Reviewed: April 14, 2006
Released: March 13, 2006
All games eventually hit the bargain; it's a fact of life. Some do it within a month and others can take a year or more, and the length of time it takes a title to reach Greatest Hits, Players' Choice, or Platinum Hits often hints at the quality of the original title. Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition Remix (note the "remix") is the inevitable budget release of last year's street racing title from Rockstar Games, but rather than repackaging the old disc and manual in that silver case, Rockstar has gone the extra mile to pimp this ride with more extras that the West Coast Customs catalog.
We're not talking just new cars here, although there are more than 24 tricked out rides including models from Ducati, Gemballa, and Dodge just to name a few. Rockstar is giving you a whole new city to explore, so if you have already mastered Atlanta, Detroit, and San Diego in the original game, Tokyo is now waiting for you in the Tokyo Challenge mode. The online street maps have been updated, and your car stereo now comes with 25 new racing tunes you can jam to. In all, there is 23% more content in Remix, so if you are one of those elite racers than totally maxed out their original game, you can import your old save file into Remix and start at 77%.
There have been a lot (and I mean a lot) of street racing titles to come along since last year's DUB, so yes, this game is starting to show its age, especially if you are coming off a 360 high. But looks aren't everything and Remix still manages to offer the same challenging and addictive gameplay as its predecessor, only there is a lot more of it and it's actually priced where it's not only affordable, it's downright irresistible.
For those that didn't play last year's game, the DUB Edition is a reference to the input (and recommendations) by DUB Magazine for the various brands and car parts to be used in the game. Other than the title you might see a few DUB references through decals and window stickers, but that’s about it.
The racing takes place in four sprawling cities (San Diego, Atlanta, Detroit, Tokyo), full of details, back alleys, rooftop shortcuts, and even a few Blues Brothers-inspired dashes through indoor shopping malls. The cities are alive with dynamic traffic and pedestrians who are obviously on loan from Midtown Madness, as it is impossible to hit anybody.
The racing is faster than ever, yes even faster than the impossibly fast Burnout: Revenge. When you kick in that nitro just clinch your butt cheeks and grab your controller for the ride of your life. And once the cops get a "whiff" of your nitrous, it’s all over...I told you to clinch your butt cheeks.
Remix delivers a full stable of cars, trucks and motorcycles spanning several generations of domestic and foreign models. There are more than 80 licensed models and even though some new racing games have started showing damage on licensed cars, Midnight Club 3 was still the first where we actually see real cars take real damage, or at least scratched and dented a bit. Now you can drive that Hummer off the roof, roll it six times and crash into a light post, and see what it might really look like.
My biggest complaint about Midnight Club 3 was that it has no purpose. There was no story or anything to motivate you to complete the game other than to say you completed it. I confess, I bailed on the title shortly after writing my review last year quitting at about 64% , which means I started at 40% on Remix. While Remix does offer more cars, music, and a new city, there is still no compelling reason to play it, but as so many other racing games that have come and gone have proven, you don't really need a reason to drive fast and live dangerous.
Midnight Club 3 Remix still had loads of visual upgrades but there is still no reason to install them other than to keep you wallet at a manageable size. When it comes time to pry a few grand out of your wallet for visual upgrades you have to ask, “who am I trying to impress?” Certainly nobody in the game. Even performance enhancements don’t play as big a role as they should in Midnight Club 3. You can complete most of San Diego (the first city) with your first car and level 2 parts upgrades. The only reason I even ended up buying a new car was I got bored looking at my old car for hours on end.
The level of competition never seems to rise, at least on any significant level of progression. Races are generally won by exploiting the new and old features of the franchise. Fans of Midnight Club 2 might remember having to earn certain racing features like drift, nitro, weight control, etc. You get all of those when you start this game, which I supposed makes sense logically, but certainly takes away from the gradual increase in game difficulty. To be blunt, Midnight Club 3 Remix is still too easy. The only time I ever lost a race was when I fell victim to the very system I was exploiting to win.
The biggest detractor from the racing challenge is the slipstream turbo. Basically, you fall in behind another car (opponent cars only) and a gauge fills up on the right side of the HUD. When this is full it flashes and you now have several seconds of sustained boost, even if your car doesn’t have nitro. Essentially, this concept makes it beneficial for you to remain behind the pack until the end of the race then you can zip past them all to a spectacular finish.
There are three special “powers” you can obtain while playing the career mode. Each move is specific to certain types of vehicles and activated through special driving techniques. Zone is a Bullet Time effect that slows down the world giving you unprecedented control for weaving through traffic jams or making a last-minute sharp turn. This mode is powered up by clean driving.
Argo is specific to large cars, trucks, and SUV’s. You fill up the meter by hitting traffic and environmental objects and when full you can activate Argo for a limited duration of invulnerability where you can plow through traffic like a bulldozer. Roar is the final special ability and is specific to choppers and muscle cars, anything loud. You charge the meter by drifting around turns and when full you can unleash a sonic boom that will send cars scattering.
All of these features are fun to play around with but they only serve to make an already-too-easy game even easier. Certainly, no one is forcing you to use these abilities, but it would have been nice if the game had been tailored to encourage and reward their use rather than just pad your already-comfortable lead.
A.I. is both good and bad. Cars with nitro will use it off the line, which is good for you since it gives you somebody to draft, but they appear to be unable to slipstream turbo off of you. A.I. cars will take shortcuts, which is good because that is how I learned a lot of them and they are very aggressive in their driving, often running you off the road. I can’t begin to count the times I got sideswiped at just the wrong time and ended up four blocks off course.
Oddly enough, it’s very hard to screw up so bad you cannot win a race unless you do it on the final lap or within 3-5 checkpoints from the finish line. There is plenty of A.I. rubber banding, meaning that the cars will slow down if you get too far behind. I literally gave the entire pack a 30 second head start off the line before I even hit the gas, and I still won the race by 2.6 seconds. All you have to do is catch the car at the rear of the pack (one always hangs back extra far) and use him to slipstream boost up to the rest then it’s just a series of boosts to the finish line.
I was disappointed in the lack of racing content, or more accurately, a variety of racing content. Everything is a checkpoint race in Midnight Club 3 or at least a derivative of checkpoint racing. You have your ordered races that require you to go through dozens of checkpoints, usually spaced close enough together that you can’t get too creative with your routes. Then you have "There and Back" races that put a lone checkpoint somewhere across the city and you have to race there and back to the start planning the best route as you go.
The cities are free roaming and you can drive around engaging in optional challenges earning money to upgrade the inside and outside of your car, or perhaps purchase new vehicles. Each city also has a dozen or so hidden Rockstar logos scattered around. You’ll need to drive around in free roam mode to find these since they aren’t generally part of any scripted race routes. Most are extremely well hidden, so plan on hours of meticulous searching or picking up a strategy guide with maps.
There are also roving opponents, but unlike NFSUG2 where you had upwards of 20 street racers roaming the city at any given time, you typically only have a few cyan triangles indicating major players. Fall in behind one of these cars and flash your high beams for a quick series of challenging races with big rewards.
There are also structured tournaments. These are slightly more challenging (or perhaps aggravating is a better word) than the single races since they are a series of races with points awarded based on your finishing position. Unlike single races you cannot restart a race within a tournament – you have to restart the entire tournament, so if you get screwed to the curb on race 3 of 4 you either have to suck it up or do the first two races all over again.
Car customization is really good but a lot more simple than it was in NFSUG2. You basically have three (sometimes four) levels of upgrades that fill in a segmented meter for each classification of part. You can choose to upgrade everything individually or for those of you who would rather race than research car parts, there is a very nice auto-upgrade that does it all for you.
Visual upgrades are also in great supply allowing you to tweak just about every aspect of your car. Again, it’s not as comprehensive as NFSUG2, but all of the essentials are there. But keep in mind, there is no “game reason” to even paint your car let alone dump $30,000 in rims, tires, neon, paint, and carbon fiber body parts.
All upgrades must first be unlocked through successful progression through the career mode before they can be purchased. You are also awarded various prize vehicles for winning tournaments. These are often cars that aren’t even for sale and many will be useful in future races where a specific type of vehicle is required.
From a content perspective, Midnight Club 3 was already loaded and Remix just adds to the bonanza. Even after you finish the major events in each city there are 6-8 optional races that shuffle around the map. I must have played for hours trying to exhaust the potential of San Diego before I realized that even though the race was in a new location it had the same name and the same prize money. You can keep racing these for as long as you like and collect a massive bankroll.
Control and physics definitely sway to the arcade end of the spectrum with speeds breaching the sound barrier, or at least it seems that way. Control is tight, I have to admit, and it felt comfortable and natural skidding around right angle turns in downtown at 140mph. Then it would get totally crazy, as I would ramp off a set of stairs with nitro burning out my trunk and literally fly four complete city blocks.
It takes a bit of experimentation to figure out the physics of the world. Trees will shatter into bark and leaves with little slowdown to your car while lamp poles will get stuck under your front bumper and grind you to a halt. You can ram into cars and smaller trucks with minor slowdown, but cement trucks and larger construction vehicles will bring you to an immediate stop. And then you have the fine art of the “gas station shortcut” where it’s a coin flip to determine if you make it through the pumps unscathed or set off a baby nuke of an explosion that sends you flying across town in slow motion.
Everything about the design is arcade-like and fun right down to the ability to pop up on two wheels and thread through traffic or control the orientation of your car by shifting weight in midair, not to mention those nifty new superpowers. It’s just a whole lot of fun, which is why I am now hooked on the game once again. After six months I thought I had this monkey off my back, but it looks like I am destined to at least finish of Tokyo before putting Remix back in the garage.
Midnight Club 3 was one hot looking racer and not much has changed. The framerate resides in the 30fps area rather than the 60fps I would like, but with this much going on and at these speeds I must admit any lapse in framerate certainly never affected gameplay and would likely be unnoticed unless you looking for it.
Despite the HDTV 480p support the game does exhibit some noticeable and annoying jaggies, mainly on the car models. Thankfully, these are only visible on the pre and post race camera sweeps. Once you are cooking through town at 200mph there is no time for imperfection inspection.
The cities are massive with a draw distance to the horizon and the new city of Tokyo is breathtaking and just as challenging as the original three. There is a bit of fogging, more of a mist actually, but for the most part the cityscape is all there in glorious detail with lights and structures, and so much detail down at the street level you can actually go window shopping. Even driving down the center of the indoor mall you could see various stores and all their signage.
I’m sure liberties were taken when it comes to city design and accuracy, but at least for the three U.S. cities, I've been to all three and certainly recognize at least the key landmarks. I probably wouldn't plan my next vacation using these maps but they are fantastic for racing. The city design is seamless in that you really can’t tell which buildings are open inside with possible shortcuts. Sometimes logic or intuition might indicate an impromptu path, other times you might have to watch the A.I. for hints.
These massive cities are populated with massive amounts of traffic and pedestrians. People will always manage to dodge out of your way at the last second but cars are not as agile and you can create some pretty spectacular pile-ups. Obviously with this much traffic consisting of numerous car types and 3D models, their artwork is much more simplistic than yours or the other racers. They are simple low-poly models with generally flat-shaded colors with a possible metallic sheen.
Weather and time of day effects are wonderful. While street racing is illegal and generally done late at night you will have more than a few races in semi-light conditions, either at sunset or sunrise, all with gorgeous lighting and shadow effects. There are also rain and fog conditions, and while the rain doesn’t dot your screen with the abused raindrop effect (thank you Rockstar) it does create some blinding rooster tails from the cars ahead of you. Rain also has a major impact on car handling and traction.
Special effects are blinding, complete with motion blur on all tail and traffic lights and that famous particle shower effect when a streetlight crashes to the ground and goes skidding. Once you kick in the nitrous or slipstream turbo the world becomes a blur of lights and motion and you are left to your instincts and reflexes. Vision is of little use now.
There are flashing barricades, custom shop signage, water effects, and just about anything in the world that could be broken can be broken. Rockstar even managed to convince the car manufacturers to show their rides in various states of destruction. We aren’t talking exploding body panels and rims like in Burnout but more like taking a polygon model and tweaking the various point nodes to deform the shape and warp the textures. It’s not exactly a true wreck but it’s better than anything we’ve gotten in the past. More interesting to me was the subtle damage to paint and vinyl that would scrape away to reveal primer and undercoating.
Kudos to the excellent menu design that whisks you through the city at Mach 2 and ends up on the face of a skyscraper with a semi-transparent video playing on the wall and menu items laid out in perfect perspective to the face of the building. Picking a menu item will whisk you away to another building with more choices. The in-game menus for car selection and customization are nicely done, easy to read and informative without becoming cluttered.
Midnight Club 3 Remix also has intermittent cinematics strewn throughout the game. Even though there is no real story these movies help move you through the career mode and often prove mildly humorous. Character design is excellent and the animation is flawlessly mo-capped giving these characters real personality.
You come to expect a certain type of “underground” urban style of music to go along with these racing games that portrays the seedier side of back alley racing. Midnight Club 3 Remix adds 25 new tracks bringing the total to well over 100 tunes divided into six styles of music ranging from rock, techno, and dancehall to hip-hop and drum and bass. With so much music packed onto this game, and given my broad scope of musical taste I have to admit I was unimpressed with the soundtrack. Even the new tracks just weren't my style. Of course musical taste is subjective, so I won’t fault the game for music that many others will certainly enjoy.
Normally, in games like these I find at least two or three favorite songs and welcome their return in the rotation. Not so here. I merely turned the music volume down to enjoy the sounds of racing, which can actually be beneficial. The game supports custom soundtracks, and while the original DUB game locked up consistently while using your own soundtrack, the Remix version seems to have fixed the issue and I can now race to my own favorite tracks.
Sound effects are really great with unique engine noises for the various cars and the glorious sounds of destruction as you smash through windows, crunch through trees, or crash through traffic. Kicking in the nitro or slipstream turbo is like hitting the afterburner on an F-16 and the slow motion distortion of the Zone effect is just too cool.
Speech is excellent if not somewhat stereotypical, especially the Hispanic owner of Six-One-Nine who seemed more gansta than mechanic. Eavesdropping on his side of numerous cell phone conversations, I couldn’t tell if he was running a chop shop or a legitimate garage. There is also plenty of radio chatter, usually praise for winning and criticism for losing. Funny - I don't remember installing a CB radio in my car.
The entire sound presentation is mixed in excellent 5.1 Dolby Digital for powerful low frequency crashes and excellent positional sounds for traffic and racers coming up on your rear. The cities all have their own area-specific sounds that bring them to life.
I can’t deny, there is a lot of gameplay in Midnight Club 3 Remix for those willing to play through it with little to no reason for doing so. If you skip the moneymaking optional races you can finish the core components of this game in 20 hours or less depending on how good you are. Searching for the hidden Rockstar logos (without a map) can take you 8-12 hours of dedicated searching, as you won’t likely find them while racing.
Multiplayer racing has been improved since the last game and there have been some changes to the online maps . There is standard two-player split-screen racing for those without Xbox Live, but the game really opens up when you explore the possibilities of online multiplayer.
Up to eight players can race using only those vehicles they have unlocked during their own career modes. This means that early online racers may be at a disadvantage when racing against people who have finished or played through more of the career mode than they have. Additionally, you can only host races that you have unlocked in your career mode, and while other racers can potentially join that race even though they haven’t unlocked it in their own career, they still must have a valid car for that type of race.
You can track your progress, stats, and overall rankings on Xbox Live, and using the advanced filters and game hosting options can easily setup all types of races for certain types of racers. You can even form your own car club, creating officers, inviting pledges, and schedule races. Clubs are much like “clans” in other games, usually a gathering of friends or likeminded drivers looking to dominate the game on Xbox Live. Car clubs have no membership limits, but players can only join one club at a time. You can even transfer ownership of a club to another member.
The track editor is back from the last game and you are free to layout your own series of checkpoints on any city you have unlocked in career mode. You can then use those custom tracks to challenge others online. Online play uses host migration, so if the person who initiated the game drops out the game moves to the second person that joined in. There is also "asynchronous join" so you can join a game session already in progress and actually race when the next event starts. The host can also change race options and settings without quitting and restarting a new race. It's all designed to keep you racing rather than hanging out in the lobby.
There are nearly a dozen online racing modes including four from the previous game and six new ones. “Track” racing eliminates the checkpoints and has you racing laps on a predefined circuit. “Paint” is a form of domination where drivers pass through checkpoints and turn them into their custom color. The first to color a certain amount of checkpoints to their color wins. “CTF” is standard with racers trying to return the flag to their own base, ramming the opponent to steal the flag if necessary. “Frenzy” is perhaps my favorite and has you dodging traffic while racing through checkpoints with nitro firing off every 15 seconds. Did I mention, your brakes don’t work?
There are several more modes, each one just as enjoyable and challenging as the last, and each of them has several parameters that can be used to further customize the event. Whatever Midnight Club 3 may lack in compelling single-player gameplay it more than makes up for in online competition, and with a whole new city to explore, 20+ new cars to drive, and dozens of new audio tracks to listen to, all for $20, even those who own the original Midnight Club 3 should probably consider picking up the Remix edition.
Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition Remix is one of those games that you can’t stop playing, even though you aren’t really sure why you are playing it. The gameplay is fast and furiously addicting, and even though the overall difficulty is generally way too easy (thanks to slipstream turbo), there are plenty of random events that will cause you to lose more than your fair share of races.
I miss the depth of the NFSUG2 visual upgrades and respect system and the lack of any driving story certainly hurt with my immersion into this game world. At times it just seemed that Rockstar had created these wonderful cityscapes and were randomly dropping in a series of hoops for me to jump through with no substantial reward for my efforts. I want my piece of cheese when I run through your maze.
I love the action, but I just wish I had a more compelling reason to play the game other than the sake of completing it. I supposed unlocking all the cars and the races for multiplayer is the “real” goal here since playing Midnight Club 3 online is infinitely more fun than playing it by yourself. But whether you are a loner or live online, this is one racing game you definitely need to check out. And who else but Rockstar is going to give you nearly a forth more content at a third of the price? Well done!