Travel back in time to 1996 and you would find me sitting in front of a PC late at night in the dark racing and annihilating other racers in the original Death Rally. Already released on iOS devices, this marks the first time Death Rally makes a return to the PC through Steam.
Opening up to an impossible getaway chase, it is only a matter of time before George Lucas makes you his bitch and forces you to join the Death Rally circuit to lure out the Adversary after gaining enough fame. Okay, so it isn’t actually George Lucas, but it surely looks like him and I would love to get some pay back after the Prequels.
As you begin your illustrious murder and racing career, you are only able to hop in a single vehicle with no extra frills. The only available weapon is the auto-firing machine gun that will fire if another car crosses your path. If you are reading this and saying “auto-fire? What the hell?,” you aren’t alone. While taking away control of the standard weapon you do still have control over all your special weapons and equipment such as mines, rockets, a flamethrower and more. By collecting parts that are scattered across the tracks or by destroying your opponents in the races; new cars and weapons will become unlocked. It is faster to focus on killing the other racers than beating them in the race to unlock things, but this is where you will begin to realize the grind that is at the heart ofDeath Rally.
Racing along zoomed in tracks that lack inspiration that are littered with boxes that hold various power-up type items, but if you fall behind after the first lap it is almost impossible to catch up. How short? Figure each race will take 30 sec – 2minutes tops to complete and this is for the entire race, not just each lap. At any given moment, there are plenty of different races to choose from. Each one with a random difficulty attached could also be a special event. Based on your performance from placing in the races and destruction during the race, you will earn XP as well as cold hard cash. After each race you are forced to spend all of cash earned in the previous race on repairing your vehicle as well as upgrading the stats of the car or your special weapon.
If you look hard enough there is a story mode. The narrative is enough to get you through it, but the matches tend to be harder than the skirmish style matches. At times it isn’t clear on how to proceed in the story mode as completing the race doesn’t unlock the next mission. Even destroying every single car kept us on the same mission.
Things become more confusing as it isn’t entirely clear on how to proceed through the career races. It may have to deal with your fame level, as completing one race by coming in first place or destroying all of the other cars still did not move me on to the next event. Enabling multiplayer mode will replace the CPU racers with online players, if you are able to find five other people to play online. Yes, it is one of those games, full the race completely or the match won’t ever start.
Controlling your vehicle of death with the keyboard may feel clumsy – the game does include built-in Xbox 360 controller support. One word of advice, avoid crashing into a wall as backing up is slow and confusing. Racing in the same tracks over and over the lack of speed is palpable. In the same fashion as equipment; new tracks are unlocked by collecting a set amount of parts. Breaking up the monogamy of racing, you will randomly receive a phone call that will offer you an advantage before the race starts, for a portion of your winnings. Be careful who you say no to however, as you may end up at a severe disadvantage during the next race.
If you get tired racing on the same tracks over and over, you can try your hand in the deathmatch mode. While on paper it sounds like a perfect fit for the game, the actual execution is a mess. The entire round often ends up with everyone doing doughnuts missing with every single shot.
For days after launch it still was tough to find a multiplayer match, not to mention the disappointing grind that is the single player campaign. I understand that there must be some mechanic to unlock new cars and new weapons, but having to race over 30 races to get just one thing new asks a little to much of the player. That being said, Death Rally is still fun; in bursts. The low price and easy learning curve are great drawing points to the once cult-classic title.
Note: The Death Rally review was written based on the PC version of the game.