Death Rally: a game that didn’t need a Remedy.

I wrote this some time ago, but forgot to post it. So here you go. 😛

I am a retardedly massive fan of Death Rally, that old top-down racing game with guns, mines, turbo boosts, sexy music and one of my most iconic fantasy cars, the Deliverator. I remember scrolling through the vehicle list early on in the game, anticipating the moment when I’d be able to drive it. Hell, I did that with every car. 😀

But I found that there’s a NEW Death Rally out now, made by Remedy Entertainment – the same company who developed the original Death Rally. Not sure if it’s the same guys, though. It’s been out for quite a while, actually, first exclusive to iCrap, then released on Andwoid. I was able to have a very brief play on the Android version when it came out, and I didn’t really like it. Didn’t feel like Death Rally, and any game that requires the use of virtual analog sticks is almost always crap.

But soon after that, it became available on PC, via Steam, but with no demo. So I immediately went to grab a torrent, because there was no way in hell I was trusting this game. It cost £8 on PC, yet you could get it on mobile devices for 69 FUCKING P. It was also originally for mobile devices, so my Bad Port detector was going haywire. And as I said earlier, during my brief play, I didn’t like it. Of course, if it did turn out to be a good game, I’d delete the torrent and go buy it, like I always do.

Sadly, no! After giving it a good chance, I’m almost certain that the developers are different, and that Remedy didn’t really give a shit about this game and just wanted to get back to their forest simulation game, Alan Wake.

You start the game by being told to escape the cops. The controls appear 15 seconds after this, so that’s kind of irritating. You find out that you can’t escape the cops, because you’re too slow, and the road ends with a fence you can’t smash through. Some sort of cutscene happens where you get arrested and get told to compete in Death Rally, a quite illegal competition, by a POLICEMAN, so he can get his hands on the Adversary. Making literally no sense already.

So instead of the original Death Rally, where you want to beat the Adversary to be a winner, this time you need to beat the Adversary because some chump cop wants to arrest him. Or something. How pathetic. Anyway, you get thrown into the garage screen, where you get shown 6 races and you’ve gotta pick one. You race the quite dull race, return to the garage, are forced to spend all your money, and then you race another. Progress is eventually and accidentally made, even if you repeatedly lose. Every so often, a special story race appears. Finish in a position, and you might get another cutscene. You don’t even have to win some of them. I imagine it goes like that until you reach the Adversary, where I assume you can come second and win. I don’t know, because I got bored about halfway through. Which only took a few hours.

The changes from the original Death Rally are massive. You don’t get any initial funds, and you don’t actually know roughly how much you’ll win upon entering a race. At the end of the race, you do see how much money you win, but you don’t know how much repairs or upgrades cost. You MUST spend all your money before entering the next race, so you can’t save it up for the next car instead of wasting it on upgrades you don’t want. You can’t save it for the next car anyway, because you unlock cars by accidentally picking up bits of upgrades as you drive. In fact, everything in the game is unlocked accidentally; new cars, new tracks, new weapons and new accessories, all collected on the track without really trying. You can blow up enemies to unlock stuff faster, but that’s super irritating because enemies seem to get 98% damage resistance when they go critical (more on that later). Basically, you almost never have to finish in a good position or blow anyone up to advance in the new game. You could probably beat the game and only win about 10 times in total.

There are some retarded flaws with the upgrade system, too. You don’t actually know how fast cars go – you don’t get a top speed reading. For all I know, a maxed Vagabond goes just as fast as the stock Deliverator. But that’s not the stupidest thing. Say if you have a maxed out car, and you’ve just unlocked the next car. Maybe you don’t want to drive the new car, because as far as you can tell, it’s slower and handles like ass, because it has less gold upgrade bars on Speed and Handling. So, you decide to race with your current vehicle, and use the money to upgrade the other car before you try racing with that. WRONG! You can’t do that. All money you earn in a race must be spent on the car and weapon you raced with. WHAT THE CRAP?! Did anyone at Remedy think this through?! Also, if you do happen to have any money left over that you can’t spend, you can’t go and spend it on another weapon or car, oh no! It disappears and you get fame points instead! Maybe it gets donated to charity, or something dumb like that.

In the original, I liked the feeling of starting with a junk-ass car, the Vagabond, and slowly but surely upgrading to better cars. In the new Death Rally, the Vagabond is a good car. What?! It’s just… why? I’m supposed to earn good stuff, not get it spoon-fed to me at the start of the game.

Also… where’s the atmosphere? In the original game, there’re strange, somewhat cryptic passages of text in the menus you can read. Like this one: “This is how it goes. You are driving. You are saying ‘Hang on baby, this is what I do’. It’s doable, all right? Winnable. And the bullets take the sky, like clouds of locusts. The end is nigh. Race over, get it? Budda budda budda. You have been warned.” They were like descriptions in a text-based adventure – no images, it’s just left to your imagination. And they worked so well – they were superbly written, and helped set the gritty yet cool mood of the game. And some were really funny, mainly the remarks when your damage level was high. In the new game, there’s nothing. Just some sporadic bad comic book style cutscenes starring Mr. Mute Racing Driver and a generic American policeman. There’s no mood, no atmosphere… nothing. The drugs powerdown was removed, so there’s no insane screen effect or the cool guy who says “WHOOOAH maaaaan…”. There’s not even an announcer that says GET READY TO GO or RACE OVER! The race starts when you press the accelerator. Jesus… it’s so dull.

In addition, there’s no Black Market in the new game, so the black market items work differently. Rocket Fuel is absent, not like you’d want it in the new game, because the car handling is so pathetic you can’t control yourself if you go too fast. And that’s even funnier when you realise that every car is way too slow. 😛 You get Sabotage offered to you randomly, but it costs “a cut of your winnings”. How much of a “cut”? 20%? 50%? 105%? Fuck knows. And I don’t know how much damage it does, either. And I don’t see the point since bots cheat when they go critical. So I decline every single time. As for Mines and Spikes, you unlock them, and you can then equip them to your car for every race without charge. In the original game, it was a risk to buy them for the race, because you could lose even more money if you lost, but your chances of winning could increase. Those choices made it interesting, but now there ARE no choices, cuz the items are free. Jesus Christ, I didn’t know it was possible to dilute a game this much!

One good thing is the new weapons, such as the sniper rifle or shotgun. But then that’s immediately ruined when you realise they don’t replace your default machine gun when equipped. So basically, when you equip a weapon, you get autofire on the machine gun. That would be okay, but the machine gun has unlimited ammo and autoaim. And that’s gay. Because you can easily just sit at the back and punch holes in #5’s ass, eventually blow him up, move on to #4, rinse and repeat until YOU’RE WINNER. You could easily fix the problem if the machine gun acted like a normal weapon. Like… if it had ammo, and was replaced when equipping a different weapon. But no.

Although… you know when I said that thing about blowing people up? Don’t count on it. Basically, when you shoot someone, you see their health bar. When the health bar reaches zero, it starts flashing orange in a weird way. That means they’ve gone critical, their vehicle’s slowed down, and they have very low health left. When a player goes critical and they’re still being shot at, they’re screwed. I know, because I’ve been blown up myself, and because I’ve played multiplayer and blown someone up several times. 😛

“What’s the problem?” you ask. Well, bots seem to have this special cheat code which gives their vehicle an amazing power, making them not blow up when they’re critical, even when you shoot them about 20 times. Their health bar flashes, their vehicle looks like it’s having an epileptic fit, but they don’t blow up for ages. And that is FRIGGIN’ IRRITATING. Seriously, if you wanted to make the game more difficult… try making the Vagabond crap, or try reverting to the old Death Rally upgrade system! Don’t just give the AI cheat codes! It’s not difficulty! It’s GAY AS FUCK!

I played again during Steam’s free weekend for Death Rally, so I also got the opportunity to play multiplayer. It’s not actually co-op, as it’s advertised to be. You just race normally with normal rules. No battles, story races or special events. Playing with a friend improves the experience a bit, but you can tell it’s not really made for multiplayer. The channel system is weird and quite unreliable sometimes. When you finish or get blown up, your game doesn’t wait for other players to finish. It just gives you the results as they would be if no-one changed positions. Doesn’t update the standings, or say “still running” for players who haven’t finished yet. Definitely a mobile port.

Basically, if you got bored and scrolled to the end, don’t bother with the new Death Rally. It’s watered down so much, it’s not recognisable. The only things it has in common with the old game is the name, and the fact that it’s a top-down racer. 😛

I definitely encourage you to go look for the old version, which has been ported from DOS, and is freeware now. No multiplayer support, though, which is a shame. I’ve always wondered what it’s like to play the original Death Rally multiplayer, but no-one I know has the patience or the brain power required to get netplay working in DOSBox, even though it’s not that hard. 😛