Oct 22, 2012

Review: Death Rally

Developed by Remedy Entertainment
Released Aug 3. 2012

If you're as old as me, which you probably aren't, then you may know the name "Death Rally" from the hazes of nostalgia.  But you probably don't.  Death Rally was a top down racing game along the lines of arcade superstar Super Sprint and multiple platforms release Micromachines.  Yes there were a lot more but these examples will do.  But this game also had guns , Rock'n'roll, explosions and Duke Nukem.

It was actually a rather good game.  Quick to get into, decent ladder (campaign) system, and you earned cash for winning races and destroying your opponents, sometimes with special bounties and whatnot, which you spent on new upgrades and rides.  For what was a Shareware release, it was really good.

Fast forward to 2012 and the release of Death Rally on Steam.  This is gonna get ugly!

At time of purchase a few months back, there was no mention at all on the Steam store page that what I was getting was a IOS port, priced 8,99€. Which is nearly 10 times as much as you'd fork out buying the game on your iPhone, prices will vary per region of course.  What do we get at this price point ?

Deathmatch.  Looks cool before you realize all the AI opponents just circle around on the spot, firing their weapons.

Apparently I am too late to the punch at reviewing this, because on Steam release, this game boasted HD graphics.  That claim has now been removed from the store page, for good reason.  This game looks cheap, at best.  I'll have to give Remedy some credit for even including video settings in the game, but even when setting it to "Extreme" I'm still looking at washed down, extremely low resolution textures, so what's the point ?   I'm already wondering if I've thrown my money away.

Onto a few races then.  First things first, and this is absolutely vital, do NOT buy this game thinking its good for some amusement with your gamepad hooked up.  The gamepad controls are atrocious, I can't actually remember a racing game with such poor controls, going all the way back to C64.  If you play this game with a gamepad, as you would if you have one, seeing as this is the type of game you'd want to use one for.. You control your car with the D-Pad.  Yup. Just point that sucker around and the car goes the direction you point it.  Nevermind control setups that most racing games, both arcade and simulations, have had you perfect for the last oh 30 years.  (Hold the press!! I just remembered playing Radar Rat Race on C64 which had the same control setup, I stand corrected)  Now we're using the D-Pad for steering, gas and braking, and there's nothing you can do about it.  Its a horrible experience. Even after putting time in to try and get comfortable with the controls, it just feels awful.  Don't take my word for it, try the Demo.  If that didn't sound bad enough, your vehicle weapons auto-fire, as in, you can't fire manually.  You want to break that crate with your vehicle gun to see whats inside it before you decide to make a detour for it? Tough luck, you can't.  You'll have to point your ride at it in the hopes autofire takes the crate out before you crash into it, costing valuable race time.  And even then you risk having your car not fire its autoguns, failing to break the crate, making your run even more wasted.

Your upgrade station, available only post-race.  Also, we just got a call from the 80's, the A-team wants their car and their digital artwork for it back.

Controls then, my second let down.  Surely it will look up from now, right ?

Enter single player "campaign" mode, and what you get is a series of choices of races to do, one of each difficulty, neatly enough.  In Death Rally of the old times, you'd earn money based on your race results that you could spend somewhat strategically on upgrading your vehicles, repairing them or buying new ones.  In Death Rally 2012, thats all gone to the dogs.  You earn new cars if you crash into random crates on the race tracks that you would NEVER normally aim for, seeing as they're always positioned in really awkward places on the track you just lose a lot of time aiming for.  At least you earn some credits for the races, but what's this?  Gone is the old, in is the new 'one button' upgrade system where instead of buying parts, you just press X and the game gets an upgrade for you if the creds are enough.  Every semblance of an economy is just thrown to shits, you'll repair the car first if you can, then spare money is thrown into auto-upgrades.  There's no incentive ever to save your money either since new cars and weapon systems are all randomly dropped during races, never available to purchase between them.

Another thing I have to point out is how ridiculously short the races are! Many of the tracks you complete in somewhere between 8-15 seconds, and most races being three laps, most of the time (unless you're really bad) your races are done less than a minute after they start.  This is a REALLY poor design on the PC version of Death Rally. If I was playing IOS Death Rally, okay, I could do a race while I'm on the potty, but this ? You hunker down for some racing and its done within a minute, 1:30 TOPS.  UUUUGH.

This is looking grim so far.  But Death Rally has some cool characters, at least!

... Wrong. They're all gone.  Some of the old characters are listed as drivers, but they sport random colours, have no speech, and believe it or not, Duke Nukem who was the main bad-ass the old game, is completely gone!  Copyrights be damned....  Well, that's gone too, then...

That tense moment, just before the race is over.... (we didn't start, yet)

Can you play it online, then ? If you still want to if you've read this far?  Kind of!  To play this bad boy online you'll have to host or join a channel with a specific name.  If you don't know any, you're out of luck.  If you have a poor imagination and just want to invite a few friends to play, you may also be out of luck because any random typing in a channel name can join or ruin your party.  Even if you play online in a lobby you've joined or hosted though, theres no guarantee you'll race your chums or nemesises.  You see, each player gets their own set of race options in the lobby, and if you choose different ones? Well, then you're not racing eachother.

You read this far, and you still want a verdict? Fine.

Verdict : 2/10

Death Rally 2012 does almost everything wrong.  Only thing that saves it from 1 or 0 out of 10 is my nostalgic sentiment for the original.  Remedy, which I hold to my heart for their Max Payne series, should be ashamed of having their name associated with this release, but what's a name to some quick bucks on brand cash-in's, eh ?  Even at the IOS price this game would be a terrible purchase, heck I might be tempted to ask my ISP for the bandwidth back if I unwittingly had downloaded a demo of this.  Also, the soundtrack is crap.

Down the line:

(30th Nov 2012)  Nothing's changed, this is still a crap, 10x overpriced handheld device PC port. Steer clear, PLEASE.

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