Psychos, Start Your Engines!

A quick recce of Remedy Entertainment’s output over the years makes one thing crystal clear: these guys are serious movie buffs. And from The Matrix-esque super slo-mo gunfights of Max Payne to Alan Wake’s surreal, nightmarish and oh-so ‘Lynchian’ tone, neither are they that shy about working elements from their favorite flicks into their own games.

It’s a trend that began back in 1996 with Death Rally, an über-violent top-down racer that paid homage to the gloriously tacky and trashy Stallone vehicle, Death Race 2000 (now there’s a guilty pleasure if ever there was one). Fast forward a decade and a bit and Remedy have teamed up with Cornfox & Brothers and Mountain Sheep to remake the game for iOS (out now, $2.99). But does this shiny new re-do have what it takes to go toe-to-toe with the current crop of racing games?

In a word, abso-freaking-lutely!

For those of you unfamiliar with the original, Death Rally straps the player into the driver’s seat of a tricked-out, tooled-up motor to do battle with a freakish roster of psychotic petrol-heads – replete with cameo appearences from Duke Nukem and, in this version, Mountain Sheep poster-boy John Gore – in a series of race-offs that for all intents and purposes play out like levels from a particularly visceral dual-stick shooter. Except, y’know, on four wheels.

Set across five intricately designed and detailed tracks and boasting a zoomed-out, top-down perspective that allows for a spectacular view of the vehicular carnage, the game truly is a sight for sore eyes; trust me, try as they might, these screenshots fail to do it justice. Forgoing pleasantries like a tutorial in favor of getting right down to the intense action, within moments of loading up Death Rally, you find yourself behind the wheel of the first of five unlockable cars.

A pared-back control scheme, which positions a virtual joystick on the left of the screen for steering and a fire button on the right, takes a couple of races to get used to, but put in the practise and pretty soon you’ll be power-sliding around bends, reducing rivals to blazing hunks of scrap metal with well-aimed hails of bullets or missiles, and snagging the juiceist powerups with the best of ’em.

Evidently designed with time-strapped mobile gamers in mind, Death Rally’s stages are kept short and sweet, comprising of three quickfire laps that only last a minute or so apiece. Also in the interest of pick-up-and-playabilty, I’d imagine, the game does away with a traditional campaign/career mode and in its place features a series of randomized challenge levels, while cash is awarded quite liberally after each race so it shouldn’t take long to upgrade your garage and arsenal.

It does get a tad repetitive and I really, really hope we see more tracks, cars  and other content added in future updates, but thanks to Death Rally’s compelling upgrade system and incredibly addictive quality, you’re still likely keep playing this explosively enjoyable racer until your fingers cramp up. And then some.

iFanzine Verdict: A remake to die for, Death Rally retains the irresistably shlocky aesthetic and high-octane action that made the original such an enduring hit while bringing its gameplay and graphics bang up to date. An unmissable addition to iOS’ ‘console quality’ cannon that’s only likely to get better and better thanks to a torrent of new content promised via frequent updates.

[xrr rating=4.5/5]