We get up Rockstar's street racer's grill and deliver our definitive verdict
"House real big, cars real big, belly real big, everything real big..."
That's the first thing you hear when you turn the key in Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition's ignition. It's not just a heavily crunk slice of deep south hip-hop from Mannie Fresh. It's a statement of intent from Rockstar's street racer.
That DUB tagline is big for Midnight Club 3. The US car culture magazine is all about driving big cars bought with big stacks of cash, sitting on big rims and looking like a big pimp. By tapping into this market Rockstar has secured a unique angle to Midnight Club 3's racing. But there's a lot more to MC3 than that. It's much bigger than we ever expected.
Like when you slipstream an opponent and blast past them using your turbo. Or when you scream off a jump, nitrous flames flaring, and pan the camera around your mid-air motor Matrix-style. Or when you shoot under the trailer of a flatbed truck while a rival crunches into the cabin. Or when you plough through rush hour traffic in a bulletproof Hummer H2 rolling on 28" alloys.
MC3 offers a bigger and more diverse selection of street racing thrills than any other game out there. It's seriously big.
But let's backtrack a little. The Midnight Club series has been around as long as the PS2. It was the first true underground racing console game to make its mark, and still the only truly free-roaming street racing game out there. 2003's Midnight Club 2 was a solid sequel but disappointed with unlicensed motors and a game structure that often caused enough tooth-gnashing frustration to power a small nation.
Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition is a substantial improvement right off the bat. Every motor and mod is licensed, for a start, and a great deal of thought has been put into the structure. Races are short, sharp, and invariably sweet. You'll still have to restart again and again and again but each asphalt blast is so entertaining you won't even mind.
Perhaps that's because it's so fast. Let's get this straight. We're not talking quick. We're talking balls-out, white knuckle, arsehole puckering fast. When you're pushing your motor to the limit, desperately trying to fend off opponents while lining yourself up for the quickest route to the next checkpoint and aware that any error could send you crawling for a restart, MC3 breeds an amphetamine sensation of excitement.
And that's before you've pressed the nitrous button. You can add pile-up juice to your car in the garage or get a burst free of charge by slipstreaming an opponent. Which is great, if you're brave enough to use it. Pushing that button propels you forward at such a sickening rate that you're almost relieved to hit something. It's absolutely awesome, and the already stunning visuals cope with the blatant speed superbly (especially on the PS2 version, which looks particularly tasty given the Station's reduced processing power).
The speed reflects MC3's blatantly arcade approach to its driving. Don't expect accurate physics models and realistic car damage. Do expect twitchy steering, huge powerslides, massive jumps, and smashable street furniture that'll barely drain your speed. Crashes never match the power of Burnout's pornographic pile-ups but the superficial car damage looks vicious enough and instant respawns keep the action motoring.
The fun stuff is the important stuff in MC3. It's over-the-top and frequently pretty daft, but it's also the most exciting arcade racing experience we've had in a long time.