WHAT THE @!%&?
Midnight Club 3 is one of the more recent great mysteries in gaming. When it first came out, it got good reviews, sold a ton of copies, and even ended up on a few publication’s “Games of the Year” lists. For the life of me, I can’t understand why, because it’s a terrible game. It’s like some kind of underappreciated, cult favorite that nobody has heard of, except in reverse — the polar opposite of an Okami or Ico.
MC3‘s races take place on city streets, and there generally aren’t any restrictions on what path you can choose from checkpoint to checkpoint. As a result, contests are generally won and lost based on your ability to not make wrong turns, which I’m sure must be really exciting for those of you who are more interested in navigation than speed. There really isn’t even a pressing need to drive well — as soon as opponent cars get a lead on you, they slow down dramatically so you can catch up. This might be a little gameplay trick to keep all the races close, although I suspect that the real reason the other cars slow down might be because they, like you, are desperately trying not to get lost.
Although they may not navigate well, the AI drivers are actually quite crafty when it comes to racing, and follow a team concept that puts them at a distinct advantage. See, they don’t actually care who wins the race as long as it’s not you. This means that racers will always be willing to selflessly plow into your car and knock you both out of contention so that their other computer-controlled buddies can pass by and win the race for Team “Let’s Screw Player 1”. Naturally, the closer you get to the finish line, the more frequently this occurs. You don’t have any of your own teammates to clear a path for you, so every time you take the lead, it’s you against the world.
Because of this, it’s actually advantageous to try not to take the lead in a race. Players are much better served by hanging back in 2nd or 3rd place, letting their opponents show them the best path, and not getting rammed. After following someone else for most of the race, you can then use a turbo boost in the final stretch to pull ahead and finish first. In other words, this game’s actually easier if you spend the majority of each race trying not to win.
In a twisted kind of way, it’s almost impressive the way Midnight Club 3 adheres so strictly to what is essentially the exact opposite of good game design.
Of course, the main draw of Midnight Club 3 isn’t the exciting racing/navigating action, anyway — it’s car customization. The game features hundreds of licensed aftermarket parts, and even features rides straight out of the pages of DUB Magazine. Yes, it sure is nice to know that when I’m artificially boosting the performance of my virtual car in a terrible video game, I’m doing it with real parts! That’s a lot more important than crap like solid design or originality.
Wait…actually it’s not. Too bad the people who made the game didn’t seem to know that.
Who knows? Perhaps someday, we can live in a world where seemingly every really bad concept doesn’t get turned into a game, and where developers are inspired with ideas a bit more creative than “Hey, let’s rip off The Fast and the Furious again.” But until that glorious day arrives, we will have games like Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition.