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DeathSprint 66 is like Mario Kart, but ultraviolent and minus the carts: 'It's The Running Man as reimagined for a new generation'

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DeathSprint 66 has made me see Mario Kart in a new way. The brief teaser shown at today's Future Games Show (above) doesn't contain any gameplay, but game director Andrew Willans showed me a short video of the sci-fi racing game in action at GDC this week. It's a lot like Mario Kart—simple arcade racing controls, weapons, traps, maneuvers like slipstreaming and drifting—with one major exception being that I don't remember any version of Mario Kart containing a gore system.

The Nintendo cart racing series has never embraced its true nature as a ferocious deathsport, but DeathSprint doesn't sugar coat it, and it's not hard to guess the inspiration: "It's The Running Man as reimagined for a new generation," said Willans. He means the Stephen King novel first of all—the game directly references the pen name King used for the book, Bachman—but also credits as inspiration the movie adaptation and other sci-fi takes on the idea of "entertaining ourselves to death," like Death Race 2000.

The gore hadn't yet been implemented into the version of DeathSprint I saw, but the opportunities for it were many. Traps will include spike rollers, pendulums, lasers, and "death pits," says Willans, and there'll be weapons players can deploy manually. Instead of red shells and blue shells, we'll be flinging buzzsaws.

The other obvious difference between DeathSprint 66 and Mario Kart (and most racing games) is that you're on foot. Sort of. As a clone jockey, you control a sprinting human clone via neural implant, and it really looks more like SSX snowboarding than running. You can grind on rails, leaning left or right to avoid traps, and the courses feature wall running sections, jump pads, speed boosts, and zip lines.

It controls like a racer, too, which might take some getting used to. Players who are used to moving characters in third person on foot instinctively pushed forward on the controller's left analog stick, said Willans, but in the control scheme they eventually landed on, it's the right trigger that makes your clone run—like holding down the gas pedal of a car.

DeathSprint 66 is coming to PC sometime this year. A PvE mode is planned, but eight player PvP races were the focus of my chat. There'll be practice modes, too. What it sounds like there won't be is a battle pass or cosmetics shop. The plan, says Willans, is to sell a complete package a reasonable price.

"We've created something which is we think's a great value proposition, it's going to be sensibly priced, it's a self contained game," said Willans. "You know, all of the cosmetics and stuff are within that game."

I'll have more from my chat with Willans at GDC soon. You can also read more about DeathSprint 66 in the April issue of Edge Magazine.