The Midtown Madness series fits into two schools of thought - the first is that it’s the best game ever created, and the second is that after the initial 15 minutes, the novelty soon wears off and this game becomes dull and unimaginative. Unfortunately for Microsoft while the game is well presented and polished it will soon lose its novelty value.
While Midtown Madness 2 offered the cities of San Francisco and London - both cinematic cities - this time Midtown Madness 3 is based in Washington DC and Paris. While these are both interesting cities, neither is known as well to the British public. Paris offers small streets while Washington a grid like city, but to most there will be nothing familar in the same way London is unless you’re well travelled.
As with Midtown Madness 2 there are a number of options available to you - free ride, campaign mode and multiplayer to name but a few. As with most games the campaign mode offers the chance to open up cars and paint jobs in the free ride mode as well as giving the player something to aim for.
Levels see you rising from a pizza delivery boy in Washington up to a chauffeur and beyond while the Paris city sees you starting out as a parcel delivery boy. The campaigns have been split to the separate cities, but the missions are virtually identical. What makes it worse is the annoying in-game characters that are there to insult you as you drive around. The French city sees you trying to steer clear of a badly scripted, badly voiced Frenchwoman. These are stereotypes working to the max.
Multiplayer gives you the chance to play online via the X-Box Live service and this does add some playability to the game as a whole. However it isn't enough to sway the vote.
Free ride mode offers the chance to change daytime settings, weather conditions and the amount of police that will chase you if you’re driving badly. The introduction of the police while a good idea does highlight the major problem with this game. Primarily that it's not Grand Theft Auto. When the original Midtown was released there was nothing else like it. Since then we have been spoiled with the ability to get out of the car when we are bored, gun down police and basically cause mayhem, and because of that Midtown Madness comes across as a poor man’s GTA.
While the games maps and graphics are well polished the substance just isn't there. If you're afraid of the GTA games for any reason, whether its because you don't believe in the violence or simply not old enough, this game will fill the void, but if you've ever played GTA - even for five minutes - then you likely to find Midtown Madness 3 both frustrating and limiting at the same time.