The Project Gotham Racing series is seen by many to be the definitive arcade racing series. Developed by UK-based developer Bizarre Creations, the Xbox exclusive franchise revolutionised it's genre. But where did it all start? With the original PGR right? Wrong.
Back in 2000, when Gotham was just the place Batman lived, SEGA published Metropolis Street Racer for the Dreamcast, the game that Bizarre developed before PGR, and this was where it all began. Many of the elements that made up the PGR series started life in Metropolis Street Racer. The game also featured some other features that sadly weren't repeated in the PGR series, but more about those later...
For those not in the know, Metropolis Street Racer is a racing game where there's more to do than just drive fast. MSR introduced the "Kudos" system which rewards the player for driving stylishly. Why just take the corner when you can drift around it? See a lip in the road? Then drive fast and get your car in the air! Driving stylishly is imperative to the game as gaining Kudos unlocks new challenges and aids your progression through the game.
Speaking of challenges, there are various race types that the player will play through. From simple street races and championships, to hotlaps and one-on-one challenges, there is plenty of variety on offer. You'll encounter these different race types over the three cities that are on offer for you to race around - London, Tokyo and San Francisco. The cities have been faithfully and accurately recreated and look amazing running on the Dreamcast hardware. At a time when the PlayStation 2 was running rings around the console sales wise, the PS2 had nothing to compare to the graphical splender of MSR.
One of the unique features of MSR compared to the PGR series of games was the use of the Dreamcast's internal clock. Say you're in the UK and playing at 12pm. You'll be racing around London in the daylight, however in San Francisco, where it's 2am, you'll be racing at night. Likewise, in Japan it'll be 9pm so you'll also be racing in the dark. This added a great amount of variety to races depending on the time of day you played the game.
Another great feature of MSR, which also featured in the original Xbox versions of PGR, is the radio stations. MSR was the first racing game to feature radio stations which featured tracks composed by the legendary British music composer Richard Jacques. The radio stations also featured DJ chatter and advertisements, adding to the realism. Not only that, but when you drove into a tunnel or under a bridge you lose the radio signal - it doesn't get more realistic than that!
A special mention, however, has to go to the music. The soundtrack to Metropolis Street Racer is one of my favourite gaming soundtracks. It features a number of tracks from the cheesy but fantastic "Show Me Your Love" to the 'orgasmic' "Passion", the classic ballad "Time" and "A Long, Long Road" which I won't describe here - you'll have to listen to it yourself! If you've never heard the MSR soundtrack before, make sure you get yourself to the RadioSEGA Requests page and take a listen to a few tracks - you won't regret it!
So, if you thought the Project Gotham Racing series of games were good then why not try the one that started it all. Metropolis Street Racer is a classic game in its own right and one that fans of arcade racers will love and love and love. In fact, I'd even go so far as to say that Metropolis Street Racer is even better than some of the Xbox games. Leave Batman to Gotham, give me MSR any day!
Now repeat after me - "It's a long, long road to nowhere when you're travelling alone...."
Requests between 27th Nov and 3rd Dec