Let me begin this review by saying MSR's legacy is assured. It pioneered the idea there is more to racing than just coming first (Kudos) and was one of first to feature accurate models of world cities (London, San Francisco & Tokyo). You can see elements of MSR in many other racers, not just in its sequels (the Project Gotham series), but also in more recent titles such as Need For Speed Shift 2. However what matters in the end is not who did it first, but who does it best, and sadly MSR's main game is fundamentally flawed. But there is one redeeming feature that just keep me coming back for more.......
On one hand Metropolis Street Racer was a monumental achievement. Over 40,000 photos were taken in areas of London, San Francisco & Tokyo and then converted into 3D backgrounds. The accuracy recreation was stunning and back in 2000/2001, it was possible to use MSR as a mini 'Google Earth'! Also some of the lighting effects at night, especially the Trafalgar courses, are fantastic and remain benchmarks of graphical excellence. Sadly some basic mistakes mar these achievements. The colour scheme during daylight racing can be very drab (where is the sunshine?) and at night, certain tracks have 'dark spots' so you cannot see anything!. MSR also has an annoying 'shimmering' effect throughout; just look how the railings on the London tracks bend and bow as you drive pass. The cars models themselves, while not stunning, are adequate for the task and I can appreciate most of the DC's graphical power went into the courses themselves.
The car sounds are fine and do their job accordingly. Each city also has their own radio stations which is a nice touch although I bemused as to why there are no Japanese songs on the Tokyo stations. Many US players also complain about the existence of a Country and Western station in San Francisco. The music soundtrack, created by the legendary Richard Jacques, still divides opinion to this day. Being a dance music fan, the standout tracks for me are 'Heartlands', 'Club Paris' and 'Passion'. These are the only tracks that seems to fit the game's mood and style. The other music either feels out of place or is just downright awful! Special mention though to "It's A Long Long Road" (...she had to buy some underwear and asked if I could take her there..) and "Let's Get It On Tonight" for their comedic value.
MSR's car physics are stunning and are a perfect example of 'restrained' arcade racing (ie no boosts or power ups). This especially applies to the faster cars like the Evo 6, Fairlady Z, Jensen SV-8 or Skyline GTR. Due to the way powerslides are initiated (combination of gas, break and handbrake), I find a pad more accurate than using a wheel. Powerslides are the fastest way to corner on MSR; whether this was intentional or just a handling 'bug' I couldn't say. While driving the cars in MSR is a lot of fun, hardcore racers (fans of F355, Forza and Gran Turismo) may be put off by the unrealistic physics.
PS If you play the demo versions of MSR (DreamOn 13/Opel Challenge), the handling is very different and feels more like a simulation (ie the car slides when you release the gas and turn).
Street Racing is the main mode in MSR and your task is to complete 250 racing tasks while gaining as many Kudos points as possible. Therefore the more tasks you complete and Kudos you earn, the more cars and courses become available. Unfortunately there are two major faults. Firstly 250 tasks is far too many; it takes forever to unlock high spec cars like the Mazda RX-7 or Toyota Supra so many players just give up. It's no surprise that the majority of people who bought MSR never actually completed it! Secondly the Kudos system is fundamentally flawed. It's possible to gain big scores by driving back and forth performing 180 degree powerslides as opposed to honing your driving skills. As a result, very few Kudos scores can be taken seriously. A shame as more balance, stricter time limits and penalties for 180's could have easily stopped this.
MSR also has Multiplay and Quick Race mode however you still need to unlock cars and courses in Street Racing mode first. The 3 cars and 9 courses available at the start are simply inadequate; an option to access some fast cars and longer tracks should have been available immediately. I should mention the 'pursuit' mode in Multiplayer is an interesting idea and it's unfortunate it was not included in single play.
The game also has far too many unnecessary menu screens; very annoying when all you want is a quick retry. Worst of all, if there are too many cars on-screen (ie more than 4), the frame rate will drop considerably. Add some rain effects to the mix and everything becomes embarrassing slow. Certainly not something to show your friends if you're out to demonstrate the Dreamcast's power!
However as I mentioned before, MSR has one redeeming feature and that is Time Attack! Stripping the game down to just a car and track allows me to savour the fun handling without frame drops or flawed scoring systems getting in the way. Adding my own ghost car to chase gives MSR an almost drug-like quality: I just have to get a new record and I'll happily spend hours racing around a track to do it. MSR's Time Attack modes are the reason I put my Dreamcast back online in 2010 in order to upload/download ghosts and Time Trials. With 262 tracks, a large array of cars and various weather conditions I may be playing for a long time yet!
MSR certainly had the ideas but didn't have the execution. If you are looking for a great Kudos racing experience, I would opt for Project Gotham 2 on XBOX instead. However if you're after addictive handling and fun Time Attack racing, MSR is one of the best ever! And if you have friends that are happy to compete with you for the best times and swap ghosts, you'll be in racing heaven!
Final Score: 7/10
Last edited by rjay63
on Thu Oct 20, 2011 12:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.