Midtown Madness 3 is the Xbox-only sequel to the semi-popular series on computer. The previous two had been developed by Angel Studios (now Rockstar San Diego). The ironic thing is that Angel Studios went on to make the Midnight Club series, arguably Midtown Madness‘ main competitor. However, DICE is considered a great company (Battlefield 1942 on computer and Rallisport Challenge for Xbox as examples) and chances are they can pull off a good game when they need to. So, do they?
This game has some truly spectacular graphics. From the motor vehicles to the look of Paris and Washington, D.C. this game has great graphics in spades. Even the damage and environment effects are well done. This is a section where Midtown Madness 3 easily outdoes Midnight Club 2 in my mind. The lighting effects are also well done with the sun shimmering off your car and seeing the reflection of buildings in your windows. I would say this is right up there with Project Gotham Racing in how nice it looks. The game does not slowdown at all in single-player mode. However, the game can slow down a bit in online play. This really only happens when there is lag in your connection or other player’s connections. When there was no lag there was no slowdown.
Let’s get the cool thing out of the way first: you can import your own music into this game, which is always an added benefit in any Xbox game. There is a problem with the game playing the same track over and over again though and a controller option for skipping tracks would have really helped in this game.
Overall the car and ambient sounds are good, but not great. The engines sound nice, but the ambient sound didn’t get me excited at all. Sure, there are people screaming as you almost run them over, but the sound just is not as good as something like Project Gotham Racing or Midnight Club 2. I also have a huge problem with the French voices during the single-player missions. They are extremely annoying because the accent is overdone. In this case the better idea would have been to just read your objective instead of listening to it. There are some funny voices though, especially by the people you are working undercover for that you hear after each arc of jobs are done.Control is nice for the most part. The setup is just the way I like my Xbox games…R trigger for acceleration and L trigger for break. Where control becomes a problem is in odd terrain. I have nothing but trouble in on-line games when I take my sports car through a park and have to do something other than going straight ahead. Often the car will just get stuck and not be able to move forward an inch. It also happens for even the lowest of cars in this game too. I try to stay away from grassy areas if at all possible, although it is almost impossible during online play.
You will probably ask why the score is so low. Well, you basically have 2 games here: the single-player side and the Live online play. One sucks rocks while the other makes this game worth owning. Can you guess which one sucks? That’s right! The single-player mode sucks. Basically you pick your city (Paris or Washington, D.C.) and you have a variety of jobs (taxi driver, pizza delivery guy, etc.) with missions where you basically pick up and/or drop stuff off. In this case, Midtown Madness 3 is a lot like the Crazy Taxi series. The problem with that is that the Taxi series was far more fun than this. I just found no joy from playing the single-player side of this game. Washington, D.C. isn’t too bad, but the Paris jobs with the annoying overdone French voices (look in Sound) just makes an ok experience that much worse.
The greatness of this game is the Live Online Play, although there is a caveat to this mode as well. You can play with up to 7 people in different types of games. My favorite is Capture the Gold, which is a Capture the Flag type of game where you grab the gold and try to bring it back to the place it needs to be stored while keeping it away from all the others. Other modes are Hunter (where you try to be last Prey on the map), Stayaway (where you grab the rabbit and try to hold onto it for the longest time), Checkpoint (obvious) and Tag (also obvious). There is also a Cruise option where you can just go around the city.
The major caveat of online play is there are no cars other than your opponents. The streets of Paris and Washington, D.C. are deader than a doornail. Also, the host of the game can limit the size of the map and then you run into Matrix-like walls. The worst is when the map is in the super-small category. You basically have nowhere to go and no way to get away from a good amount of time.
Both single and Live options have their problems as well. Any low wall you encounter will stop you dead in your tracks. No pounding through it or jumping over it (unless you’re lucky). Nope, it stops you dead in your tracks. Trees are a whole other story. Some of them you’ll pass right through while some of them you’ll slam right into. Until you’ve played the game for a while you won’t know the difference between the two. If it is of a larger girth, chances are you will slam into it. If it’s thin you’ll fly right through it. Grass is also an interesting thing in that almost all sports cars are undrivable in it and arguably all cars are undrivable in it. I could see it if the grass was tall, but this is some short grass here folks! The worst of these is by far the low wall for me. When you need to get through a park you can’t just slam through the low wall. No, you have to drive around to the exit. The thing is this game allows you to plow through glass, signposts, etc. and break them…but encounter a low wall and you’ll lose.
The value and replay value on this title is entirely up to whether you have Live or not. If you don’t it would be smart to just pass this game by because the single-player section is seriously lacking when put up against the single-player section of its closest rival, Midnight Club 2. If you have Live this is quite a good pickup. I would dare say that the online play of this game outdoes Midnight Club 2. The latter has a great Live experience, but this one is just more fun and is not based around straight racing for the most part. I think the availability of games for everyone online is better here than on Midnight Club 2. It also isn’t nearly as elite either in my opinion.
The Live play easily saves this game from being a straight renter or skipper. Also, unlike Midnight Club 2 you don’t have to get through the game to have all cars available to you in Live play. This makes Midtown Madness 3 that much easier for a person to pick up and play online and not have to worry about the crappy single-player experience, especially if you are just renting the game.