|Developer(s)||Remedy (DOS, iOS, Android)
Mountain Sheep (iOS)
|Publisher(s)||Apogee Software Ltd. (DOS) Remedy (iOS, Android)|
|Distributor(s)||GT Interactive Software (DOS)|
|Genre(s)||Vehicular combat, racing|
|Mode(s)||Single player, multiplayer|
|Distribution||Optical disc, download|
Death Rally is a 1996 top-down perspective vehicular combat racing video game developed by Remedy, published by Apogee and distributed by GT Interactive Software. Originally known as HiSpeed during development, it was released on December 31, 1996 for MS-DOS. In the game, the player starts with $495 and a weak car named Vagabond (based on the VW Beetle), and must compete in deadly races where all cars are armed (although a game without guns is an option). The player wins money by finishing in front positions, collecting money bonuses during the race, fulfilling missions and destroying other cars. The ultimate goal of the game is defeating the "Adversary", the undisputed king of Death Rally, in a one-on-one race.
The game was updated for Microsoft Windows and re-released as freeware by Remedy on October 20, 2009. A remake of the game was released for iOS and Android on March 30, 2011, developed by Remedy and Mountain Sheep. The remake has also been released for Microsoft Windows (August 3, 2012) and Kindle Fire (September 4, 2012).
Each car can be equipped with a number of upgrades that increase defensive capabilities (armor), handling (tires) and speed (engine). While the default chain gun cannot be upgraded, it is possible to acquire temporary car upgrades at a costlier price. These include bumper spikes, land mines and rocket fuel. Before each race, the player can also ask for a loan and/or bribe a mechanic to tamper with the car of the highest-ranked opponent in the race (with the exception of the Adversary's car); this causes a random amount of damage from 25% to 49%.
- Vagabond (based on the Volkswagen Beetle): This is the car players start with; can handle one engine upgrade, two tire upgrades, and one armor upgrade; armed with a single small gun.
- Dervish (a pickup truck): Can handle up to two of each upgrade; until you get this car, the loan shark is unavailable; armed with a slightly better gun than the Vagabond.
- Sentinel (a sedan, possibly based on the Toyota AE86): The best car available in the shareware version; can handle up to two engine upgrades, three tire upgrades, and two armor upgrades; armed with a large gun.
- Shrieker (based on the Chevrolet Camaro): Can handle up to three of each upgrade; armed with two machine guns.
- Wraith (based on the Porsche 911): Can handle up to three engine upgrades, four tire upgrades, and three armor upgrades; armed with two large machine guns.
- Deliverator (based on Mach Five from Speed Racer): As put by the game, "Prince of the Race;" can be fully upgraded; armed with two deadly chainguns.
Tracks and divisions
Each race day has three race divisions open to any driver (up to a maximum of 4) regardless of their score, although the game suggests not entering medium races without a Sentinel and hard races without a Wraith. While it might seem tempting to run in more advanced levels (since they award more money and points to the winners), no bonuses or points are awarded if the player is destroyed or finishes the race in last place or a minimum of a full lap behind the leader.
Though a total of 19 tracks exist, half the tracks are duplicates of others, rotated 180 degrees and recolored. Certain tracks are only available in certain levels of competition:
- "Suburbia"/"West End" (Easy)
- "Holocaust"/"Toxic Dump" (Easy)
- "Oasis"/"Palm Side" (Easy-Medium)
- "Rock Zone"/"Hell Mountain" (Easy-Medium)
- "Snake Alley"/"Desert Run" (Easy-Medium)
- "Utopia"/"Complex" (Medium-Hard)
- "Bogotá"/"Borneo" (Medium-Hard)
- "Downtown"/"Newark" (Medium-Hard)
- "Velodrome"/"Eidolon" (Hard)
- "The Arena" (Final race only)
All tracks except "The Arena" are available to all racers in multiplayer.
The player can gain money through achieving extra objectives, such as destroying all opponents, finishing with 2% or less damage to their car, or winning three races in a row. Prior to a race, the player can also be asked to perform a specific job, either collecting steroids along the track (and winning the race), or eliminating a certain opponent. A successful mission gives the player a significant amount of money, while a failure causes the player to lose money; if the player does not have enough to cover the loss (around half of the offered value), they may lose one of their upgrades. Knowing the opposition, the player can either accept or decline the job.
Each character starts with different points, from 100 (the top drivers: Duke Nukem, Jane Honda or Sam Speed) to 0 (the player), and with different cars. The player selects an avatar, with the driver whom he selects not appearing as an opponent.
- Vagabond drivers: Bogus Bill and Farmer Ted
- Dervish drivers: Liz Arden, Diesel Joe and Mic Dair
- Sentinel drivers: Mori Sato, Suzy Stock, Iron John and Cher Stone
- Shrieker drivers: Lee Vice, Dark Ryder, and Greg Peck
- Wraith drivers: Mad Mac, Motor Mary, Matt Miler and Clint West
- Deliverator drivers: Jane Honda, Sam Speed, Duke Nukem and Nasty Nick
Depending on which avatar is selected, Liz Arden may be driving a Vagabond, Cher Stone a Dervish, Greg Peck a Sentinel, Clint West a Shrieker, or Nasty Nick a Wraith, to keep the number of drivers of each type of car consistent. Although most of the opponents will stick to their closest divisions, they occasionally race in other divisions.
When the player makes it to number one spot, he is challenged to face the Adversary. The Adversary drives a souped-up Deliverator that is not available for normal play. The car comes with prominent chainguns and a rocket engine. As "no one touches the Adversary's vehicle and lives" (according to the Underground Market staff), sabotage is not available against him. The final race takes place at "The Arena", a slightly oval-shaped circuit. If the player does not want to race the Adversary yet, they must drop from first spot and then reclaim it.
In May 2009, programmer Jari Komppa contacted Remedy and volunteered to prepare an open-source release of Death Rally. Since releasing the game as open-source could not be agreed upon, Komppa instead started working on porting the game to Microsoft Windows. Based on Komppa's work, Remedy released Death Rally for Windows as proprietary freeware on October 20, 2009. The re-released version does not support multiplayer network games because the original code used for IPX networks would have been too expensive to adapt to the Windows architecture.
A full remake of the game for iOS was released on March 31, 2011, featuring the song "Can You Hear Me" by Poets of the Fall. The remake includes in-game cameo appearances from various different game characters, including Barry Wheeler from Alan Wake, John Gore from Minigore and Mighty Eagle from Angry Birds. Duke Nukem also appears as an opponent, as he did in the original game. By December 2011, the remake had been downloaded 1.8 million times, recouping its eight month development costs in three days.
Both the original game and the remake have received a generally positive critical response. The original DOS version holds an aggregate score of 85% on GameRankings. The iOS version holds aggregate scores of 77 out of 100, based on nineteen reviews, and 81.50%, based on ten reviews, on Metacritic and GameRankings respectively. The 2012 Windows port of the remake was not as well received, holding aggreate scores of 62 out of 100, based on ten reviews, and 61.43%, based on seven reviews.
GameSpot's Chris Hudak scored the original game 8.5 out of 10, calling it "simply the best top-down racer to come along in years, maybe even ever." However, Brett Todd scored the 2012 Windows version 4 out of 10, criticized the controls, the repetition of tracks, the lack of any sense of speed and the necessity for grinding. He concluded "Arcade racers generally need to have an on-the-edge atmosphere where death can come at any moment via bullet or screwing up a turn. This new take on Death Rally, however, is more like riding with Miss Daisy, a genteel, distant driver as intense as a late-night cup of chamomile tea. There are just too many flaws here, with the flimsy controls, dreary tracks, and eternal grinding, for even the most desperate arcade gearhead to get anything out of this game."
Destructoid's Maurice Tan scored the iOS remake 8 out of 10. He criticized the lack of a tutorial, but concluded that "Death Rally is a lot of fun to play, it looks great, runs smooth, and it's very addictive." IGN's Levi Buchanan scored it 7.5 out of 10, writing "Death Rally left me smiling. Gaining new cars, equipping upgraded weapons, and blasting rivals is certainly fun and this is the best such mayhem has looked on the App Store." Pocket Gamer's Tracy Erickson scored it 7 out of 10, criticizing the lack of customisable controls and the design of some of the tracks; "Death Rally provides plenty of cool weapons and rides, yet the absence of [...] tighter track designs prevent it from being truly killer."
Jordan Minor of 148Apps scored it 4 out of 5, writing "A game like Death Rally can't help but be a little mindless. After all, it's about cars blowing each other up. Just know that it's dumb fun with emphasis on the fun." AppSpy's Andrew Nesvadba also scored it 4 out of 5, praising the basic gameplay mechanics; "The real driving force behind Death Rally comes from watching bars fill up after each match and constantly picking up pieces of scrap that go towards new cars and weapons - it's shallow, but strangely appealing despite the repetitive gameplay." TouchGen's Pat Dunn also scored it 4 out of 5, writing "the game is solid. The level variants are fun and different enough to keep you playing for at least a couple run throughs of the game. Also, the fact that each weapon and car has multiple upgrades keeps you wanting to play in order to perfect the upgrade aspects of the game." TouchArcade's Jared Nelson was slightly more impressed, scoring it 5 out of 5 and writing "Death Rally is one of the finest top-down racers in the App Store. Death Rally isn't perfect mind you, but it's an absolutely gorgeous title with satisfying combat-heavy racing and an engaging upgrade system."
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