mistyshadow's Midtown Madness 3 (Xbox) review

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One of the greatest open-ended racers ever developed...

If your looking for a racing game with realistic physics, graphics, and gameplay then I suggest you make a search for Gran Turismo. If your looking for a racing game that provides a fast and furious pace that defies the law’s of physics but still has good graphics and great gameplay then continue reading. Before I begin with the review though I want to tell you why I’m writing it in the first place. Its for the purely selfish reason that I want you buy this game so Microsoft will green-light another. If even one of you buys this game because of this review I will have made my contribution to the Midtown Madness franchise.

Following its predecessors this Midtown Madness also takes place in two cities: Paris, and Washington D.C. The maps are pretty well to scale with their respective landmarks where they should be. Objects along the streets such as street lamps, benches, bus stops, traffic cones and the like can be run over with the suitable sound attached. There is also pedestrians which all escape being run over miraculously at the last second to retain the “E“ for everyone rating, traffic, and cops that chase you if you make any traffic violations which is almost impossible not to do. In all, the cities feel, and look like real ones.

The physics of the game are unbelievably unrealistic. A Mini-Cooper for instance can knock over a vehicle three times its size if its traveling fast enough. You’ll also have no problem whipping around corners, and almost never have to break at any time. Still if you knock into cars or crash into buildings your vehicle will soon show signs of damage, and eventually damage out completely only to be replaced by a new one within seconds. Overall the physics, and handling of the game is overwhelmingly on the side of arcade-like fun over simulation.

The graphics of the game aren’t the greatest, but their solid in rendering city streets and auto racing. The details on the buildings aren’t very high, but you rarely notice them while burning through the city at 150 mph. The landmarks are detailed, and life-like. So to there is a good sense of speed in the game with a steady frame rate. There is also seasons, and even precipitation in the form of rain and snow represented. For an arcade game like this you can’t ask for much more.

In the sound department you’ll hear what you’d expect to hear from a game of this nature: a lot of tire screeching, and engine sounds all done to good effect. The voice-overs aren’t that bad, and can actually be hilarious in parts. As for the soundtrack it gets old pretty quickly but thankfully you have the option to make a custom soundtrack.

The single-player aspect of the game can become mind numbingly boring. In “Work Undercover” your involved in a rather flimsy crime caper. You drive limo’s, pizza delivery cars, armored-cars, and so-on. The missions largely consist of driving from point A to point B within a set limit while an AI controlled vehicle tries to beat you to the checkpoints. For the most part you can breeze through them all in about 2-3 hours. The other parts of the single-player mode consists of cruising the two cities aimlessly, checkpoint racing against the AI, and blitz racing which is races against the clock. As you progress through these single-player modes you can unlock new cars, and paint jobs. All these single-player modes can be entertaining for a few hours, but soon grows tiresome. Thankfully though it’s the online portion that saves this game from being called Midtown Mediocrity.

If MM3 wasn’t Xbox Live enabled this game would be a decent rental at best, but with Xbox Live it overflows with pure edge-of-your-seat-heart-pounding gaming nirvana. All the cars are unlocked even if you haven’t unlocked them in the single-player modes, and you can join a game already in progress. This cuts down a lot on the wait time noticeable in other XBL enabled games. Also to cut down on lag there is no pedestrians, traffic, or AI-controlled cops. There’s five online modes: cruise, checkpoint, capture the gold, tag, hunter, and stayaway.

Cruise

Here you can simply cruise either city, and play anyway you want. You can come up with your own games with other players, or try to discover glitches in the game to help you in the other online modes. Don’t think you’ll make any friends that way though; no ones like a cheater.

Checkpoint

Same as the single-player mode, but here your racing against real people who are usually a lot quicker, and smarter then AI. Well, usually.

Capture the Gold

Here a pile of gold spawns randomly in the city, and it’s up to you to grab it before everyone else and get it to your hideout before the others can catch you. If you get touched that player will steal the gold. While a fun game, this one tends to rely more on luck then skill. It can also be played in teams.

Tag

One player is “it”, and must tag someone else within a set period of time to lose the “it” flag or face being tossed out of the game to the sidelines. Last one who isn’t tagged wins. A great team game as well.

Hunter

A personal favorite of mine, one player is designated as the Hunter and the others are Prey. If the Hunter tags a Prey it becomes a Hunter. Last one tagged wins. Its not so fun if you play when the city is completely open with the Prey having the top tier cars (cop cars simply can‘t keep up), but if the play area is restricted it will get your heart pounding.

Stayaway

The exact opposite of Tag where at the beginning of the game a player is assigned the “rabbit”. Here you have to avoid being tagged by others so they don’t get the rabbit. The player or team who holds the rabbit the longest (usually 5 minutes) wins. This one is an absolute blast in teams.

Closing Thoughts

Like another DICE developed game, Battlefield 1942, it’s the online portion of this game which is completely stellar while the single-player seems to be added as an after thought. It’s a strange game development philosophy which is usually vice versa with other developers, but somehow tends to work with DICE. In a virtually lag-free environment you can experience some great online arcade racing which is simply unmatched anywhere else, and for that fact alone I whole heartedly recommend all XBL subscribers to buy this game immediately. If you don’t have XBL, make it a rental, it at least deserves that.

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