Late one evening I received an e-mail from my editor asking me if I would like a copy of Midnight Club 3 for review. For reasons unknown I became very excited and immediately replied, “YES! Then I thought to myself, “Why?” I’m not the biggest fan of racing games; I used to be before the likes of Gran Turismo and Need for Speed changed the genre. But nonetheless, MC3 did keep me interested for a while—that is until I turned it on.
The success of EA’s Need for Speed Underground series understandably spawned many clones. Suddenly it was all about customization, open cities to race in, urban soundtracks, night-time racing on wet roads with bright lights blinding you. But underneath all the hip-hop décor there was usually a very shallow game. But the whole ‘urban’ idea didn’t start with NfSU, it was actually the original Midnight Club. The first game in the Midnight series did something never seen before in a racing game; it did away with racetracks and let gamers openly explore a large city.
Midnight Club 3
US: Jul 2007
On paper it sounds like a great idea. You play as a racer taking all sorts of risks, racing at ridiculous speeds just to earn some extra cash to create your dream machine. But it’s only when you get past all the bling bling that you realize just how boring MC3 is.
Call me ignorant if you will, but the whole idea behind this game just doesn’t appeal. Racing around a lifeless city then entering races to win money to spend on a new spoiler just sounds pointless. It just doesn’t seem fair that I win races and tournaments and unlock new cars, but then have to save up enough virtual money to actually have the privilege of driving them. I want to see Burnout style progression; you start off with a handful of cars then unlock new and better ones and drive them at your pleasure.
Customization is just a gimmick; it’s great when the performance of your vehicle is actually affected, but when it’s stuff like color or spoilers… then I’m just not interested. To be honest though, the amount of personalization available to you is staggering. While not quite up to level offered by NfSU, it still surpasses other racers like Street Racing Syndicate. Unfortunately though, customization is pretty much the only thing going for MC3. The actual racing is very fast and the handling is spot on, but it’s just so bland. The unimaginative tournaments don’t offer the level of variety seen in Burnout 3, and towards the end the repetitiveness really gets to you.
Something I found very bizarre about MC3 is Carlos, your Latino garage owner. From the start he’s ever present, always in your ear with advice. He tells you that to win a race you have to get to the red dot on your map, and it is entirely up to you how you do so; you have total freedom is what they want you to believe. This however is a big fat lie. You will see yellow flames marked on your path, and if you don’t drive through these flames then you can’t finish the race. Even if you find a quicker route the game won’t accept it because you’ve not taken its path; so it is actually very linear, but it seems intent on making you think otherwise.
This does, however, change the way you race. You can view your map to try and figure out the quickest way, or you could just follow your rivals and overtake them at the end… but I just didn’t want to; I was given all this freedom, but was banned from using it.
This just leads back to my early point Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition feels too gimmicky. The endorsement from DUB magazine doesn’t alter the game in the slightest; it could have been sponsored by Sesame Street and you still wouldn’t be able to tell the difference (well, maybe the Latino garage owner would have been Luis). The customization is just cosmetic to cover up the shallowness of it all. I prefer my racers to be all about the racing, F-Zero GX and Burnout 2 still get my vote above anything else out at the moment. But this game was clearly made for all those bandwagon-jumping casual gamers. Midnight Club 3 wants you to believe it’s cool and wants you to feel cool by playing it and no doubt it will appeal to the MTV generation, but the rest of us will be struggling to stay awake.