Daytona USA

The ultimate software-rendered experience of driving around in circles. Or not.

6In the arcade, Sega is pretty much the undisputed king of racing. However, this is not the case on the PC. Back in the 1980s, converting arcade games to the home computer systems made a lot of sense. Games were less complex, and the computer conversions of games like Joust or Pac-Man were able to replicate the arcade experience, and no one complained about shallow gameplay. When arcade graphics and computing power eventually took off, PC game designers focused on giving more in-depth game experiences while delivering ever more realistic graphics.

Daytona USA manages to duplicate the visuals of the arcade game, as well as the gameplay, but on your monitor the whole visceral feel of the arcade gets lost in translation. Daytona USA is a direct port, so it ships with the same measly three tracks (the Deluxe Edition contains more), which doesn’t compare favorably to Screamer 2 or Need for Speed. You’re missing the booming sound, the giant screens and the linked machines (no multiplayer is supported). As for the gameplay, the steering has an odd feeling, tuned more for the console-style digital gamepads than PC analog joysticks. Your car tends to right itself too easily, and powersliding feels awkward at best. The physics overall are very basic, as is expected from an arcade racer.

On the plus side, the software-powered 3D visuals are quite great for a ’96 game, running in 16-bit color mode at 640×480. The tracks in the game are pretty good, but are undermined by visual glitches. The road disappears in a flash of blue, the background suffers from noticeable draw-in, making the horizon suddenly appear before you in an annoying fashion.

The sensation of speed is there, especially when you choose one of the in-car camera modes. The tracks are entertaining and quite lenghty, and there’s plenty of mind-numbing action to be had. But in the end there isn’t much depth to Daytona USA, and the thrills of the game are very short-lived. While the arcade game is geared toward short and simple gameplay designed for maximum replays (and profit), that paradigm doesn’t work well when transported to your PC, where short and simple equals shallow and repetitive.

System Requirements: Pentium 90 Mhz, 16 MB RAM, Windows 95

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