Ride to your death
Take a top down racer, add a few guns and a grimy post-apocalypse environment and you have Death Rally.
If the game sounds familiar then that's because this is a port of an old PC game, but that doesn't necessarily mean that it shows its age. Remedy have managed to make the game feel like it was made for iPhone and that's even more the case for the iPad version.
Starting with the lowest spec car, you're immediately put in the seat as the underdog, with much more powerful rivals leaving you in their dust from the off. As you spend your time during the first few games simply catching up with the other players, you'll also be picking up parts for weapons and all important points for cash.
Upgrading your car is the key to being able to compete. With every race completed comes the ability to upgrade either the Speed, Handling, Armour or weapon or to increase your health as damage is also carried over from race to race. The balance system is nothing new, but the way Remedy have used it here really makes you plan ahead; do you ensure your car is damage free or average this out by spending some points on extra speed to gain places?
The grimy look of the tracks does sometimes make it hard to see where the next corner is, particularly on the closed in factory track, though it also adds to the feel of the game, a case of what you gain with one hand you lose with the other. It does, however, give the developer a chance to show off some nice effects such as the headlights and explosions and there are some good ideas like showing a photo of your rival next to the car they're driving.
While there are only a few tracks to chose from, the way the game works is to create races in different modes on the same track and then on a reverse version of that track. This adds a much needed element of variety to a game that might otherwise suffer from being too repetitive due to the lack of tracks available. The track designs differ wildly too, with the aforementioned close quarters factory setting and the open air tracks that feel very much like those from Pixelbyte's Reckless Racing.
Controls feels slightly looser than normal, which may come from the cars skidding about across the track, but given time they do become far easier to use and even beneficial to taking some of the tighter corners. With only steering and a special weapon button to worry about there aren't any complicated button presses or screen filling icons to cause an issue.
One disappointment is the story. At the beginning of the game, in an unusual twist that also acts as a tutorial, you need to outrun the police. It's a futile effort, with no way of winning, but it does lead to a nice comic book cut scene that explains why you are racing. If this was carried through to the game then this would add a further element of progression, but little mention is made of your mission after this initial setup.
What is really missing here, though, is the multiplayer. The game is crying out for an internet or local match mode. While it's a shame this is not present from the start, the developers are apparently working on this for a future update.
As it is, the game is still a great single player experience, just as it was in the 90's on PC, but it feels that more content could be added to beef the game up. For top down racer fans though, particularly those who enjoyed Reckless Racing, Death Rally is another great addition to the genre and the weapons add a new dimension to the racing.
- Sound: 8
- Graphics: 8
- Gameplay: 8
- Longevity: 7
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