Death Rally is a remake of the racing game of the same name from the nineties. Just like the original title it is played from a top-down perspective and combines racing with weapons-based combat. Races come in different forms. There are regular races with six cars won by reaching the finish line first or destroying all opponents, head-to-head races against a single opponent, races with only missiles or mines as weapons, and tracks where opponents start from different directions to meet halfway for battle.
A good performance is awarded with cash. It can be spent on repairs, or upgrades based on the vehicle's five attributes (health, speed, handling, armor and weapon). These can be distributed manually or by using an automatic balancing system. Spare parts are collected to acquire new weapons and up to five cars. The vehicles each have a different driving style and they can be customized with a paint job or through equipping the six available weapons: sniper, shotgun, gatling, bumpers, mines and missiles. Tracks have distinct themes such as a lush oasis or a refinery, and they are often filled with explosive barrels. For each track there is also a reversed and a rotated version providing twenty variations of the five basic tracks.
The game is controlled through a virtual control stick used for both acceleration and turning, and there is no brake button. Just like many other Remedy titles it has a soundtrack by the band Poets of the Fall, the song Can You Hear Me. It also has cameo appearances by characters from other games, such as John Gore (Minigore), Barry Wheeler (Alan Wake), Mighty Eagle (Angry Birds). Duke Nukem (Duke Nukem series) is also present as an opponent.
The 2.0 update in December 2011 added multiplayer through an online Game Center-driven Road Wars campaign. Next to different battle modifiers it also strongly relies on guns and cars that can only be acquired through in-app purchases for the mobile versions. The later released PC version includes an additional track exclusive to the platform.