STAFF REVIEW of Midtown Madness 3 (Xbox)

Tuesday, August 26, 2003.
by Yellowlab

Midtown Madness 3 Box art MM3 is like a big bowl of delicious chocolate candy with a teensy dead bug lying somewhere in the mix. Sure it taste great, but you have to deal with the bug. For starters, MM3 looks beautiful. The automobiles (32 of them) and the cities (2 of those) are both very well done. There is a variety of game play modes (work undercover, blitz races, checkpoint races, cruise, and Xbox Live games). The game play is smooth. But, dammit, there's that bug rearing it's ugly head...the custom soundtrack feature is severly messed up (I'll get to that later...), some of the voice work is pretty pathetic, and it can be a tad too repetitive. But, overall this game is a blast to play, and the inclusion of some fun Live games seals the deal and makes this one a keeper.

In MM3 you are given to highly detailed cities, Paris and Washington DC (anybody else see the humor in that?), to work and race in. The cities are very detailed with a lot of hidden areas, monuments, parks, and both look ultra realistic. In the gamplay department, it reminds me a lot of 'Wreckless', only a lot better. It is very similar in that it looks very good, and has a mission based mode in which you are given several different quests. In some missions you have to play a Paramedic and pick up and drop off patients in a certain amount of time. In another, you play a stunt driver and get to do all sorts of nifty jumps. Others will have you bashing other cars to get them to stop, or playing a police officer. But, unlike Wreckless, MM3 adds a cruise mode in which you can simply cruise around town and pick up assorted goodies (fancy paint jobs for the vehicles you have unlocked), and it also includes checkpoint and blitz races (10 each in both cities). There are 32 cars (realistic models - Dodge Viper, Lotus, PT Cruiser, Police Cars, Busses, Garbage Trucks...just to name a few) to unlock, and the game shows realtime damage to the vehicles. The cars all handle like you would imagine them to (I've never actually driven a garbage truck or a Viper...). The faster vehicles give you a real sense of speed when you let them fly on the highway (especially the final car you unlock after completing the whole game). The Xbox Live games are a blast and are really what pushes this game over the top. Cruise around with 8 other people, or play games like Hunter in which the Hunters seek out the Prey. My only beef here is that some of the missions get slightly repetitive by the end of the game. But overall it is a very solid gameplay experience and earns a solid 5 out of 5 in this category.

I think this is the prettiest racer on the Xbox, and that is saying somthing when you consider the other fine racers such as Project Gotham, RalliSport, Apex, etc... As I mentioned earlier, the cities look beautiful. The vehicles also look good, and I liked the fact they showed damage. My only minor gripe here was the still pictures of the people between undercover races looked like the quality of an old SNES game, and looked unbelievably out of place in the midst of all the other quality graphics.

I have this long standing policy that I'll give any game that utilizes the custom soundtrack feature a 5 out of 5 in the sound category. Well, I have a new rule. Any game that adds the custom soundtrack feature, but manages to screw it up will get a 1. This is utterly baffling how a game can get made with a glitch this bad. Yes MM3 lets you play your custom soundtracks, but it always picks the last song on the list...over and over and over and over again. You can't change the song in mid game (like many other games), so you better like the song that is last on your list. There is a fix where you can put 10-15 "blank" 5 second tracks at the end, which did sort of work (it still likes the last song too much), but how a game got made with this glitch is beyond me and is totally inexcusable. The voice over acting is pathetic at best. The fake french accents and Humphrey Bogart-ish U.S. accents are really bad. The rest of the sound effects (cars, crashes, pedestrian noises) are all fine, but the utter incompetence of the developers with the custom soundtrack feature earns this puppy a 1 out of 5 for sound.

Take that bug out of my chocolate! Fix the soundtrack glitch. Cut out the heavy stereo-type accents. Add some FMV sequences instead of the static picture sequences in between the missions.

Overall: 9.0 / 10
Gameplay: 10.0 / 10
Visuals: 10.0 / 10
Sound: 2.0 / 10


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