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-sportingBad 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:
Abnormal Ammo: Mostly averted, no lasers here folks. Not until the sequel, anyway. However, in addition to landmines, oil slicks and napalm, one of the available droppables is cinderblocks. Unique in that they deal damage directly to a car's chassis rather then its armor.
All There in the Manual: And there's quite a bit in there, at that. It is framed ingeniously as the official manual of the Auto Vigilante's Guild of America (or AVGA for short) and contains not only technical readouts on every car and weapon in the game, but also notes from Jade including exposition, character profiles, hints and tips and maps of the early levels.
Bland-Name Product: The names they have are rather amusing, such as Courcheval in place of Chevrolet, Phaedra for Ford, Dover instead of Dodge and so on. This also extends to gas stations such as Gas4Cash and Gas Parade, as well as Fletcher & Sons self-storage, Red Deacon fireworks and Fasty-Freeze ice cream.
Bond One-Liner: Groove sometimes utters a pithy quip upon destroying an enemy car. This also happens in the Nitro Pack with Taurus, Jade and Skeeter.
Taurus: Damn, I'm so good they should name a car after me.
Camp Gay: Auto-Vigilante Inferno, who talks in a falsetto voice (like a Sassy Black Woman) and drives a car with a cool flaming paint-job that's armed with a flamethrower. Groove mistakes him for a creeper (to be fair, he's the only friendly character in the game besides Groove and company) and is mistaken in turn for his sister (understandable, he's driving her car). After that's cleared up, Inferno alerts Groove to the existence of Cloaker.
Captain Obvious: Taurus informs Groove that Fort Davis is in fact an old fort and not a town- while Groove is looking at it through binoculars. Groove's sort of spaced at the time. "Yes. Yes it is."
Dark and Troubled Past: In the manual, it's mentioned that Taurus once lived in New England with a wife and daughter, both of whom were killed by criminals. He came to the desert to clear his head and never left. Don't ever bring it up.
Deadpan Snarker: Groove is a motherlode of snark. Listen to him carefully whenever he defeats a creeper. Particularly the corrup cops: "I've been drinking! I'VE BEEN DRINKING!" and "Do you know how fast you were going?" are but the tip of the iceberg.
Dirty Cop: Pretty much every cop in the Southwest is on Malochio's payroll from the State Troopers on down. They are pretty heavily armed, being cops. The ones that aren't are implied to be apathetic, and they never show up at all.
Dream Sequence: Groove has one in which he races against the autovillain Patriot and his two goons, Road Knight and Gas Bandit. If he wins the race, the three turn on him, forcing the player to fight them all at once. Once defeated, Groove wakes up to find he apparently was having a nightmare.
Groove: Wow. Weird dream...
It's later revealed that Patriot was killed by Jade years ago. Sharp-eyed players will notice that his name appears next to a picture of the model of car he drives in Jade's old AVG notebook, and it's been crossed out.
Amusingly enough, you can actually drive a Pinto in this game, in the guise of the Phaedra Pony... and it's an absolute piece of crap. To reinforce this, a lot of Mooks in the early levels drive these. No such luck later. Can result in Cherry Tapping if you use one successfully in multiplayer.
Fun with Acronyms: In addition to the AVGA above, the menu refers to the campaign as the TRIP, or Total Recreational Interactive Production. Multiplayer and Instant Action modes are "other stuff that's not the TRIP."
Gerald Ford: He's mentioned briefly during an in game radio broadcast as taking part in Bicentennial celebrations.
Glass Cannon: It's fairly easy to create one of these in multiplayer by strapping a very large gun onto a very small car.
Guide Dang It: The levels in this game are quite large, and you must navigate them with a compass, landmarks and hastily-scribbled maps made by Groove. The sequel averts this, with a digital map and indicators showing where your car is and where you must go.
Ironic Echo: This exchange is more poignant if you've played the Nitro Pack.
Skeeter: Jade, she built a good car. Groove: Yeah. Skeeter: But she got out. Groove: What? Skeeter: Never get outta the car.
Jive Turkey: Auto-Mercenary Disco Kat oozes this trope. Surprisingly, averted in the case of Taurus, making him less of a Soul Brotha and more of a regular Scary Black Man. He can get a bit sassy at times, but doesn't use much slang.
Kill It with Fire: There are flamethrowers available, but their short range limits their usefulness (and, if playing through DOSBox, it's entirely possible they won't work at all). The napalm dropper weapon, however, is very effective at outright destroying pursuing Mooks, where oil slicks and landmines tend to simply knock them off course.
Maximum Fun Chamber: Skeeter's van, when used to question a captured Auto-Mercenary. We never see what makes those odd noises, nor what finally scares the prisoner into talking.
Mooks: The various Auto-Mercenaries, regular bad guys who took to their cars and now work for Malochio. Referred to as "creepers" by the vigilantes.
More Dakka: Some cars have more weapon mounts then others. The Courcheval Manta, for instance, has two forward mounts and two on top, making it possible to have four fire-linked machine guns or automatic cannons. One of which can be turreted.
Mr. Fixit: Skeeter can work miracles with automotive technology.
New Old West: A lawless desert wilderness, with quick-shooting cowboys, bandits, corrupt lawmen in the employ of scheming industrialists... oh, and muscle cars.
No Fair Cheating: The game actually has a built-in cheat menu with options such as invulnerability and unlimited ammo, but using any of these besides the "arcade physics" (makes your car immediately flip over if you land on your roof, instead of blowing up) option prevents you from progressing through the campaign.
No Kill Like Overkill: When Groove finally takes his revenge on a trapped Malochio, he does it point-blank with his .45 pistol ..... thirteen times.
Non-Standard Game Over: Unlike MechWarrior 2, where you could stomp off the edge of the map into infinity, in this game if you drive down a road off the map too far, Groove will remark that he isn't heading the right way. If you keep going, the mission ends with Groove driving off into the distance thinking aloud that he'd like a popsicle or Taurus asking him where the hell he's going.
Video Wills: The training mission features an audio tape made by Jade, to be played in the event of her death. She bequeaths her car to her brother, tells him the basics of car combat, and says her goodbyes.
The Vietnam War: Malochio served two tours of duty, and is stated in the manual to have signed up for the second one because helikedit. He also had some dealings with Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge.
Vigilante Man: Groove, Taurus, Skeeter and any good character in the whole series. It is implied in the intro that there used to be a lot more of them around, before Malochio started assembling his army of Auto-Mercenaries and deliberately hunted them all down. As Taurus says, "We're the only ones left to hold back a world of shit!" Referred to as "Cowboys" by the Autovillains.
Villainous Breakdown: Malochio's cool demeanor cracks when Groove challenges him to a duel, and is entirely gone by the end cutscene, in which he cravenly begs for his life.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Abnormal Ammo: The sequel gives us Karpoons, car-mounted harpoon launchers that have various effects on enemy vehicles. One fries their electronics and shuts off their car, while another fills the interior with gas, forcing them to exit the vehicle.
Area 51: Called Area 49 in-game, the approach to the site is ripped straight from the Death Star Trench Run in the original Star Wars, complete with an unnamed, gravely-voiced Autovillain who has Vader Breath. Area 49's Final Boss is a twin-rotor helicopter disguised as a flying saucer.
Cool Car: This goes for the whole series, but this game features some real greats, like the famous 1940 Ford Pickup.
Chainsaw Good: You can equip battery-operated rotary saw blades to the front of your car. They mince anything you hit pretty good, and are a tremendous step up from the game's only other "melee" weapon, a reinforced bumper.
Chekhov's Gun: Take note of that big statue outside the Robot Robot Hotel.
Frickin' Laser Beams: The game adds continuous-fire laser cannons as equipped weapons. They are devastating, but you can equip a special shield that prevents all Energy Weapon damage, rendering the lasers and even the LARS Kill Sat useless against you. Both have regenerating ammunition, the only weapons in the game to do so.
Gatling Good: Absent from the first game, but the larger of this game's two basic guns is this.
Grease Monkey: It just wouldn't be the same without good ole' Skeeter. He's traded in his Dodge Van for a 1940 pickup and comes off as more as more of just a dumb hick then a Crouching Moron Hidden Bad Ass, but he still fixes the cars and can fight as well as anybody else. Think Left 4 Dead 2's Ellis plus about ten years.
Groin Attack: Solarzano comes damn close to shooting Groove in a bad place.
Ironic Echo: Skye gets shot by Solarzano in the same spot, the upper chest opposite the heart, as Jade. She survives, however.
Hurricane of Puns: Taurus and Rank Dick engage in one just before they battle which takes place at the bottom of a mine with Rank Dick driving a drilling machine.
Rank Dick: Hidey-ho there, Chuck. A bit of news. Your groovy friend is in here with me, but he's become quite a bore. Here's the drill, mate. I'm gonna fill you full of holes. You'll get shafted! Can you dig it? You'll become mole than useless living on burrowed time!
Taurus: Shut your chasm, Dick! It's about time I fill you in!
Kill Sat: LARS, an orbital laser cannon that was apparently an outgrowth of the Strategic Defense Initiative, popularly known as "Star Wars." In multiplayer, an uplink dish can be equipped on the roof of your car, essentially precluding you from mounting any other roof weapons but enabling you to summon LARS at will.
"This kinda reminds me of the trench run at the Death Station in that movie 'Space Wars'!"
Legacy Character: This game introduces Skye, youngest of the Champion siblings. She takes after Jade in many ways, though her hair and clothing are much more The Quincy Punk. She even uses Jade's Code Name, "Vixen."