Way back on the PC, Microsoft had Midtown Madness and it was pretty good, I'm a fan of driving games but I'm also a fan of expansive environments and fun gameplay. Midtown 2 brought the PC version up-to-date with better graphics and locations, adding the much-needed online capacity.

Now we have Midtown Madness 3 that rockets onto the Xbox with 30 or so vehicles to drive and various Xbox Live options to enjoy. It has a marginal SP experience with some varied challenges and takes advantage of the game's large open levels - where it's possible to get some pretty impressive and 'Big' Air with the various vehicles on offer.

Gameplay: SP and MP

Gameplay across the SP levels is mostly varied, putting you to work with a number of jobs, such as package delivery while a large truck attempts to turn your car into a smoking wreck - but the problem is after a while these tend to feel quite repetitive. You can also just Cruise around the 2 locations to your heart's content and avoid the Cops or drive them into various obstructions. There's not really much to talk about with the SP gameplay though it's predictable and while it's fun - it's not as fun as playing the game on Xbox Live - thanks the miracles of modern technology however and a good friend I can say this game is pretty addictive and fun across the old Live.

You can trash talk other players and compete in a variety of Live enabled shenanigans, do Checkpoint races and Blitz races which allow for some good Vs Human competitions and to clarify Blitz is like a Checkpoint race but it's against a clock - one cool feature is that the car you drive sets the timer for your player, so if you're driving the Garbage Truck around you'll have much more time compared to a nippy MINI or a Sports car.

The Undercover portion of the game is a story of sorts but it feels a bit tacked on and isn't as fun as actually playing the game on Live with some other players, even the MP link modes or the 2 player Split Screen just totally pale compared to the rush of outwitting the human players miles away or just next door.

Scattered through the Cities as well are paint cans, some of them are placed in easy to reach locations, some are placed in difficult and hidden locations - you also have to be driving the car the paint can matches, when you collect it you can then paint the car that corresponds to the can you found. The game tells you if you're driving the wrong car and to be honest a lot of the challenge in the game is getting these cans after you unlocked the cars themselves - it's part of the replay value of the game and a nice feature to see.

The cars all have different handling stats and the control system is a breeze, the way the traffic density is packed in both locations makes for some fun and hair-raisingly brilliant driving mayhem. But in general the game is a lot more fun across Live than it is in the SP - so if you have Live get this, if you don't I'd look to another game for your SP goodness to be honest.

Graphics and Level Design:

Simply put MM3 has some of the most gorgeous graphics in the kind of racing game it is, the cars look stunning and they are well modelled. Where the game really shines is in the detail of the levels themselves, where according to a good friend of mine Washington DC actually looks pretty much like DC does, and with that recommendation since this friend is about three times pickier than I am - I have to agree from looking at some photos of the place for reference and because I never take anything at face value.

Paris is also well detailed and both environments are a feast for the eyes, whizzing by at breakneck speeds as you put pedal to metal in an attempt to burn ahead of the human opposition - who are usually insulting your ride or making comments about going faster in reverse. The draw distances in the game are awesome and there's no really bad pop-up draw distance moments that I could find, so you can see quite far ahead as you're belting down the highways and streets and not worry about suddenly being face to face with something that wasn't there two seconds ago.

Damage graphics and effects are suitably effective with showers of glass coming from windows and sparks from downed lampposts, it kind of reminded me of Wreckless but in a better way that's for sure.

Sound Effects and Music:

It's packed with Dolby Digital sound goodness and the roar of the engines is suitably meaty to the ears, the voice work is as usual fairly over the top and in Undercover mode has the typical bad French accents galore - but it's not meant to be the Italian Job for instance. MM3 also takes advantage of the Xbox's Mp3 ripping technology and allows you to play your own custom soundtrack while you race. So if you liked the music from the Highway chase in Matrix Reloaded you can relive those moments - without the guns and agents of course. I would have liked to see a fully-fledged track management system rather than just copying tracks into the right hand window and not being able to re-order them.

Final Closing Words:

Well there you have it MM3 is worth the buy if you have Xbox Live but as a SP game it needed a far more developed career mode with less repetitive challenges. It offers a good selection of vehicles and they all have excellent handling characteristics and physics.