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Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition

Score: 92%
ESRB: Everyone 10+
Publisher: Rockstar Games
Developer: Rockstar San Diego
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 8
Genre: Racing (Arcade)/ Online

Graphics & Sound:

Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition isnít Forza Motorsport or Gran Turismo, and it really doesnít try to be. If youíre looking for a realistic racer, you wonít find it here. In the tradition of past Midnight Club games, DUB is all about fast-paced, arcade-style street racing.

All of the gameís licensed vehicles, which range from tuners to choppers, are modeled accurately enough that you can tell what they are, yet still have the unique visual flair seen in all Rockstar-produced games. Cities feature the same stylized attention to detail. Recognizable landmarks are scattered throughout each city to show where itís modeled after. At the same time, theyíre presented under a slick veneer to add a little spice to the mix.

The stylish detail comes second to DUBís real visual attention grabber Ė its sense of speed. With the possible exception of the Burnout series, I canít recall the last time I really felt like I was really going fast in a racing game. Whether I was darting through midtown traffic or threading the needle between two oncoming cars, it always seemed like I was going somewhere fast. Itís a definite rush.

DUBís soundtrack is an eclectic mix of rap, rock, and techno. Obviously this mix isnít going to appeal to everyone, so Rockstar threw in the option of limiting in-game tracks to just one style. Custom soundtracks are also supported for those who want to add their own stuff in. Iíve always felt this is one of the most underused features on the Xbox, so Iím happy to see it getting some much-needed support.

Iíve never been blown away by engine sounds in racing games, and DUB continues that trend. Engine sounds are good and far from the supped-up vacuum cleaners heard in other racing games, yet thereís a lack of ďpowerĒ behind the sounds. Even muscle cars, which are known for their loud engines, sound underpowered.


Gameplay:

DUB does away with the silly storyline featured in the second game. Other than your mechanic, there arenít any real characters in the game that push Career mode along. Youíre not trying to steal cars, bust an underground poodle smuggling ring, or anything else. Itís just you, your cars, and three giant cities to explore.

The overall flow of the game is free-form and doesnít pin you into a certain path. Several races can be found in each city, which you can choose to compete in at any time. Thereís no guarantee that youíll win every race the first time, but you can certainly try. Keeping with the free-form feel, you also donít have to complete every race in a city in order to move on the next. Once a new city is unlocked, you can travel between them and complete in races in any order.

Races come in a variety of types. The most common are simple check-point races, while others have you completing circuits. Larger races, most of which involve racing clubs, are set up as a series of races and contain a mix of racing types. Most races are static areas on the city map that you can identify by the big bonfire looking lights that are visible from nearly anywhere in the city. Other races must be initiated by finding a rival and following him (or her) to a specific starting point Ė setting off a short series of races.

Youíre free to explore the city between races and discover all of the nooks and crannies of each section. Though youíre not earning money or advancing your career while doing this, exploration isnít that bad an idea since the same streets youíre exploring will soon become your raceways Ė complete with on-coming traffic and even some pesky cops (or overzealous highway patrolmen on bikes). Downtime between races also gives you time to return to the garage and buy new cars (or bikes) or upgrade existing ones.

Online racing is standard for most racing games; up to 8 players can race against each other for bragging rights and to show off their custom rides. The only real notable online aspect is clan support, allowing you and your friends to form ďCar ClubsĒ and organize races against other clubs. You can also issue ranks to members if you want.


Difficulty:

DUB Edition isnít a hard game; challenging yes, but not hard. The free-form structure allows you to take on races at your own pace, removing the frustration of not being able to proceed because of one race. If youíd donít want to do it, you donít have to. Of course, you miss out on rewards, but thatís your decision. All race types come with their own nagging issues. The only type I really had problems with was the time-trial tournament races. I can handle wide-open racing, but I choke on a closed course.

An adaptive A.I. system is used in DUB, or at least thatís how it seemed most of the time. Depending on how well I was doing in a race, the A.I. seemed to ramp up or down. Domination meant tougher, more aggressive A.I. while numerous losses dropped the difficulty. Coupled with the option of replaying races if you lose, its can become very easy to rack up money.


Game Mechanics:

A majority of the gameís complaints are likely to come from the simulation racing fans. DUB Edition is clearly an arcade game and never tries to put on the guise that it isnít. Handling is looser than a sim and offers a little extra give while trying to take turns. You also have access to a set of special powers that can be activated during races. I know what youíre thinking, ďspecial powers?Ē Reaching certain points in the game unlocks abilities that give you a little more edge in races. The powers donít unbalance the core racing action, nor do they get too out of the gameís context. Powers act more like special reflexive actions, such as slowing down time to ease your way through tight areas.

While DUBís arcade roots are firmly planted, some sim elements could have helped to make it a better game. A better physics engine could have really helped to add some excitement to races, or it could have at least provided some sweet crashes. DUB really encourages bumper car-type races. Cars take some damage, but thereís no real penalty to sideswiping another car or object to help manage curves. If anything, it could have made reactions a little more believable. I understand that things are going to be a little different in an arcade setting, but when the aforementioned over-zealous motorbike cops start to try and knock you off the road at high speeds, it looks silly.

Customization, both outside and under the hood, is a big part of Midnight Club 3. Each car comes equipped with stock parts. As you play, new parts become available, boosting the performance of your car. The system isnít too complex, which is another aspect of the game that could disappoint the sim-minded. Instead of tinkering with gear ratios and other aspects, upgraded parts are simply leveled with higher level parts being better than lower ones. A variety of manufacturers are represented in the game, but this is more for looks. A part from one manufacturer is just as good as one from another. Body kits and tires are also available, as are paint jobs, decals, and even neon lighting. The skyís the limit as to what you can do to make your car stand out, especially after unlocking the custom paint colors and decal maker, so you have the freedom to make your car as slick or as obnoxious as you want. Like the manufacturer names, outside modifications are mainly for looks and have no effect on handling or performance.

Itís far from perfect, but Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition is a marked improvement over the last game and one of the more enjoyable arcade racers on the Xbox. If youíre looking for more of a sim, this isnít the game for you. But if youíre up for some fast-paced racing action, give this one a look.


-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

Windows SWAT 4 Microsoft Xbox Unreal Championship 2: The Liandri Conflict

 
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