Metropolis Street Racer (DC) Review
MSR's hook is the use of the Kudos system. If you head to Webster's, you find a formal definition of the word along with a brief history of its origin. To save time Sega gives you its three-part definition, which basically states that kudos is respect or honor conferred on someone who basically kicks butt. That's your mission in MSR - kick butt. In a racing game, this means win and win with style. And you'll be racing with fully licensed cars to no end. MSR is packed with over 200 routes in London, Tokyo, and San Francisco. That's a lot of racing.
Presentation/Graphics : 70
Unfortunately, it's the incredible detail which brings the game down. For the most part, the game plays wonderfully at a consistent rate and at 30 frames per second. However, the exception comes when you race in the rain or fog. Fog looks like something out of a Scooby Doo episode, and cars have a funky glow about them. In the rain, the water drops fall on the windshield and tires leave tracks in the road. You can't complain about the attention to detail. The problem is that all these things coupled with a few extra cars and the detailed trackside graphics tend to bring the game down to a crawl. On one particular San Francisco course, I swear I was driving on a slick surface in slow motion. Trying to correct for oversteer was next to impossible. It's so bad that I actually dread racing in the rain, not because the added difficulty of slick conditions but because the game takes a nosedive in performance. The graphical score has to take a hit for this sole reason. You can expect probably 10 to 20 percent of the races to be afflicted with slowdown. The only other negative graphically is that the game plays too dark at night. London has little lighting, especially in St. James park. Trying to find corners was particularly difficult, so I ended up turning the brightness on my television to the maximum to see the road.
You can race MSR with a variety of views. The default view is a third person view which I can't stand. Giving the impression of skating across the streets, I scrambled to find a first person view. The game has a couple of them, but both are situated on the hood or bumper. There is no in-car view like Test Drive Le Mans, CART, or Test Drive V-Rally. By default, the rear view mirror is not turned on. There are two mirrors available, a medium and high resolution mirror. Hearing that turning the mirror on can affect the pace of the game, I opted for the medium resolution mirror, which was more than adequate for the task. While you may be able to get a graphical boost with the mirror off, as you progress through the game you'll absolutely need to use it.
Presentation/Audio : 85
Once the music is turned off, you'll hear a symphony of wonderful car sounds. Every car has a unique sound as the engine revs. Audible tire squeal lets you know when you lose grip on a turn. In St. James park, as you rush by trees you hear nice dimensional effects of the staggered trunks. Likewise, you'll always know on which side a car is approaching. There is even ambient noise in the background that is subtle but adds to the realism of the game. If you listen closely on the Fisherman's Wharf courses, you'll hear an occasional horn blow from an offshore boat.
Interface/Options : 80
One option includes controller configuration. Several mappings are available, but unfortunately you can't customize the button layout. Playing with a manual transmission was tricky at first due to the poor gear up and down locations. The default is to use the X and B buttons for the gears. Every other Dreamcast game I have played uses the X-A or A-B pairings. It was actually kind of traumatic for me. The game supports steering wheels, but honestly the game plays and responds better with the standard controller.
Gameplay : 85
The main mode in MSR is the Street Racing mode. In this mode, there are 25 chapters, and to advance to another chapter you need to acquire a certain number of Kudos. Each chapter has 10 races, divided into time trials, one-on-one's, unique challenges, and multi-car (2 to 5 other AI cars) races. The challenges include things like passing a certain number of cars before the clock expires, lapping an opponent, or reaching a certain speed. You earn Kudos with skill, style, and gambling. Each race has a specified goal, and by beating that goal you earn skill Kudos. If you desire, you can raise the goal and if you beat it you earn even more Kudos. You also earn points for style, which means running clean laps, powersliding, and overtaking. Finally, along the way you earn Jokers, which when played double your award if the goal is met. Of course you can also lose Kudos by hitting your opponents or walls.
Racing is done with any available licensed car. You are provided a few garage slots, but to earn a car you must complete a particular challenge. Each car has a specified car performance factor (CPF). The CPF is an indicator of a car's top speed, handling, and acceleration, and it factors into the Kudos you are awarded. If you race against competition with a higher CPF you'll be rewarded. If your CPF dwarfs the competition, you'll earn less. As you progress through the game, you'll no doubt need to switch cars. If you eventually run out of open garage slots and have to trade a car in, you'll lose a portion of the Kudos won with the car. Thus, the game rewards those who stick it out and improve their driving skills with the lesser cars.
Each car handles differently. The obvious area is power. The early cars accelerate like my 1994 Saturn. That is, slowly. But there is also a distinct difference in the handling of front-wheel-, rear-wheel-, and all-wheel-drive cars. Front-wheelers have a definite understeer problem. On one particular challenge, I thought the Toyota Celica would put me over the top, but its understeer was so severe that I couldn't carry my speed through right angle turns. Rear wheel drive cars can oversteer, which has the positive effect of powersliding to maintain speed and earn style points. Unfortunately, the cars are showroom stock, and as such you can't customize them. In fact, once you put a car in your garage, you can't even switch from manual to automatic transmission. You need to make that decision prior to earning the car, just like real life.
On the courses you'll experience AI cars which have some unique driving skills. If there is a fault to the game, it lies with the AI. Not only are you penalized for hitting other cars, but the AI cars will often bump into you and kill your Kudos score even when you have the inside position on a turn. Also, when AI cars are behind they possess magical catch-up powers. An AI car may crash and be five seconds behind at any given point. Don't let your confidence stay high, however, as the AI car will reach you quickly. Furthermore, nothing is more frustrating when you race an equally performing car only to be out-accelerated on the straights.
Replay Value : 100
Overall : 90