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Video Game: Interstate '76

"Somewhere in the Southwest..."

"It is 1976. A different 1976..."

"Never get out of the car."

Interstate '76 is a Vehicular Combat simulation developed and published by Activision in 1997. It used the same graphics engine as an earlier Activision title, MechWarrior 2: 31st Century Combat; when they finished that game, the team started to wonder what else they could do with the engine. Set in the American Southwest during the oil crisis of The Seventies, the game puts you in the bellbottoms, tinted aviators and blonde handlebar mustache of one Groove Champion, son of a two-time stock car championship driver and a former Miss America.

Groove never wanted to be a hero. He just wanted to race, but even in that, he lived in the shadow of his sister Jade, who is more or less described as Daisy Duke with a set of steel spheres. That is, until Jade was murdered in a junkyard outside Lubbock, Texas. Taurus, certified afro-sporting Bad Ass and Jade's former teammate, introduces Groove to the secret life his sister led as an auto-vigilante and takes him under his wing as Groove sets out to find his sister's killer and avenge her death.

Sound like a standard old-school action film to you? Well, that's because it is. The whole game is presented in the style of a '70s-era action TV series, replete with made-up actor names arrayed over a Montage intro, a Charlie's Angels-inspired logo and one hell of a funkalicious soundtrack (which, bizarrely enough, was composed by Arion Salazar, longtime bassist for Third Eye Blind).

The game billed itself as an auto-combat simulator, and it went long way towards living up to that claim. The game featured a range of authentically-rendered seventies-era American vehicles (fictionalized names notwithstanding), with all the associated roaring engines, fishtailing, and cornering like a garbage barge involved. It also had an intricate location-based damage system (borrowed from MechWarrior) and you had to salvage weapons and car parts from the field between missions.

Later received a stand-alone expansion called the Nitro Pack, which introduced a series of interconnected missions that took place over the course of several years leading up to the events of the original game, new cars, new weapons and new environments, as well as a secret playable villain.

All that changed in the sequel, Interstate '82. It had a new setting in The Eighties, a soundtrack by Devo, and featured the original cast plus newcomer Skye Champion, but did away with the location-based damage, realistic physics, salvage system and allowed you to leave the car, making for a much more arcade-ish experience overall. Suffered from a massive degree of They Changed It, Now It Sucks, which spelled the end of the series. Officially, at any rate.

See also Vigilante 8, a Spiritual Successor (that was arcade-ish from the start) also by Activision.


Interstate '76 provides groovy examples of:

The expansion provides Nitro-Packed examples of:

  • Anachronic Order: Each mission is dated in its introduction, but they are not presented in any particular order and do not need to be played as such.
  • Ax-Crazy: Most of the creepers in this game are less straight-up evil then batshit insane. Skeeter exhibits some of this in his Bond One Liners. As his description in the character select menu says, "Should be medicated... but isn't."
  • Call Forward: The TV show-styled opening begins a scene straight from the original game's introduction, of Taurus sliding/crashing his car through a gate and firing his pistol out the window.
  • Catch Phrase: Skeeter utters his at least twice, both times to his teammates who have already done so or may do so. Also sort of a "Funny Aneurysm" Moment when he says this to Jade.
    Skeeter: You got out.
    Taurus: Come again?
    Skeeter: Never get outta the car.
  • Cool Car: In the original game, you are restricted to Jade's Picard Piranha for most of the game. There is no such restriction here, you may use any car, weapon and specials you want.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Taurus assassinates one of these in one mission. He apparently uses autovillains to do his dirty work.
  • Dirty Cop: The cops don't do anything positive in this game. They split their time between guarding the Corrupt Corporate Executive, participating in drug deals, and generally just making life a living hell for the vigilantes.
  • The Dragon: Disco Kat is this to Natty Dread, in his canonical first appearance.
  • Dragon Their Feet: Disco Kat conveniently avoids meeting the same demise as Natty Dread and the lesser Voodoo Riders at the hands of Skeeter, going on to become a high-ranking member of Malochio's goon squad.
  • Evil Army: Several missions pit the vigilantes against US Army forces in armed Jeeps, referred to as Gomers. Something is also implied to be "going down" with the army, evidenced by the presence of a military quarantine in one mission being some sort of front. This is not further explored, but it might have to do with the LARS superweapon in the sequel.
  • Face-Heel Turn: An unseen Auto-Vigilante called Crucifier apparently sells out a Vigilante convoy in one mission.
  • Fore Shadowing: Many missions seem to portray the dwindling power of the vigilantes and the rising strength of autovillains, who are apparently being recruited for some sort of army. In particular, the mission "Two Days Before" (which quite literally takes place two days before the original game) involves a raid on a munitions dump strongly implied to have been owned by Antonio Malochio.
  • Funny Afro: Though rarely referenced in the original game, several characters make fun of Taurus' afro in this game.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: One auto-vigilante goes by the Code Name "Hell Toupee."
  • Mission Pack Prequel: Marketed as a stand-alone expansion pack for the original game.
  • Not Quite Dead: Several Autovillains in this game are implied to have had previous entanglements with the protagonists, often resulting in their apparent deaths. In addition, one Natty Dread mission involves hunting down and apparently killing Taurus, who appears in the end Cut Scene of the mission to announce he's still alive.
  • Oireland: The short-lived Auto-Vigilante Four-Banger sounds like he's from Ireland.
  • Scary Black Man: Autovillain Natty Dread, leader of the Voodoo Riders gang.
  • Secret Character: Natty Dread, unlocked by completing all of the other missions. His ride of choice is apparently a Jaguar.
  • Sinister Minister: Autovillain Preacher. He and his goons are found terrorizing the defenseless town of Claremont in the mission "Peace Be With You." Spouts bibilical verse. Said to have murdered his own family. May be Back from the Dead.
  • Slippy-Slidey Ice World: Subverted. The game features some snow levels, but they don't appear to make your traction any worse.
  • Talking to Himself: One mission has Skeeter battle Natty Dread and the two actually trade comments. Both characters are voiced by Tom Kane.
  • Villainous Harlequin: Autovillain Drinky, replete with armed Clown Car. Taurus races him with the prize being a pile of guns. When Taurus wins, Drinky tries to beat a hasty retreat. Taurus isn't happy about that.
  • Violent Glaswegian: Auto-Vigilante Radiator Mother. He's pretty friendly to other vigilantes though.

The sequel provides examples of:


Heavy GearCreator/ActivisionMarvel Comics
Inherit the EarthWebsite/GOG.comIron Storm
Hotel Dusk: Room 215The SeventiesMetal Gear Solid: Peace Walker
Indy Car Racing IISimulation GameNeed for Speed

alternative title(s): Interstate 76
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