The third in the series, the Midnight Club range has always proved popular with the speed freaks, but can this latest edition build on the previous version and steer the game to glory.
Six months on from Need to Speed Underground 2 (NFSU2) and Rockstar’s Midnight Club 3 is challenging EA’s dominance in yet another market. The gameplay is very similar as is the premise, however gone is the reliance on style over substance.
You begin on the streets of San Diego (Rockstar’s hometown) although you can race in two other cities; Detroit and Atlanta, the task at hand is to cruise around town and pick races when you feel comfortable enough to have a go at winning them. Win races and you earn more cash, and more cash gives you the chance to soup up your wheels.
Unlike NFSU2 the game doesn’t rely on you styling your car to gain Kudos and extra cash, there are some races that require you to have a certain style like a sedan or something but other than that money spend on what’s under the bonnet is far more important in the early stages.
Once you’ve earned your cash, it’s normally a case of heading down to 619 customs - the garage in the game - to pimp your ride. Here, everything, and we mean everything, can be changed, customised or improved. For those looking to get out quick there is an auto upgrade button that gives you the best engine upgrades for your cash, however those wishing to idle way the time can opt to colourise exhausts, tint windows and even apply motifs on your car. Once you’ve pimped the ride enough you can even sell it and do it all again with 49 other licensed vehicles and depending on how you are doing in the career mode will depend on how many elements, cars and extras are unlocked for you to strive for.
Get on the street and the races are often, although like NFSU2 you need to drive around town to find them. Once found races are normally a best of three, and means you have to come first in all three races to complete the round. This is the game’s heart and racing through the checkpoints the fastest the goal.
Races themselves are well balanced, always with a tricky corner or turn half way through that is bound to scupper the inexperienced. That said don’t be fooled by the fear that crashing or getting lost will instantly lose you the game, in the many races we took part in as part of this review the amount of times we went from 6th to first was surprising.
Of course driving like a maniac is bound to draw attention and one of our favourite parts of the game is when the police get involved, without warning police blocks start appearing and motorbikes trying to ram you off the road with instructions to stop. This extra intrusion, only adds to the tense final straight of any race and can cost you first place if your not careful.
Graphics are the key here and Midnight Club prides itself on being fast and furious, and that it is. In fact, at times the game is so fast that you really are driving by “Jedi force” rather that actually having a notion of what you are doing. This combined with a nitro mode that allows you slipstream opponents to go even faster and you can easily be way off course in a matter of second as you shoot past the other cars and the turning.
For NFSU2 fans this is more of the same without the style aspirations and probably a worthy investment if it’s starting to tire. The eight-player online feature will a please race junkies looking for that extra challenge and the addition of a race editor means the choice of races is ultimately endless. The decision to opt for substance over style when it comes to racing was more appealing to us that spending hours crafting a “pretty” car. Our only complaint - that it really does get blurry when you go fast. Even if it’s meant to be that way to represent the nitro effect, it’s not one to play if you’re having trouble focusing after coming back from the pub. Either that, or it could make a good reaction testing game before you’ve all sobered up.