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“One word. WOW. ”

Written on: 13/11/2005 by TOMLEECEE (121 reviews written)

Good Points
Kudos system
Game structure
It's a massive challenge
The cars have real horns (beep)!!

Bad Points
Gets annoying/difficult sometimes
Some tracks are a bit dull/short
Criminally overlooked by the mainstream

General Comments
One word. WOW.

Metropolis Street Racer is one cool game. Forget Gran Turismo or even the Xbox sequels (Project Gotham 1 & 2), MSR is the best racing game. Period.

The real beauty of MSR lies in its complex and yet brilliant structure. We'll get onto the aesthetics of the game later. In order to progress through this behemoth of a game, you are set a number of tasks and these in turn are separated into Chapters. Each chapter contains several challenges and these range from hot laps (where you must attain a certain lap time), to one on ones against other drivers, to full on championships and street races. The game is unique though, because rather than simply make you trudge through a series of challenges in order to progress, you must accrue 'kudos.'

Kudos is like respect from other drivers and it is this respect that ultimately allows you to progress through the ranks. Kudos is gained by driving with skill and flair - doing handbrake turns etc. You can also up your kudos rating by betting on yourself with previously accrued kudos. It sounds a bit complicated on paper (well a computer screen), but in practice is very clever and also quite simple. I believe that the MSR system of Kudos is slightly better than the one employed in the Project Gotham games because it allows more freedom and is just, well, better!

The handling of the cars differs massively depending on which model you are driving (they're all real life models from manufacturers like MG, Vauxhall, TVR, Fiat etc) and since you are only allowed to have 3 vehicles in your garage at once, it is up to you to make sure you have the right combination of cars for the different types of races available. Cars also have to be 'earned,' usually by completing a lap time challenge, so it gives a sense of achievement when you do actually acquire a slick model.

Now for the real selling point of MSR: the tracks. Apparently, Bizarre Creations (the developers) went out around the cities of London, San Francisco and Tokyo with a load of cameras and took thousands of photographs. They then went back to the studio and created replicas of the locales down to the minutest of details - even the curb heights are apparently correct. From these models, the designers cunningly managed to create over 100 different circuits through the cities by closing off and opening certain routes. I've only been to London a few times in the past couple of years, and one of those times was during some anti-war protest or other (I forget), but from what I can remember - its all pretty authentic. I've also had the pleasure of owning Project Gotham 2 (actually the 3rd game in the series) and the recreation of Edinburgh I can actually vouch for - it's perfect - so I see no reason why this wouldn't be the case for the other cities/games too. Another unique feature is the way the Dream cast's internal clock is utilised - drive at 3 in the morning and it's 3am in London, but say 7 pm in San Fran and 12 noon in Tokyo (or whatever), so all the cities operate in different time zones and this is reflected in the lighting. Genius!

These time zone changes don't just look good though (with the street lights and stuff), they really affect the way you drive: a track you know well during the day will look totally different at night as corners come out of nowhere and shadows loom. Variable weather will also test your driving skills: fog consumes everything and rain makes the tarmac slippery.

Also worthy of a special mention is the in-game 'radio stations' that play through the car stereo. They are mock ups, obviously and streamed off the CD (and begin to grate after a while), but are very ambitious and also offer a few rather good songs (the Oasis rip off band 'Salford Quays' are actually very good) - the radio signal even breaks up when you drive through tunnels. I realise that this radio station system was also used in Grand Theft Auto 3, but it was in MSR first, folks.

Graphically, the game really shines too. Everything is crisp and clear, and beautifully modelled. The cars are nicely rounded, but don't have the same real time reflections as the Xbox versions, naturally. There are a few odd graphical niggles (the under-car shadows look a bit weird when it's foggy, for example), but nothing major - on the whole, MSR is a damn fine looking game.

The scope of MSR is massive and it's a real shame that this game didn't get a wider audience due to the Dream cast's relatively small user base.

Even today, I don't think there is a racing game on ANY console that matches MSR in terms of challenge, lifespan and originality. Sure, GT 4 is out and Project Gotham 3 on the Xbox360 will be out soon, but MSR is still the benchmark that all modern racing games are measured against - surely that is testament enough to how incredible MSR really is. The graphics still stand up, the game play is unrivalled and the Kudos system is superlative. Do yourself a favour - buy this game.

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