I'm being completely honest when I say I'm new to the world of arcade and simulation racing. I recently played the sim of all sims, Gran Turismo 4, and it was time for the arcade counterpart to grace my PS2. Ready to be blown away by Rockstar yet again, I checked out Rockstar's collaboration with DUB Magazine, Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition. Initially, it took some getting used to the multitude of arcade elements, but in the end -- I never truly adjusted.
With nothing to compare Midnight Club 3 to, everything was new to me and I wound up, probably unfairly, comparing it to Gran Turismo 4. Good or bad, I don't know, but what I do know is that Midnight Club 3 has no problem differentiating itself. Visually, I was fairly unimpressed. The cars undoubtedly looked pretty after I finished customizing, but the frame rates dropped considerably and often and the edges alwas seemed blurry, leaving me with little opportunity to forgive the sleak lighting and huge open city maps. All of those huge open spaces didn't help with loading times, either--Rockstar and long loading times are quickly becoming synonymous. As expected, a game focused so much on underground street racing and west coast love, hip-hop and rap cast a long shadow over the rest of the game. The sounds of the cars flying by, the tires burning rubber, and the engine revving are all breathtaking, but when it comes down to it, your musical tastes will likely dictate whether or not you'll have the sound cranked up, or the TV muted and the iPod in control.
Although nothing truly unique, and unimpressive in comparison to Gran Turismo 4, the tuning options were numerous, and of course, stylish. It's the video game version of MTV's Pimp My Ride, only now you can pimp your license plate, too. The endless possibilities of hundreds of tweaks and over 50 cars, I eventually finished up with a garage filled with cars I only wish I could afford to have sitting outside my house right now. When the time comes to take them to the street, though, the stupid damage model comes out to play. It does a great job of making your car look ugly, but you never pay to fix it, and the car never breaks down. How useful, that cosmetic damage is! I only wish Rockstar gave me a sense of risking my hard earned car as I plow down the street into head on traffic at 100+. To say something positive for a moment, doing that 100+ down the street into head on traffic will have you gasp for breath. The sense of speed is simply awesome; perhaps Midnight Club should be called Need for Midnight Speed.
Career mode is nothing to write home about. San Diego, Atlanta, and Detroit bound, there's no story driving your play, and only seemingly random career races, events, and challenges to complete and advance cities. I guess I should be happy I was allowed to freely roam the streets in my ride, but I couldn't help but feel as though I could be doing that in real life instead. Fortunately, arcade mode somewhat rectifies this. It cuts out the fluff, removes the cutscenes and random driving, and allows access to all unlocked races in a few simple menus. Anyone familiar with my tastes should realize how important online gaming is to me, and Midnight Club 3 delivers in a big way. If you can do it alone, chances are you can do it online. Although I sorely missed XBL and a headset, it did little to detract from the fun I had online with my seldom used PS2 N/A. Capture the Flag and Tag get tiresome in first person shooters, but it was a breath of fresh air to play tag with 7 other sexy vehicles and little to no lag. It's a good thing too, because after so many races by yourself, it's unlikely you'll replay them.
Ultimately, I felt unsatisfied with Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition. I suppose I don't have the same love for cars that Detroit and the West Coast have, nor the love for arcade games that Frogger and George Costanza have, considering how much more I enjoyed Gran Turismo 4. The "special moves" associated with the cars felt unfulfilling, as I couldn't help but think how stupid it was to drive in slow motion or plow through opponents like Mr. Plow of 742 Evergreen Terrace. Online play was a huge relief, and is, arguably, where the meat of the game lies, and I could probably see myself returning to play soley online. At its heart, the racing was quality and the tuning options were sound, but it just felt like so much more could have been done.