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Daytona USA review

The ballad of Daytona

Besides Mission mode and the original Arcade mode (which features mirror mode to boost its three tracks to 6), there's also a time attack and survival mode, each with online leaderboards. Survival mode is brand new, yet makes great use of the tyre degradation system. I always felt like there was less grip in Seaside Street Galaxy compared to the other tracks – turns out there really is an invisible grip stat that can be dynamically altered in real-time.

Above: The tyres are wrecked, stuck in a wheelspin. Also note: Better car damage than Gran Turismo 5

For instance, you start the race with good grip levels. But hitting the walls, spinning and rubbing against other cars all seem to affect your car's condition. This is why the pit radio guy is always saying 'you're burning up the tyres'. Here, for once, you really are. Come lap 4 or 5 in Survival mode, the car is almost undriveable. If you're good, you can still drift around the corners at speed and get a few more laps out of it, but if you've got enough time left in the bank, it makes more sense to pit for new tyres.

Above: The pit guys change the tyres and the bodywork magically bends back into shape. Hooray!

As a tactical driving challenge, this mode is the pinnacle of hardcore gaming, especially when you start finding new ways to boost your time. Knocking over a chevron or cone gives you an extra second every time. And, while it's admittedly grating to hear 'TIME EXTENSION' repeatedly spouting from your speakers, positioning your car to hit signs that you displaced on previous laps is a brilliant test of memory, logic and dexterity.

Let's go together

Then there's online mode – something not even Dreamcast owners got to experience in Europe, despite Daytona USA 2001 being designed to support it. Finally it's in, supporting up to eight players simultaneously. That doesn't sound like much, but it's as many as the arcade original ever had over LAN, which is good enough. What's great about the online racing, however, is the total lack of griefing. The game simply isn't set up to allow other drivers to deliberately knock you off the road, meaning every race is fun. It's still full of drama, bumping and those trademark flipping crashes, but in an exciting way, not a frustrating one.

Above: The crash sequence may not trouble Burnout, but still packs a punch. SMASH!

Do do do do do do do do do dooooo!

The original Yamaha chip that ran the MIDI-simulated instruments has been reproduced perfectly (all the tracks were re-recorded for the Saturn version with real vocals and instruments), resulting in flashbacks to the excitement of slipping a coin into the arcade machine and waiting for your mates to join the race. The arcade multiplayer experience is finally on your console, right down to the post-race win/lose/epic fail sequences – and they've never looked better.

Above: This is the single-player win screen. B. Buttercup demanded it went in the review somewhere

And that's where 2011's Daytona USA really shines. Everything's as you remember it. Even the old name entry Easter Eggs are in. Type in your name as O.R, for instance, and you get a clip of music that sounds like OutRun. Brilliant. It also still censors rude words...

Above: I'm sure that Saturn version changed it to SEE. Donkey Kong reference, perhaps?

But everything you remember is all delivered with superlative modern-day tech. It runs at a rock-solid 60fps in HD and the 'transparent' chequerboard effects of the Model 2 hardware are replaced with proper transparencies. After a few minutes playing this, putting on the Saturn version to compare is laughable. It's amazing what we used to put up with (and pay hundreds of pounds for). I mean, look at it:

I know I'm gushing so there's nothing left to do but to give the new, infinitely superior home conversion my wholehearted recommendation. The three tracks may sound like you're not getting much for your money, but mastering them will take you years. About 18 years in my case. The steering wheel support could have made better use of force feedback and online races could arguably have supported more players, but I can't think of anything major to grumble about. It's one of AM#2's greatest triumphs and the gameplay is timeless.

Above: When the game came out, multiple 3D views were still a big deal. Try them all on the d-pad

From the full-screen attract mode to the cars-flipping-everywhere ‘Congratulations!’ sequence on the Expert track, Daytona USA is a joyous, jubilant celebration of everything that made arcade games so exciting and got us into gaming in the first place. Get it.

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Platform"PS3","Xbox 360","Dreamcast","PC"
Justin Towell
Justin worked on the GamesRadar+ staff for 10 whole years. Imagine that. Now he is a contributor, specialising in racing games, retro, and Sanic.