The PSP already has one street racer – Need For Speed Underground, but there's always room for another. Midnight Club 3: Dub Edition has a similar concept to NFSU – you drive around a city looking for races and take the cash you've earned on the street to customize your ride. It's an incredibly ambitious game to put on the PSP, but for the most part, the transition from console to handheld has been smooth. Other than some extremely long load times, all of the great gameplay from the PS2 has made it to the PSP version.
The bulk of Midnight Club's gameplay is found in the career mode, but there are quick race, arcade, and local Wi-Fi options as well. 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 the moves, and trying to hit the circle button while navigating tight areas, is not easy.
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.
The game's biggest flaw is that the developers simply tried to cram too much into the game. There are tons of races, but many of them are so similar that you feel like you're racing the same thing over and over. The huge cities are nice, but it takes so long unlock the next citiy that it's easy to give up before unlocking the next area.
Each of the game's problems is made worse by the truly horrific load times. It takes a minute to load the garage, 15 seconds to load a car, 1 minute to get back to the city, and then 60-70 seconds to load the race. After you unlock something, you must wait a minute for the video of what you unlocked to load, and then must wait for the city to load, and so on. It's an endless cycle, and one that could really kill the amount of fun some people are able to have with the game. If you've got five minutes to kill and half of it is going to be spent watching the load screen, there's really no point in playing.
Midnight Club 3: Dub Edition is a very impressive looking game, especially when you consider how new of a system the PSP is. The cities are huge and feature a lot of detail, right down to graffiti on the walls of buildings. 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. If you spent a great deal of time with the PS2 version of the game, you'll notice the pedestrians are no longer around, nor are the chicks that start off each race – or maybe you won't notice, since they were pretty worthless on the PS2.
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 car damage that was so prevalent in the PS2 version didn't make it into the game, but it's not really missed.
Much of the racing takes place at night, which makes it a bit difficult to see, especially if you are playing outdoors or have the PSP's brightness turned down. There is an option to increase the game's brightness in the menus, and it helps quite a bit, but perhaps a better alternative would have been to make more of the races during the day.
All of the pretty visuals come at a price, and that price is a slow, and often times inconsistent framerate. It's less of an issue when racing from the first-person perspective, but when numerous opponents are on screen as well as traffic and flying debris, the framerate chokes to the point that the game looks like it's moving in slow motion. Other times it simply stutters, making it very hard to navigate through heavy traffic, which is one of the areas where it happens the most. Since you'll crash often, you're likely to notice some pretty obvious clipping when you come into contact with another vehicle at high speed. The camera will see right through the vehicle, and then pop back out; one of the game's few glaring flaws.
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.
As long as you don't get frustrated with the long load times and the cumbersome way in which you must unlock things, Midnight Club 3: Dub Edition is a fantastic game. The sheer amount of content that Rockstar was able to cram into the PSP version is very impressive, and you're sure to get your money's worth. However, the few problems that the game does have, are bad enough to turn some people completely off. If you're the type of person that is able to see the greater good of a game, then Dub Edition is a great purchase. If you get frustrated with a game's flaws easily, you're going to want to give this one a rental to see if it's for you.