVE options are quite good with a decent 8 player challenge mode and several other LIVE modes like point to point races, time challenges etc. The most rewarding gameplay in the game is to be had from the single player career mode though. As you carry on through the races, your reputation builds and the storyline unfolds quite nicely until you become the top of the heap in one city and can move on to the next. Overall MCIII offers a lot for an arcade racing game and it’s certainly fun seeing just what ridiculous paint and engine combinations you can come up with for the various cars, trucks and bikes in the game.