Death Rally is one of a recent rash of reboots of classic games. It’s more in the vein of Choplifter HD than Pac-Man: Championship Edition DX, in that instead of twisting and iterating this new installment, it’s mostly the same game you (should) remember from 1996 with a fresh coat of paint.
Just like the original, you’ll take on the role of an illegal street racer with things like car-mounted guns and spiked bumpers. You can either try to pull so far ahead that your opponents can’t shoot at you, or pull a little ahead, drop a mine, let them hit it and pull ahead and then riddle them with holes. It’s counter-intuitive, but this strategy not only nets you a win, but I helps you unlock new cars since the unlock system is tied to destroying opponents rather than driving better and faster than they do.
Both the original and the remake are top-down racers. The DOS version manages to feel fast and frantic the whole way through. You take part in races and are rewarded with cash for taking first, second, or third place. As I mentioned above, in the update your main source of income is blowing up your fellow racers, and it is a good thing that the combat is fun, because the racing feels slow and methodical instead of fast and frantic. While the original placed a heavy emphasis on latter half of the title, the update is all about the former. The addition of deathmatch (both against bots and online) is welcome, since the campaign mode is fairly lackluster. It doesn’t feel fast, it doesn’t reward good racing, and the unlocks take too long to acquire.
The multiplayer fares a little bit better. I was only able to play against bots, but the Death Rally promise that the developers are aware of issues are are hard at work to make online function better. What I could see was a nice little upgrade from the typical PC multiplayer server system. Death Rally‘s multiplayer functions more like a typical Xbox Live game. You can view games that are going, and join one if you want. Or, if you want to set up a private lobby, just name a custom channel and tell your friends the name. There is no clunky server browser, and there are no custom skins to download every time you start a game.
There’s one big wrench thrown at the updated Death Rally now that it has made the transition from iOS devices to PC. The DOS version is legally available free of charge, and it is hard to argue with playing a better game at the low, low price of zero dollars. The update isn’t bad per se, but it feels merely adequate where the original felt good.
Pros: The server browser is outdated and annoying, and Remedy did it up right by ditching it
Cons: Emphasis is overly slanted toward combat instead of racing, no sense of speed