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Death Rally Review
Review Score:

Death Rally, Remedy Entertainment’s top-down arcade racer, is now available from the app store. Featuring gorgeous graphics with terrific lighting effects and combat-focused gameplay, Death Rally manages to excite and delight even after you’ve exhausted its limited content.

Death Rally Pros:

  • Gorgeous graphics and beautiful lighting effects
  • Simple control scheme
  • Handful of racers, courses, and weapons to use
  • Upgrade system is mildly addicting
  • GameCenter integration for leaderboards and achievements

Death Rally Cons:

  • Repetitive gameplay
  • No multiplayer option yet
  • Controls take some getting used to
  • Little light on content at the moment, updates should improve this

Death Rally presents you with a smattering of races to run under randomly-defined parameters, including normal races and races run with special challenges. This method eliminates the ability for the user to select which track, orientation (forward or reverse), and type of race you get to run at any given time, but they do a good job of offering a variety of choice each time, so it’s not a huge deal. Despite there being a small number of unique courses to run, the ability to run each in reverse (a la Reckless Racing) does help somewhat. They are still the exact same course layouts, but somehow heading in the other direction makes them feel different. The challenges also help to keep things fresh by imposing certain limits on the races, such as forcing you to survive without the use of weapons or race head-to-head in opposite directions. There are only 5 cars to use and upgrade, boosting attributes such as speed, handling, weapons, and armor using money earned on the track. You gain money from winning races, but also for performance-based achievements like eliminating other racers, setting new lap/course records, and destroying the boss vehicle. New vehicles and weapons are unlocked by collecting scrap metal strewn about each of the 5 tracks. The upgrade system is surprising engaging and one of the things that kept us playing long after we intended to take a break.

Each race can be run in just a couple of minutes, leaving little room for error or time to make up for lost ground. It also creates a great pick-up-and-play atmosphere. Cars can have 2 weapons, a standard gun that auto-shoots when aimed at something that it can destroy and a second weapon of your choosing with limited ammo but much bigger bite. These mayhem-inducing weapons, upgradeable across multiple levels, include machine guns, mines, sniper rifles, shotguns, and more. Boxes and other items around the track contain bonuses, such as money pick-ups, nitrous boosts, or instant repair kits that can mean the difference between winning and wheezing across the finish line. Vehicles will also show damage when hit or caught too close to explosions. Vehicles that lose all of their health become smoldering piles of metal that create obstacles on the track. You can use your winnings back at the garage to repair your car, enjoying a fun animation that snaps your vehicle back to its pristine condition.

The Retina Display graphics are superb and the lighting effects serve to put it over the top as a visual feast for the senses. Animations are smooth and even the explosions don’t slow the framerate the way we’ve seen in other games. Environments and tracks show great detail and the car damage adds a minor sense of realism in a decidedly arcade-style game. The audio was crisp and the sound effects create an immersive atmosphere. The controls are a bit odd, as the car is controlled strictly with a joypad that you move in the direction that you want to go. There are no tilting or half-wheel options, nor can you accelerate or brake. It takes some time to get comfortable with the controls. We spent the first several races making wrong turns or pulling unintentional 360s. We think it is an appropriate system and after a half-dozen races or so, it starts to make sense. A fire button on the right allows you to shoot your secondary weapon in the direction that you are heading. Other relevant info, like lap number, race position, lap times, etc. are all present at the screen top. A camera switch button positioned next to the fire button allows you to swap camera styles on the fly, switching from a fixed environment that keeps spatial orientation as the car spins around the track to a dynamic environment that sees the camera remained fixed on your vehicle’s bumper while the track twists and turns around you. This second option actually made controlling the vehicle much easier and is recommended when you are first learning the game.

Replay value is a mixed bag. Gameplay does get repetitive and you’ll probably max out your vehicles after a short time, as the improved attributes carry between vehicles. It might have given us more reason to keep playing longer if upgrades were vehicle specific, requiring us to build up each from scratch. GameCenter integration does bring leaderboards and a ton of clever achievements, but once your vehicles are fully maxed, these are the only reason to keep playing other than to simply enjoy the fun racing element. We hope to see more content in future updates. More tracks and weapons would be great, with additional cars being less of a priority. An online multiplayer mode would also be a fantastic addition. Death Rally is a solid 4-Dimple universal app. Currently, Death Rally is enjoying a launch sale price of $2.99, down from its regular $4.99 tag.

Update 1: Just as we were finishing up this post, we got word of an imminent first update to Death Rally that brings an additional racer (hot new sports car), two new weapons (Striker missile launcher and Laser Sight), and another challenge mode (All Nitro). There are also a few improvements and a bunch of bug fixes. There’s also word that the second update should be submitted soon. Additional content and multiplayer should be on the horizon as well. This is great news! Keep ‘em coming!

Update 2: The update is now live in the app store and we’ve updated the trailer.  Check it out!

Death Rally Review, reviewed by Kevin on 2011-04-08T20:09:05+00:00 rating 4.0 out of 5

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