Death Rally brings old school car combat back to the masses
Death Rally is one of those games that warms my cold little jaded heart. It wasn’t that long ago that this game hit my radar, but when I found out it was developer Remedy in the driver’s seat (see what I did there) I got excited. You see Death Rally was the company’s first PC game way back in the 90’s, so it’s only fitting that they would get to resurrect it. And man oh man, what a resurrection it is.
One could say I had a high bar set for this game. You see I’m quite a fan of the original top down racer. There’s no way some half hearted redux would fly here, no sir. Excellent news though, what we get here is exactly what we should – a top down driving game that’s heavy on both the combat and visuals.
First and foremost, the game looks amazing. Explosions are rich, the cars super detailed and the levels are vibrant and alive. The damage models on the cars are real time and well done. It’s not rare to see the rear bumper hanging off a car once you’ve hit it with a few blasts of your door mounted shotgun.
Speaking of shotguns, this game really revels in its combat roots. In some races it’s less important to worry about the race and a much better use of your time to just shoot everyone else until they explode. It’s certainly a lot more fun. There’s a variety of weaponry to choose from, which you both unlock and upgrade as the game goes on.
Controls are handled with a virtual stick and button at the bottom of the screen. The stick will control your movement forward and turning, there’s no button for gas or brake. It was a little disconcerting at first and probably took me about 30 minutes or so to really get the hang of it. The button is just there to fire the weapons.
The real hook here is the upgrade system, which the designers have implemented pitch perfectly. At the end of each race you’re scored on how well you did on a number of different factors, like how many people you kill or what place you came in. They total that all up and give you a varying amount of upgrade juice to distribute to your car.
You’ll tap on different upgrade areas like speed or handling, and hold down your finger to drain the main bar of energy into the smaller ones for each part of the car. Fill up one of those bars and you get the upgrade. So when the big bar runs out, you race again to give you more upgrade juice. It’s the perfect carrot on a stick to race “just one more” time to get enough to top off the bar and have the upgrade take effect. It’s both compelling and addicting: a deadly combination.
Really there’s only one drawback to the game. Death Rally only has 5 tracks to race on, and while they do an admirable job of making the most of them by providing reverse setups and other unique rules, it still feels limited. It didn’t take long for me to have a “been there, done that” feeling about where I was racing. I was still having fun mind you, but I can see these tracks getting old fast. More tracks are promised in an update though, so fingers crossed!
It’s pretty hard to hold anything against Death Rally, since they get so much right in the title. Driving feels good, combat is crazy fun and the upgrade system is borderline addictive. It’s true I wish there were more tracks, but hopefully that’s a problem that will be remedied soon. But as it stands it’s one of the best racing games we’ve seen on the App Store yet.