Who needs the right of way?
The first Midtown Madness
graced my dilapidated PC keyboard with its total disregard for human safety
and pedestrian rights. It was a breath of fresh air, and ever since I have awaited
each installment with starry eyes. But while the original and its
sequel were developed by Angel Studios (who later went on to bring us the
Midnight Club games), the
third iteration has been handled by developer DICE, the race heads who brought
us the excellent Rallisport Challenge.
In truth, the first two lacked depth and innovation, though they made up for
it by doling out plenty of mayhem, allowing you to careen through massive cityscapes
with an untold level of interactivity. The no-nonsense online multiplayer really
thrust the series into the upper echelon of fast-paced arcade style motor-rollin'.
Midtown Madness 3 is not much different. It might be a three-year old
gaming experience, but it's fresh and brand new for thousands of console gamers.
You won't find much 'fresh and new' in the all-too familiar checkpoint driven
single-player Career mode known as "Work Undercover." You choose from a list
of thinly veiled checkpoint related jobs as a Driver. You'll drive everything
from Hummers and buses to several high-performance sporty little numbers, which
then become available for the Cruise, Blitz and Checkpoint races against CPU
The single-player modes are truly old-school staples. Cruise is your standard
take-a-drive mode where you can leisurely tour the streets of each city to take
in the lay of the land for the real races. Blitz is your basic time trial where
you race against the clock. Checkpoint racing is a series of AI races through
several established checkpoints that can be hit in any order the driver chooses.
Just grab them all before any of the CPU racers.
The sense of speed is readily apparent as you whip through the city streets
smashing through poles, garbage cans, bus stop stalls, flower stands, pylons,
barricades, traffic meters and so much more. The cars are well detailed with
plenty of gloss and sheen to the paint jobs. The framerate is smooth, managing
no slowdown even with heavy roadside calamity and all eight racers on-screen.
She's no Grand Turismo 3, but
the graphics work very well and are greatly complemented with the surprising
level of interactivity.
You will also pay a price for your reckless driving by way of vehicular entropy.
The harder you drive your Lotus Esprit or old-school 70s 'Stang, the more damage
it takes. You can easily find your front-end missing (and possibly dragged several
blocks) with your hood bouncing up and down, threatening to fly off its hinges.
Windows shatter, trunks pop open and the guy at the detailing shop is just licking
his chops when he sees all those dents. It's fun to see all the cool damage
modeling slowly erode your car.
The single player games hold their own for a while, but the AI isn't really competitive enough and there's no customization at all. So if/when you tire of playing alone, I highly recommend taking these wheels online.
for the no frills-user, Midtown Madness 3 features really solid Xbox
Live support. You simply select multiplayer and your account is located and
logged in. You can hop right into a Quick Match or you can choose Optimatch,
which allows you to fine tune your search down to race type, skill level, city
and other options. You can even drop right into a race without waiting for it
to be completed, so there is no waiting. All the cars are available (though
the host may block a few rides) regardless of whether or not you have unlocked
The game modes include Hunter, where one car is the hunter and must bash other
cars ("prey") in order to transform them into hunters as well. The driver who
remains prey for the longest time wins. Standard player vs. player Checkpoint
races and the Cruise modes are also offered online.
The best of the bunch is Capture the Gold, which plays much like Smuggler's
Run multiplayer. Gold is spawned somewhere in the city. The driver who snags
it must then cart it safely to his brightly marked pen placed elsewhere in the
city. But all it takes is a well-placed collision for your claim to be jumped,
a great catalyst for chaos. The host can also place a weight on the gold to
further burden the gold-fevered racer.
The banter can get pretty hilarious over the Xbox Live voice communication.
You can set filters to disguise your voice, plus you can choose to scold all
players or just your teammates with a press of the left analog stick.
Though this is an all-around solid game, there are a few significant potholes.
Two immense cities - Paris and D.C. - are just not enough. Hopefully the option
for downloadable content (none at this time) will address this in the future.
The arcade-style control makes for a mellow learning curve, but all the cars
wind up feeling identical. More precision and distinction between the vehicles
would have upped the replay value.
Midtown Madness 3 is a fine racer despite relying heavily on its online
component, which I must admit does extend quite far, and functions as a solid
rival to the Midnight Club series. More single-player depth would have
been great, but I guess they need room for improvement for the fourth game,