The attractive part of arcade racing games is the thrill of speed without worrying about complications posed by the laws of physics. Such games can have various visual themes and designs that bring variety and color to a genre that many developers have been trying to conquer for years, even the smaller ones.
Here’s a game called Death Road, developed by a Polish team called Active Zone Group. For a long time, wipEout had held the monopoly on the whole futuristic arcade racing genre. But as game development has spread throughout the world and many groups of people started making games on their own with smaller teams and budgets, few games can ever hold dominance over a single genre unless they’re really good.
A game that can hold its own against its previous counterparts, Death Road had the visuals and gameplay mechanics to hold its own. The premise is sheer speed, making this a pretty good way to get some adrenaline rush. The skill comes in through avoiding obstacles, picking up power-ups while blasting through at high speeds, aiming at enemies in front to shoot them down, staying alive by avoiding enemy fire from behind, and just being faster than the rest.
It lacks camera controls, but it may not be needed anyway as players would be too busy to even try to see what’s behind them. The controls are smooth and responsive enough to let you do what needs to be done during a race. The PC version doesn’t have pad controllers configured by default though, so you’ll have to set it up yourself, which some may find annoying.
The tracks aren’t very interesting though, being only strips with nominal twists and turns containing some obstacles and ramps, then decorated with a background. Memorizing them still helps though, but not as much against the AI that seems to have an identity crisis. The difficulty fluctuates between idiotic to ridiculously good. Also, the multiplayer is powered by Gamespy, which is archaic at best.
Death Road bears strong resemblance to Ballistics, another futuristic racer that had similar visual elements and premise. Only big difference was that Ballistics had the racing in big tunnels and turning left and right makes you move around the circumference of the tunnel, while Death Road has its setting on its namesake. The older game was a much faster game, but Death Road has a slightly harder degree of difficulty due to the setting.
This game also takes after Blur, an arcade racing game that can be described as “Mario Kart with real cars”. The visual style and colors used in Death Road can be seen in Blur as well, and the power-ups are quite similar as well. Whether Death Road really were influenced by games like Ballistics and Blur or not, this type of arcade racing game is not new. But what it is though is fun and invigorating when done right.
If you want to see something that alludes to the past while looking towards the future, then this actually is a surprisingly good game at that. Death Road may not be a mind blowing arcade racer that is superior to others, but it still is nice to play and look at. It has been a good effort by Active Zone Group, so may they release bigger games in the future.
Tested in PC. Final Score: 7/10