Posted: February 16, 2014
(Disclaimer: I do probably have nostalgia for the original)
It makes me sad to have to not recommend this. I was honestly excited by the idea of the Death Rally game being remade and hopefully expanded. Instead what we seem to have is essentially a mobile game scaled up that has a lot of the words in common with Death Rally but feels like it misses on a few important cylinders.
Death Rally was a half race and half car-carnage game and it pulled it together well though sometimes a bit cheesy. Fun could be had as the races really felt like skill made a big difference and timing your mines and machine gun fire to destroy opponents in your way was rewarding though not trivial. Through the game, you got money which you needed to restock supplies like ammo or armor, upgrade your car a bit or buy new cars/weapons.
This version feels like the dumbed down iOS port that it really is. Money now only is here to buy upgrades to the car and repair it. The upgrades feel like they make almost no difference in gameplay (except armor which did actually seem to prolong life). But as a racing game, getting better cars or engines did not make me feel like I was going faster. I've read that even the best car with the best engine does not go faster than the initial car an opponent drives in a beginner race. It makes the upgrades feel definitely token.
There is also no real money management. In fact, after a race, the game seems to expect you to just spend all of your money since ammo is restocked at the beginning of a race anyway. New weapons and cars are unlocked after collecting a certain number of pieces scattered on tracked on dropped from destroyed opponents. It feels like progression in this game could be substituted for attrition. I remember in the original sometimes being in a bad place because I took a loan I couldn't pay back. This made decisions feel like they meant something. Also, additional objectives in the original again meant something since money mattered. Here, they are a yes/no box you click periodically and see if it works. It feels sometimes like an Office product had a pop up with the title "Fun" and boxes that just say yes and no appeared with no real context or consequence to the action.
Yes you do advance faster from placing higher, but it still doesn't feel significant enough. After all, winning a race seems to come mostly down to well placed nitro boosts at the end.
The destruction of opponents seems like an area where this could shine. Unfortunately, there are things in the way of allowing you to really get the full enjoyment from the experience. Your base machine gun automatically shoots for you (after you add your 1 additional gun upgrade). This feels annoying at best since you have unlimited ammo and it's not always shooting, but you have no control over it. Even better is in-race bonuses (repair, money, ammo) are in boxes that must be shot... so you have to hope an opponent is in front of you near a box so you could happen to shoot that (and they not just take your bonus) or you waste some of your limited ammo.
This is a small gripe, but the in level bonuses do need to be shot and all appear at the beginning of the level. Since shooting can be wasteful and feel a bit random, this means that upgrades you need later are hard to get and running into repairs within seconds of the race starting is common. It just feels like a bad decision. The original randomly spawned them on the track, IIRC, and that was fine. This isn't a realistic game; why must we pretend periodically that it is?
Opponents suffer from what a lot of games have with enemies that don't have the same limitations as you. I've mentioned their cars are always fast enough to rival yours no matter what. They also have unlimited ammo in their nicer weapons compared to the 4 shots you get in some of your weapons. This is especially terrible in the deathmatch sections where destroying cars is the goal yet they don't have to worry about ammo limits. Additionally, they have health like you do. When you hit 0%, you explode and are done. When they hit 0%, their health bar flashes... and they continue to race for a while. Some number of shots into them later (or maybe it's time? I couldn't definitively understand the logic but it seemed inconsistant and like I wasted a lot of ammo trying to kill a single target), they will in fact explode. You have no real indicator of when this is going to happen though, so I frequently found myself passing them and hoping to get their drop on the next lap if they happened to blow up. Though they can still shoot you in this state.
Speaking about laps, one of the biggest places this feels like a mobile game is in the race length. I'm not saying I need long races, but I do feel like the fact that most races take <=1 minute to complete takes away from my enjoyment. That could just be a preference, though.
All this is not to say there is no fun to be had. I was entertained for a while. I could see this being more reasonable on a device without a gamepad or keyboard (I never did get my 360 controller to work with this game) like a tablet or phone where simple games are more acceptable. I at least wanted more. I wanted to feel like I had consequences or choices. I wanted to feel like my ability mattered. Instead, I was watching a nice looking (not amazing by any means, but it does look nice enough... if you don't look too closely at the textures) but repetative and short car chase scene from various movies. Things happen, but the ending never seemed to be directly related.
You can get the original for free from Remedy which runs on Windows (re-released in 2009); I feel that is a better use of your time and money