Death Rally (PC) review
Death Rally remains to be an interesting top-down racing game, despite it being a remake. Many of the ideas that it implements to keep the racing engaging and the player focused on the game are all present, allowing it to be an excellent time sink. However, despite its attractive set of customization features, unlockables, and short spurt racing sessions, Death Rally has flaws that ultimately hold it back from being anything beyond average.
Oddly enough, Death Rally has a story, although it’s not very compelling. The moment you start the game it immediately tells you to outrun a bunch of police cars. Unsurprisingly, you fail at the attempt and you are forced into looking for a certain individual for your freedom. And thus you are competing in death rallies, hence the name. It’s not a horrible premise and it actually does a good job weaving you into the game’s world, giving you a reason for why you’re actually competing in so called death-defying race matches. The story is fairly short but enough to keep you engaged. Not only that but it serves its purposes which I will get into later.
In addition to the story mode, there’s a freeplay mode where you can choose a map that has a designated racing mode. Races with six other combatants for three laps, battles against other cars, and one-on-one challenges are the most prominent. Despite the lack of modes, the number of maps in combination with these modes are enough to spark interesting play. Not only that but there’s always the dynamic of different cars that you have to race/battle against the keeps the boredom away. Simplicity is the name of the game, and Death Rally definitely keeps it that way. No complex modes and maps make it so the game feels almost like a mini-game at times. It’s great if you want to plop down and play for a short while and go on to with your schedule.
The actual racing is somewhat awkward depending on your control method. You can use just your keyboard, keyboard in combination with the mouse, or use a controller. I highly recommend the last control type, if you have a controller on hand, since it will give you the most precision when driving your car. However, if you lose the other two, it might feel a bit weird due to the various steering and drifting physics. While you are racing against other cars, or one car depending on the mode, you also have the ability to use your special weapon or nitro. The former is something that you can attach to your car before the race starts. There are a variety of weapons to choose from such as a chain-gun, mines, shotguns, and more. If you can’t outspeed your opponents then the alternative is to outgun them in a blaze of glory. It’s quite funny since you can essentially mow down all your opponents rendering them incapable of finishing the race, effectively making you first.
Disappointingly, actually using the weapons is a tad tedious since they will fire in the direction that your car is facing. This means that it’s ineffective to shoot at a car while you’re turning, unless the car is turning with you and at the optimum shooting position. This is where the simplicity of the game bites its own butt since the game could’ve greatly benefited from it. Each special weapon needs ammunition and while you do start out with full ammo at the beginning of the race you must replenish it by picking up ammo drop on the map if you empty out. If weapons aren’t part of the equation then you can use a nitro pack, which you have to pick up on the map, and boost your way to victory. The nitro forces the player to adapt since turning will be much more responsive. It’s cool and the benefit of speed sometimes doesn’t outweigh the uncontrollable steering in a very turn-heavy map.
The more you race the better off you are in the game. As you race along the track you will sometimes find special drops that you can pick up. These drops act as pieces that eventually build up to a new weapon that can be unlocked or a new car. Essentially it acts like a leveling system in ways because the more you play, the more toys you’ll have to play with. It’s a cool idea if it wasn’t for the fact that it can get extremely repetitive and basically results to nothing more than grinding. Having to trod through the same maps or the same game type for dozens of times can get old real quickly.
If you’re not up to single player then you can simply choose a map and open up a lobby for multiplayer. Sadly, there aren’t anyone playing. The numerous times I tried to join a game or set up a lobby for people to join, there were no games played. Beyond the fact multiplayer exists, it’s not an attractive feature that you’ll spend hours delving into.
The visuals are extremely simple and even if you play on the lowest graphics it looks really nice. The colors and vibrant and has that cartoonish characteristic to it. The audio isn’t a standout. It’s a typical enthusiastic fanfare to make racing feel high-speed, cool, and entertaining. These two technical aspects are average at best and doesn’t amount to much in the end.
Death Rally stands as an excellent entertaining distraction. Races are over in mere minutes, or even a single minute sometimes, allowing for short spurts of fun while you’re waiting for something. It also serves as something you can play for an extended amount of time due to the variety of stuff you can unlock and play around with. Sadly, the overall racing doesn’t amount to much since it doesn’t have any deep gameplay systems in place and feels like a mini-game. Even so, Death Rally is a perfectly average game that’s not a complete waste of time.