Haven't played the original Death Rally, but the remake is a good game in its own right. Short, fast paced races, 3 car add-ons, 6 upgradeable weapons, 7 maps, and 8 cars. All in all, a decent bag of fun.
Sure enough, it's not a triple-A title, and nowhere near as complex, but it can be fun. The short races mean you can play a race or two whenever you have a minute and get back to whatever you were doing. Gets even more fun with a few buddies in online play.
Gameplay in Death Rally doesn't offer anything brand new, but gets the basics right. Controlling the car is simple, either via a single stick or wasd, and there doesn't seem to be any problems with responsiveness. Steering does take a bit of getting used to, but in the end is not much different from other console-like top-down racers - after a few races it should feel natural. Main gun auto-fires at any targets dead ahead and within range, and secondary guns/mines/nitro are activated by pressing the corresponding buttons.
The visuals in Death Rally are quite pleasing to the eye. Race tracks and cars look good and offer a lot of detail. The garage view (main menu) shows a nicely-rendered model of the curently selected car (with any selected add-ons/weapons visible) and the UI is clean and efficient. All the necessary elements are visible on one screen and laid out without making the screen cluttered and messy. The UI is designed to be controller-friendly (looks tablet-friendly too) so race selection and car upgrades are quick and easy.
AI opponents do offer a fair challenge, but that's mostly beacuse they tend to drive slightly better cars. The regular mob racers have decent "driving skills" and their cars are slighlty better upgraded, but only up to what's achievable by players. "Boss" racers (of which there is up to one per race), on the other hand, tend to drive real well and their cars are often better than anything the player can achieve. While this does make the game more challenging early on it just breaks it in the very late-game -- most bosses will just speed away right from the start, and only generous amounts of nitro (in-race pickups, random chance) can help catch up. The worst example of this is the "finall boss" - the Adversary - who can't be beat without constant use of nitro, or a lot of ammo pickups.
For the above reason, among others, Death Rally suffers in terms of replayability. Starting the campaign from scratch does not offer anything new, and will in fact play out nearly the same anyway (up to choice of stages). Playing a single campaign is a much better option, especially in small doses. A few races a day can offer a lot of fun and will delay the somewhat broken end-game long enough to diminish its impact.
The soundtrack is a good enough generic composition, fits well and doesn't get too annoying or repetitive. Sound effects are good too.