Why aren’t there more major vehicular combat games? Traditional racers are fun and all, but adding a destructive element to just about anything makes it better. Death Rally, a drop-dead gorgeous remake of a mid-’90s PC game, gives gamers exactly what they want: An awesome top-down racing game… with missile launchers.
When you first start Death Rally, the game can be a little disheartening. Your car is underpowered and you’re not familiar with the tracks: In short, you’ll lose races. But for each attempt– even if you come in dead last– you earn money. This money can be spent to boost the speed, handling, armor, and firepower of your car. And before you know it, you’ll be a fearsome powerhouse capable of bringing down even the most heavily-armored vehicles.
Unleash the missiles!
One of the many great things about Death Rally is that the races only last about a minute and a half. This makes the game perfect for playing on the go, and it means that you can make measurable progress very quickly. And even though the races don’t last long, they’re very intense. You’re always faced with the choice of whether you want to floor it for first place immediately, or hang back and pick off the racers in front of you.
Anytime you’re close behind another car, the standard gun strapped to the side of your car fires a constant stream of bullets. So if you’re patient, you can pick away at an opponent’s health until the vehicle blows up. Luckily, you also get a choice of stronger limited-use weapons. These include a shotgun, mines, and a missile launcher. There are five special weapons in total, each of which you can pour money into to increase your ammo capacity.
Pimp your ride.
The amount of content is Death Rally’s biggest low point. The game only comes with five tracks and five cars to choose from. You can play the tracks as many times as you want, in whatever order you want, to keep earning money to max out your cars and weapons. Regular races pit you against five AI-controlled opponents, but special challenge races are also available. These include head-to-head races, limited weapon matches, and upstream challenges, in which you and an opponent race going opposite directions around a track.
That’s really all there is to it. There’s no story mode to work through, or tiers of difficulty to unlock, or multiplayer mode. It’s just you and computer-controlled opponents, racing around the same five tracks over and over. Normally this might be a deal-breaker, but the core gameplay in Death Rally– the racing, the combat, the vehicle upgrade system– is so engaging that once we started, we had a hard time stopping. This is a deeply fun game, with a stat-building system that gives you noticeable gameplay rewards constantly.
Death Rally is a game that practically anyone– racing fan or not– will enjoy. The only reason we’re not giving it a Must Have rating is that the amount of content is a little too low: We’d love to see the developers add more maps, cars, and a multiplayer mode. But even as is, we can highly recommend the game. The visuals are eye-popping, the upgrade system is addictive, and the visceral gameplay is second to none. What are you waiting for?