The millennium was a dud, but not simply because the government dug a big pit next to the Thames, filled it with enough money to build ten hospitals and put a big useless tent over the top. No, it was also a disappointment because once the year 2000 finally rolled around, it wasn't celebrated by a national sport that involved armoured stock cars driving recklessly from coast to coast for our brutal, gory entertainment.
That's what the 1975 'classic' movie Death Race 2000 promised, but all we've actually seen (other than Lindsey Lohan on an night out) in terms of entertainingly irresponsible driving is a remake of the David Carradine/Sylvester Stallone movie some eight years later - and that's not shaping up to be too special. Of course, there's always the mobile game adaptation to save the day, and in a lot of ways it does. Hurrah for mindless violence!
Okay, so one of the cleverest aspects of the Death Race franchise is the title. From those two words alone you can pretty much figure the entire plot and, in terms of gaming adaptations, the core of the gameplay. Drive fast, drive hard, blow s**t up and don't stop for noffin'! Simple, gratuitous and surprisingly fun.
Taking on the role of the all-new Frankenstein (cult followers of the original film will recall that the Frankenstein character is a government sponsored icon that's replaced whenever the previous 'version' is killed) you've to get behind the wheel and make it around the track by any means necessary. The plot has actually been toned down a little from the original, with little in the way of extra points for mowing down pedestrians. The emphasis has instead been turned toward taking out the other contestants in the Transcontinental Road Race using heavily armoured motors, brute force and more ignorance than a Party Political Broadcast.
18 months ago this game would probably have lit up the mobile charts, but right now it's going up against some pretty fantastic games in the racing genre. So, in light of the stiff competition, it actually comes across as rather an average racer. The graphics are decent enough, with suitably grotesque cars, winding and undulating dystopian environments and a few weather effects to really push the run-down futuristic concept home. Nothing amazing, but well enough cobbled together to make sure your handset can cope very happily with the respectable driving speeds.
The controls are equally reasonable - allowing for weapons fire, speed boosts and drifting around the bends without tying your fingers in knots. And there's enough traffic so even a murderous racer in first place will have plenty of fodder for extra points and never be short of a tailgater to keep their driving skills on edge.
These urban-esque game mechanics borrow quite heavily from titles like Burnout (with points awarded for both 'gun downs' and 'take downs') and GTA, while the theme is very similar to the controversial PC game Carmageddon, which, of course, was based almost entirely on Death Race 2000. So where does that leave us? Well, Death Race the mobile game sits quite comfortably alongside the modern (if mostly average) violence-centric driving games that were based on the '70s movie.
Perhaps it's because Death Race belongs to this strong and coherent lineage - and fits in with it so suitably - that a distinctly pedestrian game (tee hee!) is so much fun. It's very rough around the edges, but somehow that seems fitting, and provides a game that doesn't worry so much about accuracy or pushing boundaries as forcing an unabashed and addictive driving experience to the limits of casual violence. If you're more interested in crashing into opponents and causing pile-ups using a Gatling gun than using the correct gear to negotiate a tricky bend properly, then Death Race is for you.
Much more fun than it deserves to be - especially considering the damp squib the movie's turning out to be - this mobile game is the reincarnation of Frankenstein that Jason Stratham never really had any hope of becoming.