Death Rally


posted 9/5/2012 by Dave Gamble
other articles by Dave Gamble
Platforms: PC
Every now and then I run across a game that has been resurrected from the grave of time and updated for modern platforms, presumably to address the wants and desires of players nostalgic for the old experience.  Death Rally, recently re-released by Remedy Entertainment, is apparently one of those games, brought back to the future without my ever having known that it was gone. This is nowhere near the first time this has happened to me, and it surely will not be the last. Unfortunately,( or not, I suppose), this means that I will be looking at Death Rally without the benefit of rose-colored glasses tinted by the emotional tuggings of nostalgia. I will have to base my impressions as if this is the first I’ve ever seen the game because, of course, it is.

If you’re in the same boat, you will be interested to learn that Death Rally is best described as Mario Kart (feel free to substitute the title of any of the kajillion other armed-vehicle racing games) flattened into 2D and viewed from above. Not surprisingly, you will be dealing with a small fleet of available cars, each having different strengths and weaknesses. Also not surprisingly, you will be able to use your winnings to upgrade the cars and weapons you have, or to unlock new ones. The car upgrades are also pretty standard for the genre - you can concentrate on speed, handling, and/or the ability to absorb damage in varying measures.  Weapons upgrades are similar.

The nature of the game is as you would expect: forward firing weapons are used to deal with cars in front of you, while cars behind you are dealt with by dropping incendiary and explosive devices in their path. Your standard weapon is a single-barrel machine gun that automatically fires whenever there is a target in front of you. With the somewhat slow car that you start with, that turns out to be almost all the time. In fact, it really isn’t that big of a detriment to trail the field; simply staying in range of back markers virtually guarantees that you will win the “most cars killed” award in any given race. This will help score the funds and experience required to move up to faster, stronger, or better handling vehicles. There are only a half dozen or so cars to upgrade to, though, so pace yourself.

The tracks are tight and crowded and, as is the norm with games of this nature, littered with items to run over and acquire. This is the primary manner that is used to upgrade weapons. You collect parts of a weapon, say a Gatling gun or a shotgun, through a series of races. Probably the most valuable thing to retrieve from the tracks is maintenance repairs to your damaged car. If you don’t, a large portion of the dollars earned during the race will have to be spent on car repair after the race, thus slowing down your progress on other improvements that you may have wished to purchase.

Most of the races are you against a crowd, but every now and then a special goal will be offered, usually having to do with targeting a specific player. Also, just to keep you motivated into staying on the upgrade path, you are sometimes offered the opportunity to test drive a more advanced vehicle or weapon. You have to agree to share half of your winning for that race, however.

The visual aspects of the ten tracks vary by theme and they are attractive to look at.  When it comes to the racing, the overall nature of them is fairly constant. Short straights, tight turns, and every now and then a short detour that you can elect to take. That sometimes works as a way to get someone off of your tail before your car is destroyed. There is also an arena track for death match races. These races invariably end up being a group of cars circling around in tight little groups, though. Frankly, they just made me dizzy.

There are two control schemes, one of which seemed to work better with a controller, and one that is geared more towards keyboard users. The first points the car in the direction of the thumbstick on the controller rather than using the controller to steer left or right. It takes a little getting used to, but eventually it becomes easier since all you have to do is point where you want the can to go. The other method is the more traditional left and right steering, but to keep the player from having to remember which way is left and which way is right if the track stays oriented in the same place, it locks the camera on the car and rotates the track. This again is a great way to experience game-induced nausea.

As of this writing, the game was available on Steam for $9.99. Or, one could choose the iOS version available in the Apple App Store for $.99.  Given the shallowness of the game as compared to a typical PC game, the one priced at less than one dollar might be the wiser choice, although that lower price might be masking the need for a series of in-game purchases. Either way, there simply isn’t enough game here to justify parting with a sawbuck. Wait for the inevitable 66% off Steam sale on this one.

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.

Death Rally is quick and easy to pick up and learn, but quickly runs out of steam. Wait for the half-off sale on this one.

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