The Midtown Madness series has always proved a popular PC game, and it was understandable that the announcement of an Xbox version was welcomed with a huge amount of anticipation by gamers.
Action takes place in two real life cities - Paris and Washington DC. Both of them have been recreated in amazing detail, and have all of the major landmarks present, along with the complete road network. Paris is enclosed within La Perifique which is a dual carriageway similar to the M25, and provides for interesting races when played in online in the Cruise mode.
As a standalone single player game, Midtown Madness 3 is fairly appalling and simply doesn't offer much more than a few hours of gameplay whilst carrying out objectives and being rewarded with cars. Once you've done everything that's required, that's about it, and you're very unlikely to want to go through it all over again.
Fortunately though the offline mode is just a tiny part of the overall game, and if you've got access to Xbox Live then you'll most likely want to try the online part of the game out - in fact you can just skip the offline play altogether as the cars are already unlocked for use against other gamers via Xbox Live, making the career mode seem even more pointless.
Popular online modes include Capture the Gold which sees you driving to the random locations where gold has spawned, and then having to race as quickly and skilfully as possible to the drop off point, without any other player stealing the gold from you. Checkpoint also proves popular due to the fact that it provides simple "first past the post" style racing, but with a novel twist that you can visit the checkpoints in any order you want, so not everyone finishes in the same place, and this all adds to the skill required as you can sometimes find faster routes.
However the clear winner with Xbox Live gamers is the Cruise mode, which has no pre-set rules and opens up both of the cities for almost anything you want. Thanks to the voice communicator that Xbox Live gamers use, it's easy to instantly arrange rules for ad-hoc games, whether they be smashing in to other cars for fun, being the first to get on the roof of a building using one of the ramps located in the city, or racing busses and emergency vehicles much like an American style police chase.
In fact the cruise mode seems so unlimited that you'd probably never finish with possible games that could be created, and almost everyone seems to have an idea for something new to try, or a point to prove to their Xbox Live friends. It's also an ideal mode to learn the layout of the cities, and because you aren't working against a time limit, you can explore as much of the city as you like.
It's this open-endedness and massive amount of gameplay which makes the online aspect of Midtown Madness 3 stand out as being something really special. There's been other online games which have been enjoyable, but this one more so. There's something about just being able to drop in to a game with seven other players, and know that you'll enjoy it every time, no matter what your skill level.
Visually Midtown Madness 3 is very pleasing - it might not quite be up to the standard of some other racing titles, and some of the buildings look a bit flat, but everything moves fairly fast, and never really suffers from any problems, although a few times we did find cars getting stuck in strange locations such as on the top of walls or down steep drops.
Midtown Madness 3 is almost certainly the best Xbox Live online title to be released so far, due to the fact that there's so many gameplay modes to try out, and the open-ended Cruise mode where you can set your own rules.
However the single player mode lets it down badly, especially if you don't have access to broadband and can't play online. If only it'd have been an online-only title, it might have scored full marks, as that's where the game really excels, and sets the bar for other Xbox Live titles to aim for.Overall score: 8 out of 10
Players: 1-2 plus online play via Xbox Live for up to 8 players
Recommended Price: £39.99
Available: NowBuy Midtown Madness 3 from Amazon