After the surprising greatness of Midnight Club II (my review), I was pretty pumped up about Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition although I wasn’t as thrilled about the tricking out of my cars ala the Need for Speed: Underground series. Luckily it isn’t a necessity to trick out your car with cool rims, neon lights, etc. like you do in the Need for Speed: Underground series.

The big question everyone will ask since this is another arcade racer is if Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition can stand up to Burnout 3: Takedown, the current king of arcade racers, or not. In some ways it outdoes Burnout 3, but in many ways it does not. Let’s get to the info.

When taken strictly from a comparison standpoint with Burnout 3, Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition is not as good looking, but it does have some things that Burnout 3 does not have. First off is that Midnight Club 3 runs at a lower framerate than Burnout 3, so the sense of speed is not nearly as intense in my mind. The cities themselves look better here than the levels in Burnout 3 and it even looks better than Need for Speed: Underground 2, the game that it shares commonalities with the most (open-ended gameplay, tricking out cars). The cars are nicely detailed with reflections from the levels themselves. It doesn’t look as clear as Burnout 3, but it certainly does a better job than Underground 2 in my mind.

One of the big things Midnight Club 3 does better is the weather effects, although they sometimes take a small hit on the generally solid framerate. Racing through rain and fog can be very exciting and scary at the same time. The framerate drops from time to time in these situations, but it doesn’t hurt the overall graphics at all. Another thing Midnight Club 3 has over both Burnout 3 and Underground 2 is the amount of traffic in the races. Not only do you have the computer opponents, but you also have regular cars getting in your way…far more cars than either Burnout 3 or Underground 2 have on-screen at once. It doesn’t bring down the framerate, but it makes it a lot harder to dodge traffic with so much of it coming at you.

The authentic parts you can put on your car also look very good and you can get quite the tricked out car if you like. Neon lights underneath the car; new fenders, roofs, engines, gearshifts, etc. is all readily available for you to add to your car, SUV or motorcycle if you have the money. This is a licensed game and many real-life cars make an appearance. The cars take damage, but not to the level of Burnout 3. You will see scuffs, dented in hoods, loose trunks, shattered glass, etc., but you won’t be seeing the total destruction of your car after slamming into a building going over 150 MPH like you would in Burnout 3. The good part is once you are done with a race your car is brand spanking new for the next race.  Damage doesn’t effect your car at all that I have noticed.

You would think with DUB Magazine being the co-sponsor of this game that they would have their ads pasted all over the game, but surprisingly you only see it here and there. I’ve heard that DUB helped in choosing which cars to license as well as which manufacturers to have for all the tuning of the vehicles. I’d say they’ve made a good partnership here and the ads aren’t as intrusive as, say, Need for Speed: Underground 2‘s were.

I’ve never driven in San Diego or Detroit, but I have been to Atlanta before (but certainly don’t remember the roads or anything). There are known attractions that I’ve gone by (like PacBell Stadium, Ford Field and the Georgia Dome) and I can only guess that the streets are set up pretty much like they are in real life. San Diego has always been in the Midnight Club games simply because Rockstar San Diego (formerly Angel Studios) is the creator of the game. I find the cities nicely laid out and very busy, so it’s of special note that the levels are at least somewhat based on real sections of the cities.

Musical tracks are something Rockstar seems to do right all the time and Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition is no different. Unlike Burnout 3 and Need for Speed Underground 2 you actually get a wide range of genres to choose from with a lot of songs in each. You can choose from Rock, Hip-Hop, Rap, etc. as well as your own soundtracks on your Xbox. I generally stayed in the Rock category and they have some great songs in there, including Nine Inch Nails new “The Hand That Feeds”, although it is chopped up in the front. Since the game is rated E10+ (Everyone over the age of 10) the bad words in songs were taken out. It’s nice to see Rockstar allowing people a wide range of musical genres to listen to in their games. They are easily plowed through with the left/right on the d-pad to find a song you want. I would also like to point out that the Midnight Club 3 theme will probably stay with you for a long time. You hear it a lot, but it so far hasn’t gotten old and it sounds awesome on a 5.1 system with a nice bass track.

The sound is also of great quality. Different engines have different sounds and there is a sort of Doppler effect with a 5.1 system on the Xbox. You can hear cars coming from behind and everything sounds very nice. When you kick in the nitro things sound really interesting as you whiz by all the cars (or crash into them). There is a very Fast and the Furious feel to the game with the same quality of sound to boot.

The control is nice and tight, although there are a heck of a lot of things you can do while playing and you might not be able to keep up to speed with what is going on as you’re going very fast. As usual for a racing game, the R and L triggers are for acceleration and braking. The A button is a handbrake, the X button is your nitrous button which can only be used when the turbo level on the right of the HUD is full. The Y button allows you to look behind you (but you do have a rear-view mirror on the bottom of the HUD). The black button allows you to change the camera angle (from far away, to close, to closer to inside the car in a first-person perspective).

The overall control of the cars are a little loose for my taste, but I seem to remember Midnight Club II having the same problems. I would have to re-fire that game up in order to make that connection. Once you get beyond the initial cars the tightness of controls seems to get better. The motorcycles have great control though and you can obviously make better jumps with them.

This game is set up much like Need for Speed: Underground 2, a game I didn’t much care for. You are given a city and you can drive around it to take on people in races, tournaments, join car clubs, etc. The difference between Midnight Club 3 and Underground 2 is that you can choose where you want to go in Midnight Club 3 on a map and get led to it via the arrow on the HUD. The marker also goes high into the sky so you can see exactly where it is. In Underground 2 you found yourself driving around aimlessly looking for the next thing to do.

Also unlike Underground 2 you do not have to detail out your car with all the fancy decals, lights, fenders, hoods, etc. There is no respect score like there is in Underground 2. This is not to say it wouldn’t be smart to upgrade your hardware inside the car (engine, gearshift, nitrous, exhaust, etc.), because it is pretty important to do so in order to win races.

Much like Midnight Club II, Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition is an open-ended game. Unlike Midnight Club II you can go to any of the cities whenever you want after the initial sections of San Diego. This means you won’t be going through the cities in order and reach the ultimate mountaintop and difficulty of Tokyo found in Midnight Club II. The difficulty has also been scaled back quite a bit. Yes, the game is still difficult, but making a wrong move or two will not necessarily cost you the race in this game as it did in Midnight Club II. There are also many more shortcuts in the races than there were in Midnight Club II. If you play your cards right you could find a shortcut that will give you a huge lead in races. The beauty here is that the computer AI will also slam into things and there is also no rubberband logic like there is in Burnout 3.

Updating and buying your new cars, SUVs and motorcycles is also pretty easy. You can look through the cars and buy them and then you can go into different sections (hardware, body work, decal work, etc.) to fix it up. For the most part you’ll want to work on the innards of the car so that it races better, but you can certainly trick out your car with stylin’ rims and bouncy shocks if you like. It’s totally up to you and you shouldn’t run out of money as there are a lot of races out there.

The career mode is a long one. You go through a series of races in order to unlock club challenges and tournaments that will net you new cars. Club challenges are set up so you have to have a certain class of vehicle to even be able to enter into them. For the most part if you beat the tournament available it will net you the vehicle to hit the club challenge with. You will also open up more garages and learn more about the special things contained within Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition.

One final addition are the special abilities given to the classes of cars. SUVs and trucks are given Agro which allows them (via pushing in the left analog stick) to slam into cars and not be bounced around. Available to muscle cars and motorcycles is Roar, which puts out a circular force field that moves cars outward so you can easily move straight through it. Available to tuners, exotic cars and sports bikes is the Zone ability. This slows down time so you can easily weave in and out of traffic. Each one helps a lot, but they are only momentarily useful. Important to note that special abilities from Midnight Club II are available on every vehicle, such as the two wheel driving via the B button.

There is also, just as in Midnight Club II, the ability to play this game on Xbox Live. Much like in Midnight Club II unfortunately it is a game of the have and have nots. If you haven’t gotten far in the game you’ll find it possibly frustrating to find people that are on the same level as you are with the same level of cars. If you jump into a game with someone with a super car it isn’t going to be very fun. The plus side of the Live play on this game is that you can create clans (called Clubs here) much like you can in Halo 2 where your club can take on people.

The newer online game options are: Capture the Flag, Split, Basewar, a paint mode where you gain territories and Tag Matches. The usual career modes are here as well: Cruise, Circuit, Ordered races and Unordered races and the host can alter such things as the number of players (max is 8), time of day, weather, vehicle types and how heavy the flags are. In many ways it sounds a lot like Midtown Madness 3 for Xbox, a game I found a lot of fun online with the Capture the Gold. I also found Midnight Club II immensely fun, but only after you beat the single-player game so you had all the cars. Hopefully you can find friends that you can play same class races with.

Holy cow, Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition is quite the long game. The single player career mode will take you 15+ hours to beat and it could take you double that amount, much like Burnout 3. With the addition of a more robust online component than Burnout 3 has I can see Midnight Club 3 having a lot of legs. I know people are still playing Midnight Club II to this day, so its popularity hasn’t waned very much.

If you’re at all into a nice arcade racer where you can update the parts of your car, Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition is easily the one to pick up over Need for Speed: Underground 2. For a pure arcade racer with no fine tuning, Burnout 3 is more up your alley.