Danger on The Track
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I have to admit that when I was handed this one, I wasn't expecting too much. PC race games have pretty much given up the ghost in favor of the many titles, even launch titles, on consoles. There are few that remain, like 10tacle Studio's GTR series, with its emphasis on extreme realism -- the last bailiwick of PC gaming in that area. GTR is a great series and I didn't see how Death Track Resurrection could hope to compete with that.
I guess the developers over at Sky Fallen thought the same thing, because they took a completely different approach. And despite all my preconceptions and even expectations that this was going to be a bad experience, it actually turned out fairly okay.
Death Track Resurrection is the sequel of sorts to 1989's Death Track, which was a pioneer in combat racing games. It didn't have nearly the popularity of Carmageddon, but set the tone that the industry for a while followed. Dynamix was the original developer, which was a true powerhouse at the time. The original game brought us a pretty messed up world, ravaged by war and addicted to the sport of Death Track racing. Resurrection follows this theme.
You play as a brand new driver in the Death Track sport, a rookie in a world of pros. What surprised me the most was not the plot itself, but the fact that there actually was a plot. There are actually some well made cut scenes that tell a good, if a bit wacky, story. Basically there is a boss figure who goes around killing all the other racers to boost ratings for the show. After each stage, he murders one of your opponents. The funny thing is that even though it's obvious to any junior gumshoe that these people were killed, the media and everyone else chalks it up to an accident, like a driver just happens to pass away at the end of each race.
But that is actually good for you, because each eliminated opponent means one less person out on the track gunning for you.
The game itself is a race through futuristic cities like Paris and Tokyo, and they present a really interesting landscape. On the one hand things are highly advanced, but on the other, everything is damaged because of some war that happened in the recent past.
The tracks themselves look great, much better than I was expecting in a $20 budget title. In fact, graphically, Resurrection is well above average with each city carefully rendered with the landmarks you would expect, though you normally pass by them too quickly to really notice. You can look at snapshots in the gallery later if you want.
There are quite a few special events on each map you can trigger by shooting targets, like barrels of oil that burst into flames and burn the cars behind you. There are even special buildings you can target that when destroyed, give huge bonuses to your car for a time.
The driving reminded me a lot of the Burnout series, though the damage models here are less precise. Sometimes you will be fine knocking into cars, and then for some reason someone will ram you and you will simply explode, even if you have a ton of armor left. Also, you will sometimes be driving so fast that you won't see some obstacle in the middle of the track, which will snag your vehicle and either cause you to explode, or simply get you stuck in place while the pack passes you by.
The game is a real test of manual dexterity because you have to drive and shoot at the same time. So I had my left hand on the keyboard trying to steer clear of obstacles and into powerups, which are shiny orbs on the road which give you temporary boots in stats, and aiming at the opponents with my right hand and mouse. So you have both hands doing different tasks and are trying to look in multiple places at once. It's pretty exciting actually.
Unfortunately, the AI of the enemy cars is pretty bad. Its not that the individual drivers act stupid; it's that they cheat. The proper term is pack driving. Basically, if you get ahead of the crowd, they will speed up and be able to get on your tail. If you fall behind, they slow down to let you catch up. You are almost never out of the pack. In fact, since most weapons face forward, it's often better not to take the lead because everyone will be nailing your tail and you won't be able to fight back other than by dropping mines or spikes, which are not all that effective actually.
There are two race modes in the main game: modern and classic. In modern you have to race to the finish line, which is crossed after several laps around the host city. If you die, you respawn. If you kill your opponents, they respawn. Of course this takes a little time, and you can go from first to last while you get your car back up to speed. It's not too big a deal unless you are near the end of the race, because the pack is always nearby. The Classic mode gives you and each other racer one life to live. So you can win by crossing the finish line first, or killing all your opponents. I like this mode best. Winning can sometimes seem a little random in modern mode, but less so in classic.
If you win races in story mode, you will unlock other types of side races, like drag racing. Doing these races won't push the story along, but will earn you extra cash. You can use the cash from both side races and the main track to upgrade your car with better weapons, armor or an engine, or to purchase a totally different vehicle. Most of the upgrades really help out, but a few are questionable. I found that handling upgrades actually seemed to make my car harder to control for some reason.
I'm not sure if Death Track Resurrection will create a resurgence of PC racing games, but for $20, why not buy a little cheap nostalgia? The game is a lot of fun to play, looks great, and runs smoothly even on moderately advanced systems. All in all, Death Track Resurrection is a good racing game with some nice combat to boot.
Dominic reviews odd games for GiN that don't exactly fit into main categories. He loves the odds and ends of the industry, and sometimes finds a real gem.