This game is not only about racing, but also about fighting for money and fame. These fights are often to the death - the death of your opponents (if you are lucky).
As you have probably figured out, Death Rally is more than just a regular racing game. It consists of a few different elements: racing, shooting, and pimping your vehicle. Each of these elements is really well made and entertaining.
You begin your racing career with a slow car and a few dollars in your pocket to repair it after the first race. Your goal is to get to the top rank. Before each race, you need to choose one of the three difficulty tiers. In the higher tiers, your opponents will ride inside better cars, but the prize money after the race shall be much higher. After a few tries, you’ll figure out the best place to earn money, whether an easy challenge with a small reward, or a high-stakes race.
Your hard-earned money can be spent on better cars or simple improvements to the vehicle you are currently driving. There are six cars available, and each one can have its armor, engine, and tires upgraded to a certain level. I noticed that each time I changed my car, some of the opponents did the same, so buying a better vehicle does not mean the game will be easier. Between shopping and racing, you can always visit the underground market – a place to obtain some elements for dirty fighting: mines, spikes on the car's bumper, that kind of stuff. It’s not cheap, but it can give you an advantage in the next race.
During the races, there are many elements you need to be aware of; apart from staying on the track and trying to get to the finish line first. First, you and your opponents can shoot each other, and too much damage can eliminate a car from the race. Computer-controlled players always start with no damage, but you will have to pay to repair yours. Also worth noting are the elements you can pick up on the streets: money, some repairing tools, and drug-mushrooms. Combine these with mines, and you have to carefully look under your wheels to see whether there's a bonus nearby or a destructive item.
If you are lucky, someone will give you an extra mission before the race. It always pays well if completed, but the “quest-givers” are powerful people, and they can make you pay if you fail. There are also special rewards if you do something out of the ordinary during the race, such as destroying all of your opponents – being the last living person on the track.
The game's technical aspects are also really good. The music and sound effects do not get boring after hours of gameplay, and I have to admit I like to listen to the soundtrack even while not playing the game. The graphics are shown in 2D with some three-dimensional elements on the sides of the tracks – it's nothing fancy, but nothing more is needed in a top-down view.
The freeware version is playable on newer Windows systems without any emulation needed, but one thing is missing: the multiplayer option. It’s available only in the original DOS edition, which currently is still being sold by the publisher.
All in all, this is a really good game. I recommend this title to every player; no matter what genre you like the most, you should play Death Rally. With a lot of action, some managerial elements, random encounters, and a “just one more race” addiction, it is truly one of the gems of gaming history!