Games aren't normally released in Europe before they hit the States, but recently a few games have appeared in Europe first, such as Red Dog, Ecco The Dolphin, and now Metropolis Street Racer. The racing genre is one of the most crowded categories out there, so every developer tries to add some unique features to its racing titles to help them stand out. While the US version of MSR could very well be the record holder in terms of release-date delays, it seems like it has enough different features to make the delays worthwhile.
Kudos is what it's all about in MSR. No, we don't mean the chocolate-covered granola bars. Adopted from the Greek language, the word "kudo" means respect or honor given to a person for achieving something extraordinary. In MSR, you'll earn kudos for completing races. You need to earn kudos in order to progress in the game and unlock new cars. Once you select a car (at first there's only three choices) and pass a small driving test, you can dive into the core of the game - the Metropolis Street Racing mode. This mode is split into chapters, with several challenges per chapter. The challenges within a chapter vary. For example, you might have to race a lap within a preset time limit, place first in a race against four competitors, drive three laps without dropping under an average speed of 70mph, or complete an entire race within a certain time limit. This is where the kudos come into the picture again. You can alter the time limit on your own, so if you think you can race better and faster, then you can lower the time limit and thereby gain more kudos if you achieve your goal. If you don't make it, though, you'll lose points for overestimating your abilities. Also, if you hit other cars or obstacles during a race, you'll get penalty points, which will lower your kudos total at the end of the race. So basically, the game is about racing intelligently instead of aggressively, which is a nice twist on the genre.
The game is set in three cities: San Francisco, London, and Tokyo. Bizarre Creations flew out to each destination and took over 40,000 photographs and countless hours of video footage in order to be able to re-create the centers of all three cities in breathtaking detail. As a matter of fact, everything that was bigger than one meter in size was re-created in the 3D model of the city. The result is a totally authentic-looking copy of the real-life cities that we all know from experience, TV, or pictures.
Another interesting feature is the influence of time in the game. At the beginning of the game, you can set the clock of the Dreamcast to your local time. The game will then take the local times of each city into account, so if you sit down at 3pm PDT and start a race in the London level, then London's local time will be used, and therefore you'll race at night. If you take the same race and play it at different times of the day, then you'll encounter different lighting effects, as the local time in the game changes as well. It's a nice detail that gives the game a realistic touch.
Graphically, the game is one of the most impressive games on the Dreamcast to date, with sharp, colorful, and impressively detailed environments, as well as realistic lighting. On the music side, the developers opted for a radio-style soundtrack that plays in the corresponding national language, complete with hosts and commercials. If you drive through a tunnel, the station will even fade out. Details like this are really refreshing and give the game a lot of depth. If you're tired of the talking on the radio, you can select between different genres of music, like dance, rock, or jazz.
The handling of the cars takes a little time to get used to, but after around an hour or two, you'll be able to powerslide through tight corners. Also, the more you play the game, the more you'll feel that the cars handle completely realistically.
All in all, the version we played looks extremely promising. However, the US release of game has been delayed, so we'll have to wait and see whether Sega makes changes to the US version. We'll bring you a full review of the game as soon as possible.