Thursday 26 May 2011

Scud Race

Spare a thought for Scud Race. Or SPORTS CAR ULTIMATE DRIVE... race. Americans may know it as "Sega Super GT" because confusion is fun, but generally not many people know of this game at all because it was never ported to home platforms. It's a fate it didn't deserve, so time to do it some justice.

In 1993/1994, Sega AM2, gods of the video game world, created Daytona USA. Daytona USA stands as being perhaps one of the greatest arcade racing games of all time. Not so much for the low polygon graphics or the frankly bizarre selection of music, but because it was one of the first 3D racing games to look even remotely realistic and most importantly, it has the ability to be linked up to SEVEN other cabinets for eight-player real-time racing action.

Even now with the advent of online gaming, nothing quite beats an eight player Daytona USA race. And strangely, the eight player cabinets never caught on, with Daytona USA's sequels only supporting a maximum of four. Sad... though still amazing with four players. But I have no plans to re-write my description of Daytona USA's amazingness again. Today is the day of Scud Race.

Scud Race is a later arcade game by Sega, circa 1996, and is essentially Daytona USA in new clothes. Sexy Sega Model 3 clothes. Gone are the stock cars, in are the supercars, and it's presented in a package that's just as good as the Daytona USAs and Sega Rallys of this world, if not better. Well okay, Daytona USA still supports twice as many players at once, but that's not the point.

Sadly Scud Race's history proves there is no justice in the world. It was an early Model 3 game which prided itself in showing off how brilliant the Model 3 was. This was Sega at the bleeding edge of the industry, right in their prime, delivering some of the finest arcade games ever made. Let me make something perfectly clear - this game was released before Bubsy 3D on the PlayStation. While others were just coming to grips with the third dimension, Sega were proving they were masters of it.

But Scud Race sat in its twin cabinets not really going anywhere. Plans were made to port it to the Saturn, and later the Dreamcast, but they never materialised. Now it will never happen - the cars are old, the licenses have likely run out and the tracks were featured in OutRun 2, so the stuff isn't new anymore.

Scud Race would not have saved the Dreamcast, but it would have likely wound up in my collection. It's also  leagues ahead of the majority of PlayStation racers so would have certainly wooed some supporters. Granted, it's no Gran Turismo - it's an arcade racer with simplistic arcade rules, but it's pretty - Gran Turismo goes for gritty realism. If Scud Race had been step to deter the onslaught of dull racers it would have been worth releasing.

There are four tracks and four cars. You race several dozen computer players to the end, preferably drifting around corners for several laps trying not to hit things. People you've never heard of sing a happy up-beat song as your shiny Ferrari F40 clips that shiny yellow Porsche 911. The levels make little sense but are still looking great fifteen years on. It's a racing game with real cars and blue sky - find me one of those from the last five years (that isn't by Sega).

But I stand by that it's a "game I could not accurately review". The problem with Scud Race is practicality. It wasn't ported to home consoles and cabinets are rare, which means I have to emulate it, and predictably... emulation isn't fantastic. Supermodel does not support sound. It does not render games at sixty frames a second and there's various graphical problems. It can't convert a game reliant on analogue steering wheels to the digital directional keys of a Dell keyboard and I subsequently can't play this game properly.

But the question is, what if I could? What if it had been ported to the Dreamcast and thrust that analogue stick upon me? Would it be great? Likely yes (though we'd hope for a less twitchy experience than Daytona USA 2001). The pattern states the Dreamcast version would have added more cars, stages, options and goals and this would have been a perfectly acceptable package back in 1998/1999.

Of course it's a bit late now. Surprisingly I think the graphics and sound stand up rather well a decade and a half down the line, but beneath this pretty shell lies a very simplistic game that wouldn't meet the standards of today. It has no physics to speak of, something that would certainly need patching before release, and it's extremely short. You'd need to add a lot for this to be worth the money, and by that stage you've pretty much developed "Scud Race 2", which though might not be a bad idea, would be an entirely different kettle of fish.

Ten years ago I don't suspect Scud Race's problems would have been noticed, just as Sonic Adventure's gaping flaws weren't a problem. It would have sold rather well back in the day, but now it's just a dream for the select few. I'd also honestly have to put my preference on another Model 3 game, Daytona USA 2 which also lies in a similar position. Daytona USA 2 isn't quite as revolutionary, but it's generally a more refined experience and... well... it's Daytona USA 2. Scud Race is remarkable because it has a 1996 copyright, Daytona USA 2 has Takenobu Mitsuyoshi trying to sing in English.

But Scud Race is still a great game, so if you happen to wander pass a cabinet and come to the conclusion that it's some "average" arcade racer, think again. It's no 8-player Daytona USA but it's still quality stuff.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Hello, I just found your blog and am appreciative that you have good things to say about Scud Race. I like Sega racing games so it's always good to read articles like this. I do have three things to mention:

    1. You say that Scud Race and Daytona 2 have only four-player MP max. I've personally seen a six-player Daytona 2 cabinet setup in real life.

    Here's an 8-player Daytona 2 setup:

    There's even an 8-player Virtua Racing setup which came out 4 years before Scud Race:

    Unfortunately, I haven't seen more than a 2-player Scud Race setup. None of these games are as popular as Daytona 1 so the odds of you finding any of these with more than 2 player is very slim today. If you somehow have more proof then I do, I would really like to know.

    2. The Supermodel emulator is very crude right now but I hear from the developer that he's going to implement analog controls very soon. As for sound, we'll see. It's still great to be able to play these games anyway.

    3. I kind of disagree about Scud Race having no physics. Yes, it's not realistic, but it's more complicated than a lot of straightforward racers like Split/Second and Fast & the Furious. Nowadays, no one's used to "hard" arcade racers like this. Instead, if you want a hard racer, you play Forza, GT, or iRacing...

  3. Dude, your from Bedlington too? So am I!!!

  4. oh and SuperModel3 emu has sound emulation very shortly... check out the site for the updated news.

    I'm buying a SCUD Twin cabinet to PC convert like my sega Touring car Dx cabinet. I'm hooked on restoring wreck cabinets. Checkout my last cabinet effort.