GDC 2011: Hands on with killer top-down racer Death Rally

Armed and driving dangerous

GDC 2011: Hands on with killer top-down racer Death Rally
| Death Rally

Guns and gasoline go together like chocolate and peanut butter, which means top-down combat racer Death Rally is a match made in iPhone and iPad gaming heaven.

Remedy's remake breathes new life into this old game - with the help of developers Mountain Sheep and Cornfox & Bros. - though even if you've never heard of the long lost PC original, the action-packed gameplay is sure to hold appeal.

Taking a fine balance between quick, accessible racing and engrossing you with customisable vehicles and weapons, Death Rally is shaping up to be one killer car combat game.

Spray and pray

Across the game's four tracks, your goal is to speed and spray bullets on the road to first place. An analogue stick in the lower-left corner steers your vehicles, whereas a button in the opposite corner is reserved for pumping opponents full of lead.

Winning races and trashing competitors earns you cash, which can be applied to your ride in the form of upgrades to speed, handling, and armor. Additionally, you can issue repairs to you car to bring it back to mint condition after a race.

You start with a basic vagabond and pea shooter, although picking up pieces of weapons littering the track enables you to amass an arsenal that includes a shotgun, missile launcher, and destructive mines.

Chop shop

There's a nice balance between racing and combat. You're not constantly bombarded by enemy attacks; on the contrary, you're able to speed ahead of the competition and engage in gunfights as you wish.

In terms of control, the game surpasses similar games such as Reckless Racing thanks to good camera work. Two options are provided, both of which follow your car, rather than remaining fixed at a set angle.

The ability to equip the weapon of your choice and even upgrade it using cash is good motive to battle your opponents, not to mention keep coming back to the game. Without a scripted single player campaign, this sort of incentive is critical to replay.

Lone rider

While Remedy assures that multiplayer is coming in a future update, the game will be released as single player only with four tracks - Rift, Oasis, Velodrama, and the twisty Refinery. Updates will be crucial to the game's longterm success.

Don't let the limited amount of content disppoint, though. Death Rally has the makings of a tight racer. From the graphics to the controls to the depth of gameplay, the right elements are here for fun.

Death Rally will be available for iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad in late March; no price has yet been announced.
Tracy Erickson
Tracy Erickson
Manning our editorial outpost in America, Tracy comes with years of expertise at mashing a keyboard. When he's not out painting the town red, he jets across the home of the brave, covering press events under the Pocket Gamer banner.