The project in question is Death Rally, a top-down combat racer for MS-DOS in the spirit of Micro Machines, which graced CRTs all the way back in 1996. Published by Apogee, it sees you looping around toytown courses, peppering your rivals with bullets or pranging them with your spiked fender. “It features both death and rallying, so is adroitly named,” opined some guy named Kieron Gillen back in 2009.
Remedy themselves were founded the year before Death Rally’s release by members of the Finnish demoscene groups Future Crew and The Aggression. The demoscene was/is more about tinkering and experimenting with computer hardware than game-making, so shifting to a “proper” videogame production was a challenge.
“Obviously during the Future Crew times, we had done a few game-like things,” co-founder Markus Mäki observed in a 2016 retrospective. “But just doing a full blown game is a completely different ballgame.” Death Rally is also the game Remedy’s nowadays creative director and Kojima-adjacent auteur celebrity Sam Lake joined the studio to work on. He was studying English literature at the time in Helsinki, and was approached by co-founder Petri Järvilehto to write dialogue.
Death Rally was a big hit for the time, selling over 120,000 copies and allowing Remedy to expand and work on another title for Apogee, an isometric shooter initially titled “Dark Justice” which eventually became the very first Max Payne.
The game isn’t actually playable in Alan Wake 2, alas, unless there’s some secret activation method we’ve yet to uncover. This feels like a missed opportunity, given Remedy’s crazy talk of all their games sharing a universe. It’s just as well, then, that you can download Death Rally for free from Steam – forever.