The PSP port parade continues with Midnight Club 3: Dub Edition, a slightly slimmer version of the console release. Just like its big brother, this version gives would-be tuners a chance to race exotic cars, SUVs and even motorcycles through the nightlife of three different cities: San Diego, Atlanta and Detroit. But while a lot of material is crammed into this smaller ride, a variety of technical issues keep it from being anywhere near pimped.
Under the hood, Midnight Club 3 is mostly identical to the console games, powered by a handful of modes. Much of your time will be spent in the inevitable Career mode, which puts you in an entry level car such as a Mitsubishi Eclipse, ’68 Impala or Volkswagen Jetta and sends you out on the street to pick some fights. Thankfully, there’s no goofy story getting in the way, so you can just choose your ride and hit the road.
The setup will be very familiar to vets of the series. A free-roaming city is at your beck and call, with specific points on the map marking the locations of optional race events, opponents and tournaments. Most events allow you to drive whatever vehicle you want, although some require a specific class (i.e. luxury sedans, choppers, etc.) Just win races and you’ll earn a big enough bankroll to keep a stable of all the vehicles you’ll need.
Provided you have incredible patience, that is. Brutal load screens pop up constantly; you can literally get up and make a sandwich every couple minutes. It wouldn’t be so bad if it only happened once in a while, but every time you start a race, every time you end a race and every time you visit a shop, you’ll be stuck staring at the loading screen. It breaks up the flow and can be maddening.
When you finally get started, you’re sadly rewarded with mediocre racing. The action is purely arcade with quick, sharp turns at breakneck speeds minus any consequences (unless you’re on a bike). Since there’s no damage-modeling or crash ramifications, the biggest challenge is keeping away from buildings and other large stationary objects. That’s easier said than done, though. Despite a pretty good sense of speed, the draw distance can be rough. The view on the horizon isn’t crisp, and the busy cityscape easily hides a few sneaky buildings that can jump out in front of you.
But even if you get stuck in an accident, the competition is very forgiving. Just step on the gas and there’s a pretty good chance you’ll catch up. It gets even easier when you earn a nitrous upgrade, since you can play follow the leader, then boost past them at the finish line. The challenge isn’t quite there.
The game does get a little better with the addition of some decent customization. A plethora of aftermarket goodies are available for most vehicles; tuners will be able to add a variety of performance parts, custom bodywork, and personal touches. It’s too bad the vehicle selection isn’t nearly as big, but at least there are some interesting choices. Not only can you get typical cars like Supras and Lancers, but you can also find Escalades, an assortment of choppers and even some Lamborghinis.
Progressing through Career mode also opens up special abilities based on the vehicle you’re driving. SUVs, trucks and luxury sedans can perform “Aggro,” which allows them to plow right through traffic. Muscle cars and choppers can “Roar,” forcing traffic to the side of the road, and tuners and sports bikes can get in the “Zone,” slowing down the world around them for increased driving precision. Each one of these abilities must be charged before use and, like nitrous, are best used toward the end of the race. Again, it’s an arcade game.
Arcade is also one of the few other game modes, allowing you to jump into a quick race with the option to toggle an assortment of power-ups. Ten types of races are available, from the predictable Circuit race, where cars race from checkpoint to checkpoint, to the unpredictable Frenzy mode, where brakes and special abilities are disabled and the nitrous automatically kicks in every 15 seconds.
Wireless (Ad Hoc) networking lets you compete in these same races with up to five other Midnight Club 3 racers. It’s much more fun than competing against computer opponents, although everyone needs their own copy and there is no Infrastructure online play at all.
Despite its draw distance and load time issues, the game doesn’t look half bad. The cities are filled with bridges, boardwalks and breakable pathways as multicolored lighting adds ambience. The car models are a little flat, but they did a relatively good job retaining the solid look of the console version.
The audio, meanwhile, is awesome for any fan of hip-hop, with a playlist that includes tracks like Twista’s “Overnight Celebrity” and Beenie Man’s “King of the Dancehall.” Hard trance tracks are also on the radio, though there’s not much else.
And in the end, what’s here isn’t really worth the insane load times. While it manages to emulate the console version in terms of content, Midnight Club 3 comes to a screeching halt in its technical problems and overly simple racing. Patient gamers may be able to coax some fun out of this ride, but others will want to leave the loading screens in the dust.