Midtown Madness 3

Midtown Madness 3

Written by Charles Husemann on 7/7/2003 for Xbox  

Midtown Madness 3 is the latest in a string on non-linear racers, instead of forcing you to follow a track you have the freedom to choose the best path possible to get from point A to point B (and in some cases, navigate to points C, D, E, and F). Midtown Madness 3 features 30 fully licensed cars that you can drive around (and under) two major cities, Paris and Washington DC (trivia fact: DC and Paris are the only cities in the world with underground railroad systems called “Metros”).

The graphics Midtown Madness 3 are well done and tight. The design team did an excellent job of creating a nice vivid world. The game is done with very bright colors (especially in contrast to Midnight Club II) and there’s a real bright feel to all of the menus and interface screens. The in-game graphics are also well done and the cities are very nicely rendered while the car graphics are good but not groundbreaking. The artists did a nice job of representing the major monuments of each city and it’s cool to race around the Eiffel tour and the Washington monument. Even with all of the graphical goodness I never experienced any kind of slow-down, everything was nice and silky smooth and provided a nice feeling of speed.

The audio for the game is also solid, the engines sound nice and there is a nice crunch every time you smack into something. The only annoying thing is that some of the voice audio is a bit grating. Maybe it is the French accents in the French missions but there were times when I was close to muting the TV to prevent myself from tearing out what is left of my hair. The in game music is adequate but it’s not something you’re going to burn off and listen to in your car (although it is certainly better than the music for Midnight Club II). Since you can use your own MP3’s you aren’t limited to what Microsoft and DICE created and it’s a nice touch to be able to create your own soundtrack.

The controls for Midtown Madness 3 are straightforward and tight once you get used to them. The game features the usual controls, accelerate, decelerated, hand brake, headlights, horn/sirens and up shift/down shift buttons if you’re man enough to drive a manual transmission car. The game has a few different layouts so you can pick the one that’s right for you. Your force feedback will also get a workout as the game tosses a ton of it at you. You feel every bump in the road, every lamp post you hit, and you get a nice massage when traveling over cobblestone streets. By the end of my first session I could actually hear my S controller begging for mercy.
Midtown Madness 3’s single play mode is decent but not overwhelming. You have two single player modes modes, Single Race and Undercover. Single Race is broken into three parts, Cruise, Blitz, and Checkpoint. Cruise allows you to explore the city on your own with little interruption (you can add the police if you want to be chased around the city, although the police just seem intent on damaging your car rather than actually arresting you). Why would you want to just drive around Paris or DC? Two reasons, the first is to familiarize your self with the city and the second is to pick the extra paint jobs for the cars in the game. The only catch to this is that you must be driving the vehicle that the paint job links to (i.e. you can’t pick up the new paintjob for the Chrysler Crossfire while driving the Mini Cooper S). This is a little frustrating since you’ll have to unlock the car and then go hunting for the paint job for that car.

The Blitz is you versus the clock as you have to complete short races in the shortest amount of time with the time being based on which car you pick. The Checkpoint mode is you racing against the computer in short courses. For both Blitz and Checkpoint you must complete certain parts of the Undercover mode to unlock additional races.

The bulk of the Single Player mode is the Undercover mode where you are an undercover agent and you must work your way through a series of missions. There’s a little bit of plot wrapped around the missions (something to do with a shadowy guy in a hat giving you missions) but the missions themselves are basically you trying to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible. Some of these are races against other drivers, some of them are Taxi cab missions, but for the most part it’s getting from point A to point B. There are several dozen missions spread across the two cities with each city having it’s own central theme. Completing the Undercover missions unlocks cars, Blitz and Checkpoint maps but there really isn’t a lot of incentive to do so unless you really want to.
So the Single player is a little ho-hum, why the high score then? I’ll tell you why,the Multiplayer kicks ass in spades. The first night I played online I started around 8:00 or so, the next time I looked at the clock it was fast approaching 11:00 (I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or bad thing). To ensure that everyone has an even playing field, all of the maps and cars are unlocked for multiplayer so you don’t have to worry about racing a VW Beatle against a Dodge Viper unless you have mad skillz or very little common sense. The game supports up to 8 people over Xbox live, and you can do the old stand-bys of split screen and system link if you don’t have a broadband connection.

Multiplayer features six different modes, Cruise, Checkpoint , Capture the Gold, Tag, Hunter and Stayaway. Cruise and Checkpoint are just online versions of the single player modes but the other modes are what separates the game from the pack.

In Capture the gold, the game tosses out a gold token which you must pick up and take to another location in the city to score points. Each other play in the game is trying to do the same thing so you have to avoid the other players and score before they hit you, when that happens, it’s up to you to try and get the gold back so you can score.

The Tag mode is just like the game you used to play as a kid (or in Charlie’s case the game he still plays with his imaginary friends). The object is to not be it when the clock runs out, if you’re it when that happens then you are out of the game and the tag is passed to someone else. This vicious cycle repeats itself until one person is left alive.

Stayaway is basically anti-tag, you want to be it for as long as possible and your goal is to be “IT” the longest (usually set by the game host).

The final mode is Hunter, in this mode one person starts out as a cop and their goal is to track down all of the other players. When the hit another player that player is turned into a police car and they then help hunt down the other players. The last person to not be a cop is the winner.

While these modes are fun as individual racers going up against each other, the real fun is when you play these games in teams. Each mode takes on a whole new outlook when you have other people on your side. Tag becomes a lot more exciting when you have to share Tags between your teammates and you hunt down your opponents to box them in so a tag can be passed. Capture the Gold is also a lot more fun since you can have people dedicated to grabbing the gold and others whose job is to block the return point.

At the end of the day Midtown Madness 3 is a lot of fun and if you have Xbox live (more so if you dig racing games). If you don’t have Xbox live then I would rent it first as this is not a game that you’ll want to get for the singe player missions (they are decent but worth a rental at best). All in all Midtown Madness 3 is a lot of tasty online fun with a lukewarm side-dish of single player.
With solid but somewhat dull single player, Midtown Madness 3 takes it to a new level with multiplayer fun on Xbox Live.

Rating: 8.7 Very Good

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.


About Author

Hi, my name is Charles Husemann and I've been gaming for longer than I care to admit. For me it's always been about competing and a burning off stress. It started off simply enough with Choplifter and Lode Runner on the Apple //e, then it was the curse of Tank and Yars Revenge on the 2600. The addiction subsided somewhat until I went to college where dramatic decreases in my GPA could be traced to the release of X:Com and Doom.   I have been a Microsoft Xbox MVP since 2009.
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