Daytona USA

  • Release: October 25, 2011
  • Developer: SEGA
  • Publisher: SEGA
  • Genre: Racing

Driving Back Through Time

Daytona USA might be the best PSN game of 1994.
Author: Aram Lecis
Published: November 1, 2011
It seems like just yesterday that I was working at Disney World and after work I'd go visit my friend at the hotel he worked at and spend some time in the arcade there while I waited for him to get out of work. They had a ton of pinball machines in there, which was cool, but there were also two arcade machines that me and my pal Neely would waste some quarters in. The first was this radical quick-draw game where you had to win duels with some hokey live-action western fellows. Neely thought he was Clint Eastwood so he was totally into that and it was awesome to watch him play that and listen to him snarl at the screen in his southern drawl. The other game we loved was Daytona USA which was this radical new game where you sat in the cockpit and had a force-feedback steering wheel and raced on an oval with some cutting edge graphics.


Well, that was almost 20 years ago, and racing games have come a long way since then. So it shouldn't come as much of a surprise that when you go to play Daytona USA on the PSN it seems a bit… dated, though it does support Logitech's Driving Force GT wheel if you happen to have one. So what you are left with is a very bare-bones racer with 3 tracks and horrifically loose steering controls. Yeah, they cleaned up the graphics a tiny bit, but they are still blocky vehicles with flat textures on minimalistic tracks. There are two states for your car: in perfect shape... and damaged after an accident. You can pull into a pit to get repaired, but it is sort of meaningless since damage doesn't do that much to slow you down, and a single trip to the pit will ensure you finish near the back of the pack because the races are so short. It's an extremely frivolous feature in the game.

You'll choose from three difficulties (Easy, Normal, and Arcade) that just determine how fast the AI racers are and pick a track and race. Sure, you can mirror the tracks for a little more variety, and there are a decent number of cars to race against (20-40, depending on the track), but you do a few laps, try to come in first or at least finish the race without running out of time, and that's it. There is no career mode, upgrading of cars or any continuity between games at all. It's a pure quarter-eater arcade game, and finding reasons to come back to it after seeing the tracks once is pretty hard.

Thankfully SEGA added a few extra modes (appropriately in the "EXTRAS" section of the menu) that prolong the life a little bit. Those modes really become the highlight of the game, since the main racing mode is so bland and uninspired. Those modes are:

Challenge - There are 10 challenges for each track (for a total of 30) that ask you to do specific things like complete a lap in a set time, avoid hitting walls for a lap, pass a certain number of cars, and so on. These are actually mildly entertaining in the same way license tests are in the Gran Turismo series, in that they at least force you to do something other than just pound on the gas and try not to flip.

Karaoke - Karaoke race tasks you with the goal of simply driving around the track alone until one of the half-dozen music tracks featured in the game is completed. They helpfully put up the lyrics on the bottom of the screen for you to sing along to. I don't fully understand this mode, since none of the songs are even as interesting as "Magical Sound Shower" from OutRun, but if you ever wanted to sing along to a song that has no lyrics but "Ah ahh ahhh" while you zip around a crappy track by yourself, SEGA made it possible.

Time Trial - Race around a track alone to try and set the fastest time and upload it to a leaderboard. This mode is somehow less entertaining than the main game.

Survival - Survival is probably the best way to play the game. Just like the normal game, you race around the same three tracks as time runs down, only now you get added time for passing cars and drifting around and other little things. An odometer keeps "score" for you and you get to keep going until you run out of time and then compare your score with your friends. I actually had a genuine bit of fun playing this mode.

There is also online multiplayer, but my experience with that was watching other cars warp and skip around the track and through each other as we all raced for 2 minutes until the game mercifully ended. It's sad that 8 cars was too much for the netcode to handle smoothly, but at least I was able to get into full races with no trouble.

It's really hard to recommend that anyone play Daytona USA since it does very little to liven up a very outdated racing game, and there is such a dearth of content. Even with the added EXTRA modes, I saw everything in the game in less than 2 hours and there was little reason to ever go back and play it again. Unless you have an incredible feeling of nostalgia for this game, it really isn't worth your time or money.
The Verdict
4.5

Daytona USA was the pinnacle of arcade racers in the early 90's. Translated into today it sadly doesn't hold much of its appeal, especially without a sweet cockpit and steering wheel setup. Leave this one parked on pit road.

5.0Graphics:

Well, they're colorful. Colorful, low-polygon, flat-textured cars. Racing on sparse and uninteresting tracks. They sure have sharp edges though!

5.5Sound:

A few forgettable music tracks and some generic racing sounds are all you get here.

4.0Control:

The DualShock controls are very loose and overly responsive, assuring you will slide all over the track and the brakes often seem very ineffectual. Driving isn't fun, which is bad in a driving game.

5.0Gameplay:

There is only so long you can race around the three same tracks against the same AI drivers before you get bored. You'll get a few more minutes of fun racing online, as long as you don't take it seriously. The EXTRA modes add a few more hours of fun.