Wednesday, 15 August 2012

REVIEW: (Video) Death Rally (PC)

Hey guys, here's my Death Rally review. As per my review policy, the single player portion of the game was played to completion. There was no difficulty setting.


The original Death Rally was released way back in 1996 for MS-DOS. It was made Remedy (the folks behind the original Duke Nukem games) and had full LAN support. The premise of the game was essentially a car race with guns, where you could either be the fastest, or the deadliest. It quickly became a LAN party favourite, and I remember wasting many hours of my youth ramming my friends with spiked bumpers and setting up mine traps.

Now it's 2012 and Remedy have got around to giving Death Rally the HD treatment. Originally being released for smart phones and tablets, it finally cropped up on steam for $8.50. Being a big fan of the original, I decided to pick it up and see if it still keeps that Death Rally spirit.

The game's paper thin story is told through comic book panels. You play as an illegal street racer who is picked up by the cops, but given a chance to avoid jail time if you infiltrate 'Death Rally' and find it's king - 'The Adversary'. I don't think the original Death Rally had a story, and I think it's better that way. This just feels cheesy and stupid, with the final panel of the story having your character literally drive off into the sunset.

Graphically, it looks very impressive. It's come a long way from those 1996 graphics. It has some cool touches to the maps like overhead trains in the city maps or hovering helicopters in snow and jungle maps, and the car models themselves are very nicely detailed. The sounds and music are rough and dirty, fitting to the feel of the game. The only problem I had is the NPC drivers only have one or two lines of dialogue, and that gets old really fast.

The game itself plays almost exactly like the original, utilizing a top down view as you race around tracks trying to kill each other. There are essentially two ways to win a race, finish first or destroy every other car. The best way to play often includes a combination of both - destroying a few cars and then trying to pull in front of the others. Destroying boxes in the map will drop items, these include a nitro boost, extra ammo, extra cash and a small repair. It's a bit strange to see the nitro bar from the original replaced with a single use nitro item, but it's not that big a deal. As you destroy cars and win races, you will receive parts that unlock new maps, weapons, and vehicles. You'll also get a bunch of cash which you can use to upgrade your car after the race is over.

This brings us to one of my major gripes with the game. You have to spend ALL the winnings you receive after winning a race, and you can only spend it on the car you used to win the race, and the weapon you were using at the time. It's really frustrating that you can't 'save' money, for when you unlock a new car or weapon. This has the side effect of making the new cars feel 'weaker' than your old, fully upgraded cars, as well as making it difficult to switch weapons, as you would have to use the underleveled weaker weapon for many races before it got to the same level as your fully leveled stronger weapon.

The list of unlockables is actually relatively impressive. The original Death Rally only had 6 cars and a single weapon option (chain guns), while the remake has 6 weapons and 8 cars - as well as the spiked bumpers, mines and laser sight. While there are only around 10 maps as compared to the original's 19, you have to remember that many of the original's maps were simply recolours of the same map. Obtaining everything should take you a couple of hours.

New to the game is the 'death match' mode, where you simply try to destroy the other racers. It's a really obnoxious mode that just has you wildly circling each other while trying to get a hit in. Without the pretence of a race it's just kind of boring, and the whole mode feels really tacked on, especially as there is only a single map for it.

The game's final challenge is 'The Adversary'. I really have to say, this is by far the most frustrating part of the game. The adversary's car is faster than any vehicle the player can get, so you need to rely on lucky drops from boxes during the race to win the game. It got to the point where If I didn't get a nitro or ammo from the first box at the start of the race, I would just quit and remake as there would be no way I could catch him. In the end, I opted to destroy his car rather than trying to beat him in a fair fight. This is death rally after all.

Beating the Adversary unlocks nothing except an ending cut scene. It can be done in around 2-3 hours, leaving very little replay value. The game boasted an online multiplayer mode, which I tried to use several times yet kept returning to me with a 'matchmaking error'. The fact that there is no LAN support saddened me a bit, as LAN play is essentially what made the original game so great in the first place.

Death Rally is essentially what you'd expect in a remake - the original game given a fresh coat of paint and a couple of new features. I bought it for $8.50 and it gave me around 3-4 hours of gameplay. I mostly bought it for nostalgia reasons - if you never played the original you might not get as much enjoyment out of this. This one is difficult to judge, as it was an OK little distraction but I can see how people could feel ripped off. I'm going to give it a new rating 'Buy it when it's on sale.' I'm sure it will eventually crop up on steam for 50% off, grab it then, unless you are a diehard Death Rally fan.

Verdict: Buy it (When it's on sale)

Buy Death Rally on the Steam store

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  1. Hi, just small correction. Original Death Rally was not made by Apogee. They were the publisher. However, the developer was back then small finnish company Remedy :) Otherwise a nice review. I used to like the original quite a bit. It was simple fun with good game play.. not sure it'd had deserved a modernized sequel, though.