Conference Call - Midtown Madness 3

After some long hours spent throwing ourselves into Midtown Madness 3 Elysium and I have seen fit to finally review it. Is it worth adding to your Xbox collection?

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Maybe you should keep reading.... if you dare!

Certis: Let me make one thing clear, itÂ's way too damn early in the morning to be writing this. The only reason weÂ're doing this review so early in the day is that Elysium was about to log into Star Wars Galaxies and I had to thwart him. If he starts talking about virtual pants or why Midtown Madness 3 should have more crafting options feel free to send him hateful emails.

Elysium: Driving through the streets of Washington D.C. in your Mustang Fastback is, I imagine, much like darting through the alleys of Mos Espa in a landspeeder with a blaster in one hand and a fresh pair of finely crafted pants in the other. But, seeing CertisÂ' aversion to my having fun of any kind, I guess I shouldnÂ't talk about that. Speaking of no fun, have you had a chance to play Midtown Madness 3's single player?

Certis: It was either a single player game or a really bad voice accent simulator. Listening to some loser from Minnesota try to approximate how he feels an Italian pizza shop owner should sound might be one of the worst things IÂ've ever had to listen to. TheyÂ're obviously shooting for a certain over the top cartoon vibe with the voice acting but instead itÂ's like listening to Elysium make cry baby noises over Team Speak. ItÂ's grating and it makes you want to kill someone.

Elysium: The worst thing I ever had to listen to was this dreadful story Certis once told about a large sandwich he had eaten, but this comes a close second. WeÂ've probably made our frustration with the voice acting clear by now, so letÂ's move on, shall we.

Having played the single player mode quite a bit, I can really see why people are praising Midtown Madness 3 as a fine multiplayer game. The primary game type, Undercover mode, is a thinly veiled treadmill toward unlocking more cars by playing stale, predictable missions, in an effort to further an entirely uninspired plot. Both the Paris and Washington missions put you undercover for either an over-the-top Inspector Clouseau or an over-the-top film-noir gumshoe. You begin your time as a lowly pizza-delivery boy or taxi driver, and slowly move your way up missions into positions of real power like chauffeur or ambulance driver. As you progress through the increasing levels of irritating difficulty you unlock vehicles to drive in single-player checkpoint races or the Cruise mode option where you can tool around the cities at will and collect new paint jobs. I can hear your breathless anticipation from here!

Certis: Can we just say that if you donÂ't have Xbox Live you should probably just rent this game, play it for a day or two and forget about it?

Elysium: IÂ'll see your suggestion and raise you. LetÂ's just say if you donÂ't have Xbox Live, rent a better game.

Certis: Even better, buy Galaxies but be too much of a sissy to tell everyone you did. In fact, tell them you DIDNÂ'T buy Galaxies as if you had any self-control at all.

Elysium: OR! You could tell tiresome stories about sandwiches. Now shut up and get back to the review.

Certis: It was a really good sandwich, IÂ'm just saying.

Over Xbox Live you can play with up to eight people in a handful of different game modes. I think IÂ'm going to list them so we can give you a clear idea of what there is:

Checkpoint Race: Players race through a series of check points in any order they see fit. First one to hit them all wins.

Capture the Gold: In this mode a sack of cash spawns on part of the map and every player has to go for it. Once a player gets the gold he then has to run it to a stash point that appears on the map. While he tries to do this the rest of the drivers try to ram him and steal the gold.

Hunter: One person start in a cop car the everyone else in their own vehicles. The copÂ's job is to ram the prey which instantly turns them into cops. In the end, the last one still running wins.

Stay Away: This one is kind of the opposite of hunter, one person is the rabbit and has to run away from everyone else. Whoever hits the rabbit then takes their spot and has to run. Whoever manages to run the longest within the time limit wins.

Cruise: Everyone can cruise around the city, no real goal here.

Tag: YouÂ're it!

As you can see simply racing isnÂ't the only option in Midtown Madness 3. The in-game lobby is greatly improved from previous Live games with every bit of functionality you could hope for. ItÂ's easy to mute other players, add friends and change server settings if youÂ're the host. The best part of it would have to be NOT being kicked off the server after every round which was a great oversight in some of the previous Live games.

Elysium: You know, back in the mid 90's, back when Certis was a High School senior, or a kindergartener, or a zygote or something, I played a lot of Carmageddon over a LAN with friends. Aside from that gameÂ's whole controversial nature, the multiplayer modes, like Fox and Hounds, were fantastically fun, and that's echoed somewhat here with Midtown Madness 3. And, as Certis mentions, for everything thatÂ's wrong with the Single Player, the Multiplay takes great strides in redeeming the gameÂ's value.

ThatÂ's not to say itÂ's flawless. For one thing, while there are more than 30 cars to choose from, by and large there are only a very few that are particularly useful in most of the multiplayer modes. Worse, there arenÂ't many options for the host to specialize which cars can be included in any given round, meaning that if you want a game of Tag with just the Beetle, youÂ're going to need to make informal and verbally agreed upon rules instead of having the opportunity to lock those choices. Because of this, most servers allow all cars, and what that ultimately means is that the one or two fastest cars are the only vehicles youÂ'll see on the road.

Certis: The only other complaint I could possible muster would be the lack of traffic. When you play multiplayer itÂ's just you and the other players. No AI cars to dodge while running away from a hunter and not even a parked car to be seen. Obviously including this option would have been tough to implement but it would have been nice.

Last but not least the graphics and sounds should get a mention.

Elysium: Visually speaking, the game is ... adequate. The cars are accurately detailed, the cities seem to be laid out in a faithful representation of Paris and Washington, or at least I assume so because one has the Eiffel Tower and the other has the Capitol Building. The damage models are a nice touch, but not particularly spectacular. And, the visuals themselves are not mind blowing in any sense of the word. That said, the visuals are consistent and best described as functional.

At its core Midtown Madness 3 is designed to run fluidly under fast and often chaotic conditions and the visuals compliment this nicely. When youÂ're flying down the avenue, a half dozen hunters on your tail, at something approaching the speed of sound, the attention to detail on a passing café sign is not meant to be your focus of attention. In fact, any kind of slowdown during adrenaline pumping chases would be cause for serious consternation, and so the sacrifices made in optical splendor are validated by the fact that the game approximates pulse pounding speed with great efficacy.

Notice I used the word Efficacy. YouÂ'll _never_ see Certis use the word Efficacy.

As mentioned before the voice over work will make you want to stick cotton in, and perhaps through, your ears. Aside from that the sound work is, like the visuals, merely adequate, but with less excuse for being such. The only notable element is that Midtown Madness 3 does permit you to design custom soundtracks with your own music, an option that I hope to see in a great many more Xbox games.

Certis: I donÂ't gauge my self-worth by how many big words I can use in a day, I would imagine you like to use them when youÂ're selling pants to Wookies.

To sum up, Midtown Madness 3 is well worth buying if you think multiplayer is enough to float your boat, be it split screen or over Xbox Live. If youÂ're flying solo stick with renting if you really have a burning desire to give it a go.

Elysium: It would take a fantastic multiplayer element for me to even begin to think about recommending this game. Which is why IÂ'm surprised that, in the end, I actually do recommend picking Midtown Madness 3 up, though I do so with more than a few caveats.

For as fundamentally flawed as the solo play is, the multiplayer is practically an entire game unto itself that completely forgives the sins of the first, and one worth the price of admission. In fact, as you donÂ't need to unlock cars in the single player races to use them in multiplayer, thereÂ's practically no reason to even fire up that part of the game. The best way to enjoy Midtown Madness 3 is to jump right into a game of Hunter or Tag, and never look back.

- Certis & Elysium

Comments

Excellent review, guys!  I'm almost ready to go buy xbox live and this game right now after the comparison to Carmageddon.  Carmageddon on Xbox Live would definitely do it for me.

BTW, thanks for the new sig, Certis!

 

BTW, thanks for the new sig, Certis!

I'd say "You're welcome" if I knew what you're talking about

Well, that's funny...I thought by going to My accounts and Change your Info I could enter a sig for the forums.  But for some reason that ain't doing it.  Any idea what I'm doing wrong?

Sigs only show up in the main forums, not in article comments.

- Elysium

Elysium, my sig doesn't seem to be showing up in the forums.  Or can I not see my own sig?

I don't see it either in the forums.  Even though you have the message in the sig part, make sure you have "Always attach my signature" set to yes on the first page of your profile.

Also, make sure you're setting your sigs under Forum->Profile, not just "My Account" here on the main page. I'm not sure if they're different or not, but I always set it under the forums.

That ws the answer, Pyro!  thanks!

Hmm, I guess my adventures in Buggy MMORPG town didn't scare ol Lysium away.  What server did you sneak into?  If your looking for a good crew, ol Devington from the Ava Tarati days has join up with us Hooded Nomads on the Starsider server.  Drop on by our forums www.hoodednomads.com and say hello!

Eason