Throw away any idea that might resemble a plot, add in a limited number of tracks and a handful of unlockable cars and weapons then let people race/kill each other in an overhead perspective. It isn’t the worst idea ever for a video game, but it also feels like it has already been done to death as a genre—between dual stick shooters and the almost abandoned racing/combat games. Somewhere between dual-joystick shooter and RC car racing it almost feels like the game is struggling to find itself instead of presenting its best foot.
Possibly one of the major problems with it is that almost everything in the game is locked by default, and the process of unlocking them—including additional tracks—basically requires players to grind out the same half dozen courses until they have collected all, sometimes up to 18, parts needed. Even then weapons and vehicles that do become available still need to be upgraded, meaning that the vehicle setup used to unlock the better stuff is still—oddly—better. It gets even more annoying when that new unlock needs to be used repeatedly in a race to level it up to an acceptable degree, pretty much because it means that the player is promised last place for the next 8 or so events.
The game asks the players to upgrade vehicles, as stated before, but the problem with non-upgraded ones is that they don’t even feel like they are being controlled. Sure, upgrading the handling does help with this; that does not change the fact that the cars feel like they are simply floating around with a will of their own, randomly acknowledging player input. Issues are exacerbated when there are several cars piling on top of each other and it quickly becomes near impossible to tell which one is being controlled. That is a wonderful issue to have when it can literally mean losing the race because you lost track of what was happening.
All the negatives aside the game does have simple enough gameplay to remain interesting, as when I was playing it for review I managed to sink a little over an hour of my life into it before even noticing time had happened. Granted I may have emerged from that state confused and wondering why, but I wasn’t angry at the time that I had spent, nor was I on the other faults of the game. In an ideal world Death Rally would exist between Trackmania and other such games as the title that you play when trying to figure out what more important gaming experience should absorb a large section of one’s life.
Too bad for the game that the pricing seems to be getting in the way of that. At 10 dollars it isn’t unheard of or out of the park expensive, the problem becomes that there just isn’t enough there that really warrants that much of an investment. Even at half of the price the game could be considered better. It almost seems like all of the issues with Death Rally start and end thinking that there was more in the package that they were delivering than really was, which is too bad.