Reviewed: July 10, 2005
Released: June 26, 2005
Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition is classic proof that just because you CAN port a console game to a handheld doesn’t mean you SHOULD port a console game to a handheld; at least not without some optimization. Now I supposed you are all freaking out just about now over that 5.0 but allow me to explain.
The very nature of handheld gaming is “gaming on the go”, which means whipping out your portable game system and getting in a few quick rounds of whatever it is you’re currently playing. I play my PSP on my 15-minute breaks and my 60-minute lunch almost every day. This means that you want to get in, have fun, and get out quick. Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition is the antithesis of portable gaming.
Over the past two weeks of playing (or trying to play) this game I documented more than 50 game sessions and logged those times in a spreadsheet. I could bore you by embedding that spreadsheet here but let’s cut to the chase and go to the bottom line.
The average load time to get into a race is 73 seconds. The average load time to go from the race back to the city map is 77 seconds. My power-save for my PSP dims the screen at 60-seconds so I literally have to “wake-up” my PSP going in and out of every race.
The average race is 117 seconds. Times may vary on the races depending on the type of race, the length, and the number of laps, but a good example is the third race of the first tournament that consisted of three 22-25 second laps with a total race time of 76 seconds and a combined in and out load time of 144 seconds.
So why am I boring you with all of these stats. Because Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition is boring the living hell out of me with load times that are two-times greater than the play time. For every minute you play the game you spend two waiting to play the game. This is the first racing game where I actually looked forward to LOSING so I could restart the race without a 70-second reload.
So, yes my score is low but in my opinion this game is unplayable, or at least no sane person would want to play it. I see a lot of other reviews all complaining about the load times then scoring the game sky-high. I suppose if you don’t mind wasting 66% of your available and valuable game time then feel free to add 4 points to the gameplay and overall score, but I cannot in good conscience recommend this game or even score it high enough to tempt to you try it.
Since you are still reading I can assume you might be willing to endure the grueling load times. Did I mention these load screens are silent, no music, no car trivia, no tuner chicks in bikinis, just scrolling caution tape and pulsating icons that tick away the seconds.
The PSP version of Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition is pretty much identical to the console version. Even the killer CG cutscenes that take place in the garage are all intact and look even better than they did on the Xbox. You have the career mode and quick race mode and some multiplayer race options for up to six racers using the wireless link.
Navigating the menus is plagued with the same horrible load times that you’ll experience before and after races. When it came time to purchase my first car I started to cycle through the various available choices, but the load time for each car to burn rubber out of the garage and get replaced with a new car was upwards of 30-seconds. Screw that! I just bought whatever car I happened to be on when I got fed up with waiting.
Tuning and tweaking your car doesn’t fair much better, and there is plenty of waiting as you cycle through the numerous upgrade options and massive delays between the time you press a button and the time something actually happens.
The career mode in Midnight Club 3 gives you free roam over massive cities with icons on the map indicating impromptu street races, tournaments, and personal challenges. Those who played the console version know that when you first enter a city or get a new qualifying car the map comes alive with red dots indicating new races. It often takes only 10-15 seconds to drive from one dot to the next then…you guessed it; you get to wait for 70 seconds to start the race, race for a minute, wait another minute and a half to get back into the city then drive 15 seconds to the next dot and repeat.
The bottom line is that the console game was just stuffed into the PSP, and while it’s a technical marvel that the PSP can handle this massive racer from a visual and gameplay standpoint, nobody will ever tolerate the massive load times required to enjoy it.
Once you do get into a race the game is spot-on with its console brethren. It looks fantastic, it plays fantastic, and the cities and courses are identical to the console. It’s only been a few months since I finished the game on the Xbox but I was definitely having déjà vu on some of the more memorable city courses.
All three cities are fully intact with full detail, a full roster of cars, trucks, and motorcycles, and all of the gear required to pimp your ride to tuner perfection. Nothing has been left out of the garage experience. In fact, the only concession I could find in the entire presentation is that you don’t zoom around the city when changing menus.
Controls work well enough with the X button used for gas, the square button for turbo, and the right trigger for the handbrake. Steering is analog and uses the A-pad, which takes a few races to get the hang of. It can be a bit twitchy and over-sensitive at times and you can expect to bounce off a few walls.
On the surface, Midnight Club 3 looks simply amazing starting with the authentic car models, even before you trick them out, then on to the incredibly complex cities with draw distances to the horizon. The races all take place at night with the ever-popular shiny wet streets, and the various buildings and areas of town come alive with colored lighting.
The framerate is above-average but not as fast as the console version and probably not as fast as you really need to play this game successfully. Things are okay until you get more than two of the computer cars in front of you or if you get into a large collision with tumbling cars and sparks. Things can grind to a halt during these busy scenes.
The one thing the console version of Midnight Club 3 had going for it was its insatiable sensation of speed and that just doesn’t come across on the PSP. It’s partly due to the inconsistent framerate, but more due to the small screen that just doesn’t encompass that much of your peripheral vision. Things appear to be a bit faster if you choose to drive from the front bumper.
Rockstar has packed in the entire soundtrack of the console version into the PSP and while I appreciate the massive music selection I would have liked a better mix or at least one that was more suited to the PSP speakers. I really couldn’t enjoy the music or any of the sound for that matter until I got my headphones connected. And I really wished the music would have played during the load times.
Once you are listening with something other than the PSP speakers you will get to enjoy the excellent dialogue from the various garage mechanics who offer advice both in the garage and through instructional videos.
The sound mix is a bit off as well. When you burnout off the line the sound is about twice as loud as anything else in the game, but once you get into the regular race everything evens out. Crashes with objects and other cars isn’t a violent as it was on the console, but the engine noises are all solid as are the frequent sounds of screeching tires and the swoosh of nitrous or slipstream turbo.
Midnight Club 3 was about a 20-hour game on the console, which makes it a 60-hour game on the PSP. Before you go thinking that is a great value remember that 40 of those hours will be staring at a silent load screen.
The multiplayer racing has all the same load woes of the solo game times five, or however many people you find to play with, but it also has some remarkably fun racing with all the multiplayer modes from the console once you do manage to get onto the city streets.
I’ve spent the better part of the past two weeks playing (or waiting to play) Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition so I could write this review. My time would have been better spent doing just about anything else. I could have easily rehashed either the PS2 or Xbox reviews we already had – the PSP is virtually identical, and in some odd way, that is a compliment. When you can cram a full console game into a PSP with no content loss you either have a really good portable system, some great programmers, or both.
But where Rockstar failed was not realizing the limitations of the PSP and toning the game down enough to keep the load times manageable. You can have the best game on the planet, but if you are going to make me wait to play it for twice as long as I actually get to play it, I’d just as soon play or do something else. Did I mention I can play two complete holes in Hot Shots Golf: Open Tee in the time it takes to load a single race in Midnight Club 3.
I'm sorry Rockstar. I loved this game on the Xbox but this is totally unacceptable and an excercise in extreme and total frustration. Unless you are a Zen master avoid this game like the proverbial plague.