Rockstar first announced that they were working on a third instalment of street racing series Midnight Club back in May - and we've finally had a chance to see the game in action. Midnight Club 3: Dub Edition retains the free-roaming city racing of its predecessors but massively ramps up the degree to which you can modify your vehicles as well as focusing on improving on the (admittedly disappointing) graphics of Midnight Club 2.
We saw an early version of the PS2 version of the game in action and it's already looking impressive in terms of both the vehicles on offer and the environments through which you race. Rockstar appeared twitchy about allowing anyone to get hands-on at this stage though - not least, presumably, due to the rudimentary nature of the collision detection offered by the current build.
However, what is already evident is the degree to which you'll be able to customise the slew of over 50 licensed cars and motorbikes included in the game. With US car modding mag Dub on board as creative consultants to give assistance in this area, Rockstar claim that there are "infinite" permutations in the custom jobs that you can carry out, with both body upgrades (bumpers, bonnets, wheels) and performance enhancers (superchargers, suspension, exhausts) available. Suffice to say, we've never seen so many rims in one place.
Luckily, if fiddling around with go-faster stripes isn't necessarily your idea of a good time, there's plenty on offer from the racing side of things. The game's three cities - the car capitals of Detroit, Atlanta and San Diego - are all packed with shortcuts, ramps and alternate routes and, we're told, will all be "massive". This, along with the improved level of AI from opposing drivers (each one makes independent decisions at each intersection) and ambient environments featuring buses, trams and pedestrians means that every race is different. While there are certain set pieces within the game, there are enough random goings-on within each of the living cities to ensure that there's a certain variety in the gameplay.
Aside from the tangible improvement in the game's visuals (such as the much better lighting - you can actually see ahead now even though it's night-time), Club 3 will also feature full damage modelling. So, when you crash, you'll notice your vehicle being deformed by the relevant degree (a rarity for driving games featuring licensed cars). Finally, multiplayer modes will support both offline two-player split-screen gameplay and head-to-head online racing for up to eight players. We'll bring you more on this very promising looking motor-fest in the near future.
Midnight Club 3: Dub Edition will be released for PS2 and Xbox this Christmas