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In Memory
Sean Pettibone

Midnight Club 3: Dub Edition (PSP)


By Michael Palisano

Rockstar Games' excellent Midnight Club 3: Dub Edition hits the Sony PSP in fine style with a near console quality release with plenty of options including extensive customization options, dozens of race modes, online wi-fi play and sterling visuals. The game is addictive and offers players a great number of options and gameplay modes. Sadly, It suffers from long load times, but the high-quality production values make this an acceptable trade-off. Midnight Club 3 is an exciting, challenging racing title that offers a hip urban feel with intense races, slick tunes and, some really cool power-ups. Read on and find out why MC3 is one of the slickest PSP racers yet.

Transporting players deep into the street culture underground for a nocturnal urban racing joyride, Rockstar's excellent Midnight Club 3: Dub Edition captures the essence of street racing culture. The 
game is set in three major cities: San Diego, Detroit, and Atlanta. Each city looks incredibly lifelike, with impressive layouts and large explorable areas that make them look and feel just like their real world counterparts. You begin in San Diego and can unlock the other two cities as you progress through the game. The game offers you the opportunity to compete in several types of races that offer plenty of variety. What types of races are available depends on which mode you're in. For example, in the Arcade mode, you can select from a variety of races. The most common of these are Ordered races, where you have to pass through the checkpoints in order to win, paint races, where you have to change the checkpoints to your color before another racer reaches the percentage. The arcade mode also includes several other race types including capture the flag, circuit, frenzy, unordered and Autocross stages, where there are no checkpoints and players instead have to dodge barriers to create their own path. Midnight Club 3's career mode represents the heart of the game. In this mode, players drive through the streets looking for challengers and opponents to race. There are several types of race modes here including ordered checkpoint races, multi-lap circuits around the track and much more. Players can also face-off in Club races for specific vehicle classes and in multi-race tournaments. Finally, you can compete against other players online using the PSP's Wi-Fi support, with races available for up to 8 players simultaneously.

Midnight Club 3's basic racing structure doesn't diverge from the previous two games, but there are some interesting twists, such as a much deeper customization options, more parts and a generally cooler aesthetic that makes the game stand out from the earlier installments. There's much that's familiar. For example, during the point-to-point races, the object is to cross each checkpoint before your opponent, which are indicated by torches that light up the skies and are visible behind even tall buildings, making them easy to locate. The interface is likewise similar to previous titles. As you pass each checkpoint, the directional arrow onscreen will point you to the next section. There is also an onscreen map that shows you the layout and can be extremely helpful if you lose your way. Midnight Club 3's controls are very easy to use, and the number of power-ups such as Nitro and Roar can be implemented at a push of a button. The cars are exceptionally responsive, making cornering and dodging easy to accomplish. Many of the basic skills you'll need in the game should be fairly simple to master, while others such as riding behind a rival and gaining their slipstream, or learning to drive the vehicle on two wheels require some practice. What helps the learning curve immensely is the non-linear structure that allows players to proceed at their own pace, gradually building up the skills to challenge the more difficult later levels. While the earlier levels are relatively straightforward with predictable AI opponents, things become harder as you work up the ranks and your rivals become more aggressive, making them harder to predict and defeat.

Racing on the same few circuits endlessly would make any racing title's long term appeal diminish quickly, but the developers have given the game enough variety to keep players motivated throughout. Each race tests different aspects of the player's racing skills. These can be played in any order you like, and successfully completing them means you win cash. Once you have won cash, you can choose to upgrade your vehicle at the garage. There are tons of aftermarket parts such as rims, wheels, paint and other items to customize your vehicle's appearance. These parts are all from real-world manufacturers, giving Midnight Club 3: Dub Edition plenty of street cred. The game offers a wide variety of standard vehicles from standard production releases to highly charged custom beasts that rip through the road with more than 60 in all. Each vehicle offers a unique ride, with their own unique set of responsiveness, which can be enhanced as you purchase modes. As in the previous games, Midnight Club 3 also includes a number of motorcycles, or choppers. These control very differently than the standard vehicles, as players have to worry about things like weight shifting around corners and other variables. As you win races, you'll earn more respect on the street, which helps you to unlock additional skills such as a slick Roar move, which makes your engine literally roar, scaring other nearby drivers to get out of your way as quickly as possible. These extras definitely extend the game's longevity beyond what most other street racers offer, making Midnight Club 3 an excellent value for the money.

From an aesthetic standpoint, Midnight Club 3 is one of the best-looking PSP racing titles to date, an impressive achievement when you see the high level of competition. The car models themselves look fantastic, with an incredible amount of customization available, allowing you to imprint your own style on your rides. The game's graphics engine is impressive with the races moving at an incredibly high speed throughout with little slowdown. Special effects such as lighting and speed blurring add to the game's excellent visual aesthetic. Its street feel is authentic thanks to the outstanding soundtrack. In keeping with the slick underground atmosphere, MC3 emphasizes hip-hop but also includes other genres such as techno and dance. The songs are very high quality with a number of well-known artists contributing tracks to the game. Midnight Club 3's most impressive aspect lies in its cities, which are huge and densely packed with objects such as buildings and structures. Roads intersect realistically and the numerous branches means you can explore each city for quite awhile before you run across the same sections. This is quite an impressive achievement, and Rockstar deserves praise for transferring an ambitious console racer to the PSP handheld with very little lost in the translation. While Midnight Club 3's expansive racing environments give players a great sense of freedom, including such large racing areas come at a price: there are some long load times in the game, which is especially evident in the career mode. While it is slightly frustrating, the nearly console quality visuals, expansive environments, and deeply satisfying play makes these waits an acceptable trade-off. It can get aggravating but, the load times are worth sitting through, since the racing is as intense and enjoyable as anything you'd find on a larger console.

What really makes Midnight Club 3: Dub Edition stand out from the pack isn't any one of its individual elements, but the total package. In typical Rockstar fashion, the game creates a cohesive game environment that immerses the player into the world of underground street racing with plenty of flash and style. Its extensive vehicle customization features add an incredible amount of depth to the game, allowing you an almost unlimited number of options. The visuals look impressive throughout, especially for the PSP, with a solid frame rate and excellent environmental effects that create a believable game world. Underpinning all of this style is plenty of substance, with solid gameplay that offers plenty of depth, solid mechanics, and intense gameplay in a non-linear structure that makes the game both accessible and challenging. This is a highly polished game throughout with outstanding production values and solid gameplay. While it does suffer from some long load times, this is a small price to pay. Midnight Club 3: Dub Edition is another outstanding installment for the popular street racing franchise making an impressive appearance on the PSP. This excellent, addictive, and deep title is well worth your time.

Grade: B+

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