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ups: tight controls, great and diverse soundtrack
downs: long load times, dodgy frame rates

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Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition
game: Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition
four star
posted by: Gary Wong
publisher: Rockstar Games
developer: Rockstar Leeds
ESRB rating: E10+ (Everyone 10 and Older)
date posted: 10:40 AM Sat Aug 27th, 2005
last revision: 05:45 PM Mon Aug 29th, 2005

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Click to read.Before delving any further into this review, let\'s acknowledge the presence of the elephant in the room - Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition has load times that are beyond obscene. When you play this game, you will be treated to some of the longest load times you have ever seen with the added insult that they will occur often. Just how bad is it? A look at a typical sequence in which you first enter career mode after the game starts up (following a lengthy period for loading, of course):

1. You\'re in a car in the selected city and you want to change your car.
2. [load time of 70-80 seconds]
3. You\'re in the garage selecting a different car. Every time you want to look a different car...
4. [load time of 10-15 seconds]
5. You\'ve selected a car and now want to head back out to the streets.
6. [load time of 70-80 seconds]
7. You\'re cruising on the streets and have challenged someone to a race.
8. [load time of 70-80 seconds]
9. You win the race in less than two minutes.
10. [load time of 70-80 seconds]
11. You\'re back on the streets.

If you add up all the load times and the amount of time you actually spend racing or even just cruising the streets looking for a race, there\'s a good two-to-one ratio in favor of load time. Yes, it\'s understood that the load time owes more to the PSP hardware than it does to developer Rockstar Leeds but it\'s a point that should be made clear before we get to the nitty gritty of the review.

Discussion of load times now behind us, let\'s get down to the actual game. The PSP port of the Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition has a lot of what made the home console version so popular. The game looks good, plays well, sounds good, and has a lot of the extras that keep people picking the game up over and over again. Like any port, the game does suffer a little in the translation - most noticeably, the frame rate hiccups that occur when you get into a multi-car pileup or when you crash into a gas station causing a very slow-developing explosion. Still, this game is all about fun and that\'s something that Rockstar Leeds was able to deliver on.

The action takes place in three uniquely different (though you wouldn\'t be able to tell from playing this game) cities in the United States; you start in San Diego but you ultimately will unlock and get to cruise through Detroit and Atlanta. The meat of the game is in the competitive racing but some time should be taken to explore the city that you\'re in, not just so you\'ll know the streets better when you actually do race but because the artists behind the game did a great job in bringing the cities to life. These cities may not be the picture-perfect digitalization of London in The Getaway series but the back alleys, freeways, and the unique elements of each city are well represented. A thorough exploration of each city will net you an extra bonus since there are Rockstar logos littered throughout the entire city - you don\'t need me to tell you that some sort of reward awaits you upon successful retrieval of all the hidden logos.

Cruising through the city, you\'ll be able to race in city/stage tournaments, in class-specific (muscle cars, tuners, choppers) races and against fellow street racers. Most of the races are of the type where you have to hit each checkpoint in succession - this kind of race can be found in both lap races and continuous races. These checkpoints are in the forms of arrows that appear at the top of the screen and en route and on the street when you reach it. Though it may be tempting to follow the arrows, blindly following them will lead you either into a building or a missed turn - this can spell disaster when you race against the better drivers. Adding to that problem is the small PSP screen (compared to that of a television\'s) which makes it harder to anticipate the turns and the buildings coming up until you\'re just about to hit them. It\'s very likely that you\'ll have to play through each race several times before you finish first but that\'s okay since each finish nets you some cash. Some of the races will have just two checkpoints - one that you race out to and the finish line you drive back to. These are the more troublesome of the races since the arrows are of little use - pressing \"Select\" to bring up the map may be more helpful in these sorts of races. This is where having done the free-roaming cruises will really come in handy because it\'s all about finding the fastest/shortest route between the three points (start, midpoint, end). The hardest type of race is the one where you basically race against the clock (thank my watching the Tour de France on a daily basis for that choice of words) on a closed course. You have a time to beat in order to finish first but time penalties can be assessed for poor driving (driving into a wall is one example) while excellent maneuvering (taking turns well) are rewarded with taking time off the clock. Racing against the clock is mostly confined to the city tournament so you won\'t run into encounter these races too often but careful and skillful driving is the best course of action on those courses.

What truly makes Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition is the level of customization available to you. There are a lot of cars and motorcycles for you to own - most you can purchase but some will require you to win them as prizes in races. The real motivation to play and win each race comes not out of competition but the need for money to finance the fervent desire to \"rice\" out your car with all the latest and greatest options. Some are useful - you can\'t argue that turbo, nitrous, and engine upgrades don\'t help win the races - but some options are purely aesthetic though there\'s absolutely nothing wrong with the outside of your car looking just as good as the inside.

The vehicles available to race vary in nature. If you\'re like me, you\'ll spend most of your time driving tuners since they afford the best far-reaching performance in races but since there are class-specific races, you\'ll have to learn to diversify. Other classes of vehicles include muscle cars, motorcycles, and luxury automobiles from manufacturers such as Mitsubishi, Cadillac, and Chevrolet. This is where control and gameplay are evident as each vehicle type (obviously) handles differently. Tuners offer middle of the road performance in all categories but you\'ll find that muscle cars are slower to accelerate while motorcycles fly the moment you hit the gas. The controls in this game are necessarily tight and precise - the frustration with controlling your car in this game lies solely with your own ability or inability to drive.

DUB Edition also has a robust and diverse soundtrack with the likes of Kasabian, M.I.A., Jimmy Eat World, Calyx, the Ying Yang Twins, Beenie Man, Marilyn Manson, and Nine Inch Nails. Most of the music is well placed and really help get the adrenaline pumping when you race. If there\'s a genre of music that you don\'t particularly like, you can set it to only play a genre you do like. In this kind of game, the music is really important - if you don\'t believe me, try playing the game with the music off and see how long you can stand the sound effects the cars make.

When you get tired of playing against the computer in career mode, you can race against others in Wi-Fi play though, sadly, only Ad Hoc is supported. Why Rockstar Leeds couldn\'t implement support for Infrastructure, who knows, but it would have been appreciated. Still, up to six people can play against each other as long as each player has their own copy of the game. Multiplayer races include straight races, capture the flag, and tag - nothing to really set the world on fire but more gameplay modes mean more replay value.

Midnight Club: DUB Edition has a lot to enjoy and the rich career mode will keep you busy a long while after your purchase. The solid gameplay and diverse soundtrack may be a genre norm at this point but the game can\'t be faulted for that. The only real drawback to this game and the best reason why this game does not merit a perfect score is the load time. The point of gaming on a portable system is the ability to pick it up and just play - only that\'s not possible with this game. The load times will drive you absolutely insane and there\'s no way around that sentiment. But if you can get past looking at a yellow on black load screen for more than half of the time you play this game, then you\'ll end up with a seriously good time.

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