Some Metropolis Street Racer Details You May Have Missed

Yes, I'm writing another post about Metropolis Street Racer. I simply refuse to apologise for it, and that's because this is a game I adore. The world of MSR just feels so tangible, so credible and so authentic, and not least because Bizarre Creations spent hundreds of hours accurately modelling the three cities in which the vehicular challenges and races take place. However, there's a little bit more to the sterile, simulated reality of Metropolis Street Racer than first meets the eye.
While London's Horse Guard Parade and San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf may look very close to the real thing as you whizz around in your sports car, if you stop to take a closer look you'll discover some rather interesting - and sometimes suprising - extra details that you may have otherwise missed.

With this in mind, let's buckle up and go for a little joy ride, and investigate some of the finer details you may have overlooked scattered throughout the world of Metropolis Street Racer...

The Skies Are Alive
While most of the action in MSR takes place on terra firma, should you cast your peepers skyward, you'll be treated to some unexpected sights indeed. Several of the courses feature flocks of birds that swirl and cascade around - the San Francisco Fisherman's Wharf circuits are the place you're most likely to spot our feathered friends, no doubt searching eternally for that trawler Eric Cantona was warbling about that time.

It's not just organic winged beings you'll spot if watch the skies for long enough though. You'll also be treated to passenger jets arcing across the heavens on occasion. These seemingly appear at random and are actually quite a rare occurrence, but once the planes do appear you can't miss them on account of the trails of water vapour (chemtrails?) they leave in their wake. Pretty cool when you do finally see one, especially since the skies look totally empty for the most part.
Wonder where they're going...?
If you're going to San Francisco, wipe the chem trails out of your hair
Squint and you'll see the birds
There they are!
Street Names Are Accurate
One thing you'll never notice if you play MSR properly is that the streets are all signposted. In London, there are even accurate signs at roundabouts showing true British road numbers out of the city. Here are a few screens from around San Francisco illustrating the fact:
The Clocks Are All Correct
Dotted around the three cities of MSR you will find various clock faces - the most iconic of which is undoubtedly the clock adorning the pinnacle of Elizabeth Tower which looks out over all of the Westminster courses. I am of course referring to what most people will know as 'Big Ben,' but that's actually the name of the bell inside the tower, not the tower itself.

Anyway, once you spot the various time keepers around the maps, you'll also note that they are synchronised to the Dreamcast's internal clock and will accurately tell the time. Unfortunatley and rather disappointingly (and realistically, for the foreseeable future), Big Ben does not chime out on the hour, but you can't have it all.
10 to 1 in old London Town...
10 past 4 in San Fran...
And 10 to 11 in Tokyo. Not all at the same time, obviously.
The Shop Fronts Are Pretty Inventive
While there are plenty of real world advertising boards and company names emblazoned across frontages in all of the cities - Fujifilm, TDK, Mc Donald's, HMV, Virgin Megastores and Renault to name a few - the vast majority of the shop fronts and hoardings in MSR are fabrications, plays on words or subtle developer in-jokes. Here's a selection of the best ones I spotted while pootling around in my open top Mazda.
Plenty of real world advertising, but...
I wish I could have a pint at the Clarence Tightingale pub
The Crazy Mannor [sic] Letting Company makes Crazy Money
I wear my Elvi's with a fresh pair of Convert
How the DCJY is regularly described
The Body Hop. Not to be confused with The Body Shop
Some Interesting Other Stuff
It's always nice to spot other things you haven't seen documented before, and that's exactly what happened while I was collecting screenshots for this post. First, I spotted this rather nice tribute to the fallen soldiers of the British Army's Guards divisions at the Guard's Memorial in the St James' Park area of London. These wreaths are usually placed around November for Remembrance Sunday, but here in MSR they are a permanent memorial to the men who lost their lives in various armed conflicts throughout the 20th century.
The Guard's Memorial in MSR...
The real Guard's Memorial in London
Elsewhere, still in London I spotted an unexpected nod to Bizarre Creations' other Dreamcast title, Fur Fighters. This one is pretty well hidden because - and please correct me if I'm wrong - all of the circuits that would potentially feature it have racers going past it on the left, and so you wouldn't see it normally. The tribute here is presented as an advertisement for a theatre show, along with smaller posters featuring various Fur Fighters heroes and villains:
Fur Side Story anyone?
It's an all star, ensemble cast
It's worth noting that MSR was also (sorta) in Fur Fighters
In a related manner, the listings on this cinema sign detail some interesting productions. First up we have Walter Lynsdale in The Polygon. Walter Lynsdale was the technical director on MSR, so I'm guessing polygons were a part of his daily life back in the late 90s/early 2000s. Also headlining we can see Lee Carter as Dad. Again, Lee Carter was an artist who worked on MSR so I can only imagine that this is a reference to a recent new arrival in his life. I wonder if his teenage kid knows about this little tribute...?
Probably wasn't £10 a ticket in 2000, either...
Maybe the child in question was born at Guy's and St Thomas Hospital in central London? That would explain why the signs have been lovingly recreated, along with the NHS logos!
Pride of the world. The NHS ain't bad, either...
There's also this interesting recreation of the UK National Lottery logo, which is emblazoned all over every branch of a chain of newsagents called Martyn - obviously a play on the well-known Martin's chain, and a nod to Martyn Chudley, the former managing director of Bizarre Creations.
It could be you...but probably won't be
Finally, there are some slightly puzzling references to other Dreamcast related things. It's worth noting that the actual Dreamcast logo and swirl aren't depicted anywhere in Metropolis Street Racer, but this strange 'DC' logo is. Could this be an unused and early Dreamcast logo? Probably not, but it doesn't hurt to speculate wildly. Also, it seems that someone at Bizarre Creations had a thing for Roommania #203 as the box art is plastered everywhere in the Tokyo circuits. Food for thought...maybe even a Donkin' Donut!
Game Play Game! And a weird 'DC' sign
Roommania #203
Roommania #203 in reverse
Another 'DC' sign
And finally, a Donkin' Donuts sign. Look hard enough, and you'll see it
There is one thing I wasn't able to find any more info on, and that is the mythical 'missing persons' posters that are apparently hidden around the three cities. I've searched and searched and I can't find any of them, even though I know they are indeed a thing. If you know more about these (and I'm speaking directly to the guy who is in them and who reads this blog, btw), then please get in touch!

Update: we have a lead on the fabled missing persons posters. Go here for more information!
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hoogafanter said...

Very well done. OK, you succeeded, I will finally play this damn game...

Tom Charnock said...

Ha! You won't regret it XD

Daniel Turner said...

nice observations man! i love driving round the london track as i can drive right by where i work in piccadilly circus xD

ShiningSkies said...

Goddamn! I LOVE Metropolis Street Racer, I knew about some of these things (like the clocks in different cities), but didn't know about a lot of them! The birds and planes are a really nice touch, never noticed them before.

Such a well-made game and so accurately represents the cities - I rarely went to London as a child, so Metropolis Street Racer was one of my first real examples of seeing large chunks of the city. A few years later, I went there and was able to navigate my way around, just from playing MSR! So good! :)

Ribbon Black said...

Wow I'm impressed at the amount of detail in the tracks! Videogame ephemera articles are my favorite, thanks; I'll have to finally check MSR out.

Unknown said...

Those DC logos are for the Famitsu DC magazine.

Tom Charnock said...

Cheers Jamie :)

Steve Brandon said...

Didn't Leicester Square on the London Trafalgar map also have a theatre showing a certain movie where the posters were blurred a little for legal reasons but you could still quite easily tell it was X-Files: Fight the Future, indicating that the source photos were probably taken sometime around August 21st, 1998 (when the movie opened in the UK)?

Unknown said...

Still playing this in 2020. Gamespot gave this only a 7.7 as it was too challenging due to kudos system. I think it is perfection and still stands up to date now!