One of the most popular genres in games today is racing, and Midnight Club III is one of the most popular titles in racing games today. Released only a few months ago for the Playstation 2 and XBox, the game speeds onto the PSP in a near perfect port. The game was released in June in America, and copped a lot of flack for the loading times, so is Midnight Club III a title worth of your attention, or in an extremely flooded PSP racing market should you gloss over this game?
For this game Rockstar have teamed up with the DUB team who create the automotive lifestyle magazine. This is an obscure partnership, but one that appears to have definitely paid off. In exchange, Midnight Club III now contains many more options to modify or tune your car up, which is the most considerable change since the game's predecessor.
The first Midnight Club came out for the Playstation 2 in 2000; since then, the series hasn't evolved too much, and generally involves driving around an open ended city and challenging opponants to races. It's a fairly simple concept that makes the game easy and enjoyable to play, even when just driving to the next challenge.
There are a few modes in the game for gamers to keep busy. The primary mode is the career mode, where players race through a completely ended environment to find their next challenge. The career mode is mixed up with all different types of races, but most of them revolve around a checkpoint style of racing. There is also an arcade mode that allows for quicker gameplay and isn't quite as deep as the career mode.
Rockstar have also included full multiplayer support for up to six players. There are a few different multiplayer races such as paint games, which provide for a decent amount of entertainment and should extend the lifespan of the title considerably. Unfortunately, all players must own a copy of the game to experience the multiplayer racing.
One of the main drawcards of the game is the fully licensed vehicles. Rockstar have ensured the game feels authentic, and just like Need for Speed Underground the game has over fifty licensed vehicles, which have made the transition from the console to the PSP without any missing. These range from vehicles such as SUVs through to those rare dream cars such as a McLaren F1 (has anyone ever wondered why when a game contains a Formula One car it is always a McLaren?).
As mentioned earlier, customisation has also become more prominant in the title, thanks to the DUB affiliation. Just about every possible part can be customised, such as rims, spoilers and hydraulics. This feels like a sensible evolution for the Midnight Club III series. Rockstar have also brought back those insane moves that defy logic, which means time can be slowed or cars can become "agro" to try and inflict extra damage to the cars.
What's even more amazing is that the game has made the transition to the PSP without losing any of the features it had on the console versions. All three cities from the console versions (Atlanta, San Diego, and Detroit) are featured, and are just as large and open ended. The cities are huge, and there haven't been many losses in detail in the transition.
Gameplay wise the game has retained all the charm it had; this doesn't feel like a portable port, but more a game on equal footing in comparison to the Xbox and Playstation 2 versions. The game is fast, but not as fast as we remember, and sometimes there is some slowdown, which breaks the momentum of the game.
The loading in Midnight Club III has caused many debates over in the United States, as to how much of a sacrifice has to be made to port console titles to the PSP. We're extremely pleased to report that the PAL versions of Midnight Club III have had the loading cut in half. We were extremely worried when we approached this game that we'd be sitting through long loading times, but thankfully Rockstar have treated PAL gamers to significantly lower load times. This is brilliant news, and whilst the loading is still a little long, the open ended environment of the city fully justifies the loading; we wouldn't have wanted to have waited double the time though. Those who were sitting on the fence regarding the game because of the loading have no reason not to pick this title up now. Now who was it that said waiting was a bad thing?
The damage model has had a little bit of a downgrade for the transition, and whilst it isn't as detailed as the console versions it is still fairly comprehensive. A lot of the other racing titles for the PSP don't feature any damage model at all, so we're pleased that there hasn't been too much of a downgrade. However, come Burnout Legends this damage model will seem very tame.
Graphically, the game looks great. The cities are huge and very well modelled. The environments feel alive and the cars look brilliant. The only concern with the graphics is the slowdown, but it doesn't happen frequently enough to become a serious issue, although it does temporarily put the player off guard.
The sound in the game is a bit of a hit and miss affair. The soundtrack is really brilliant and contains artists such as Jimmy Eat World and the Queens of the Stone Age - Rockstar have even included an option to sort the music by genre - but the actual sound effects haven't been mixed very well, and come off sounding a little weak.
The game itself can last a significant amount of time. In fact, the game could last up to twenty hours without including the multiplayer; there are a vast variety of modes aside from the career mode. Including the multiplayer could easily extend this game past one day of full play, so this is definitely not a game that can be completed in an overnight rent.
This is the game to show to your friends who can't decide whether to get a PSP or not. The visuals are great, and there is a lot of music, as well as an extensive multiplayer mode and a career mode that can outlast most console games. Anyone who is a fan of racers has no reason not to pick Midnight Club III up, so unless of course you've played it earlier, this is a game we highly recommend.