The Need For Speed Underground franchise might have grabbed most of the headlines with its emphasis on street racing and car customization, but Midnight Club has been right along with it in terms of quality. In Midnight Club 3: Dub Edition, you drive around a city looking for races and take the cash you've earned on the street to customize your ride. There are boatloads of cars, SUV's, and motorcycles to keep your garage full, and because of the partnership with Dub, there are more ways than ever to pimp out your ride.
The bulk of Midnight Club's gameplay is found in the career mode, but there are quick race, arcade, and even online races you can take part in the game's career mode, you'll start of with an inexpensive (but still nice) ride, and take to the streets to win cash and street cred.
There are three cities included in the game; San Diego, Atlanta, and Detroit. City layouts aren't exactly true to life, but each area of the city is represented, and most of the major landmarks are included. The game even tracks your driving stats as you progress through the game, giving you totals for miles driven, wins, top speed, time played, objects hit, and even how many times you've changed the music tracks. Sure, this sort of information is trivial, but it's still neat to see.
It takes a few races to adjust to the game's controls, but after a while, they become second nature. Mapping the brakes to the circle button is an odd choice, since it's usually square in most racers, but this and all the other controls can be changed in the option menu. As you progress through the game, rivals will teach you special abilities that can give you the edge you need to win the tough races. These moves can slow down time, scatter traffic and more. They are an interesting concept, but recognizing when you need to use them, remembering which move your car can do, and then executing the move in a split-second is pretty tough to do.
In Dub Edition, tuning your car and pimping it out are just as important as racing. A large list of vehicles from Mercedes, Lexus, Mazda, Hummer, Nissan, Volkswagen, and many others are available, as are several different kinds of motorcycles. It's very easy to tune your car, and there's even an auto-upgrade feature for anyone that is intimidated by adding parts to their vehicle. Visual upgrades are plentiful, and they're inexpensive, so even if you're focused on making your car as fast as possible, spending a few hundred dollars can make your car look smooth by adding spoilers, neon, window tint, decals, and even changing body parts, rims tires and license plates. Some races are open to any type of vehicle, but a many of them are restricted to a particular type of car, which is how the game forces you to keep your collection well-rounded. The one problem with this is that it can make it very difficult to progress to the next city if you are stuck on one particular race, which is easy to do since one bad crash can end your chances of winning.
Midnight Club 3: Dub Edition is a solid looking game, but there's nothing here that's going to blow you away. The cities are huge and feature a lot of detail, right down to graffiti on the walls of buildings and pedestrians that are adept at diving out of the way. There are also a number of effects like sparks, smoke, and neon lighting to make things more exciting. There are several shortcuts in the game, and many of them involve crashing through walls, gates, and even windows, all of which produce a pleasing display of destruction. After a race you can perform a visual inspection of your vehicle to check out the damage it occurred during the race.
The cars all look great and each have their own distinct visual style, making it easy to tell who you are racing and what kind of vehicle they are driving. Details like window tint, neon, and even little things like exhaust color and license plate number (which can be customized) are all visible, though you won't often get the chance to admire such little nuances.
The framerate isn't bad, but there are times when it's super fast, and other times when it feels like it's in slow motion. Other times it simply stutters, making it very hard to navigate through heavy traffic, which is one of the areas where the problem occurs the most.
Midnight Club's soundtrack features a number of well-known artists, including: Fix, Roy Jones Jr, Pit-bull, M.I A. The Ratt Pack, Beenie Man, Future Prophecies, Fix, Fabolous, Lil' Wayne, Nine Inch Nails, Deep Blue, The Game, Twista, Sean Paul, Queens of the Stone Age, Jimmy Eat World, Marilyn Manson, Fat Joe, and Trick Daddy. Unfortunately there's no way to setup the soundtrack for genres or artists you enjoy, so you must skip through songs during the race by using the d-pad. It's still a great soundtrack, and there's something for just about everyone.
Midnight Club 3: Dub Edition is a very good game that is only held back by its lack of cities and how long it takes to progress from one city to the next. If you're looking for a fun racing game that allows you to customize your ride in almost any way imaginable, then you'll want to put down that Need For Speed Underground box and pick up Midnight Club 3: Dub Edition.