Highway Hunter is a DOS-based Vertical Scrolling Shooter created by Russian developer Omega Integral Systems (as Highway Fighter, in that country) and published in 1994 by Safari Software, a division of Epic Games (Then Epic Megagames).
20 Minutes into the Future, a hostile alien race has invaded and occupied Earth, forcing humans to toil away in their workshops and mines. You play the role of an unnamed human mechanic, working in an auto-repair shop on a prototype alien supercar, the MASTER. When the aliens aren't looking, you steal the MASTER and make a desperate bid for freedom. Apparently, La Résistance is out there somewhere, and your goal is to reach the unoccupied zones where they dwell.
The MASTER is a powerful vehicle indeed, able to take several hits before blowing up, unlike many scrolling shooter vehicles. Dropped powerups you can acquire include health boosts, weapon upgrades (which stack on top of one another- if a weapon runs out of ammo, it reverts to the next level down, rather then bumping you back to your basic laser), shield upgrades that let you ram enemy vehicles and absorb projectiles, and the occasional Smart Bomb. Each level has you progress along a raised highway, fighting off enemy cars and aircraft, eventually reaching a Boss Battle. The game is divided into three episodes: Evil Drivers, The Lost Roads, and Anarchy. Each consists five levels, beginning with Earthlike environments and progressing towards steadily more alien ones, likely the result of Terraforming.
Highway Hunter provides examples of:
- Action Survivor: The player character is a mere car mechanic. By the end of the game, it's likely he Took a Level in Badass.
- Bottomless Magazines: mostly averted, your weapons have limited ammuntion, but if you somehow manage to be back on your basic V-Laser, it never runs out of juice.
- Boss Battle: This game has a nice variety of bosses, from giant tanks and giant triple-rotor gunships to giant fire-breathing dragon heads. Actually, pretty much every boss in this game is Large and in Charge.
- Car Fu: Possible, but likely not worth the damage you inflict to your own car in the process. However, if you have one of the barrier powerups, this becomes an efficient tactic.
- Elite Mooks: Curiously absent, enemies are either standard-issue Mook Mobiles or bosses. The larger enemies tend to be Fake Ultimate Mooks.
- "Get Back Here!" Boss: Played With in episode 2, level 3, where the boss ship is flying in front of you, shooting occasional bullets at you. However, it's invulnerable until the end of the level, when it fights properly.
- Insurmountable Waist-Height Fence: You cannot maneuver your car beyond the boundaries of the highway, somewhat limiting your movement and making it difficult to shoot airborne enemies if they do not fly straight at you.
- King Mook: The boss of episode two's fourth level is an upscaled version of the already quite large armed F1 racers you fight in that level. Like all the ground bosses, he's big enough that he hogs the entire highway, so it's not like you could just go around him.
- Macross Missile Massacre: You dish out your fair share of missiles, but enemies in this game love shooting missiles at you, in addition to the obligatory nondescript glowing energy balls. Thankfully, both can be shot down as your car is not Point Defenseless.
- Medium Blending: In some levels, the background looks painted, and in others, it is like pixel-art.
- Nintendo Hard: This game can be a pain, like any good shmup. However, the difficulty in this game was actually toned down from the original Russian game, Highway Fighter.
- Shareware: The first episode of the game was freely distributable, a la Doom and such titles from the twilight years of The Golden Age of Video Games.
- One-Hit-Point Wonder: The car is this in Hard difficulty. The lifebar is replaced with a lives meter, life powerups are extra lives instead and your weapon reverts to the V-Laser each time you're hit.
- Power-Up: Weapon upgrades, Smart Bombs and temporary Deflector Shields.
- Spread Shot: Despite what the name might suggest, the W-Laser is not this. It's simply the V-Laser doubled. Later weapon power-ups give you this, however.
- Tank Goodness: The first boss is a giant, highway-hogging tank with Frickin' Laser Beams. Even after you destroy its turret, the body of the tank continues to fight with its own weapons.
- Too Awesome to Use: Collect enough weapon powerups and you get access to a devastating laser that extends the length of the screen and hits anything that stays in the beam continuously. However, it has extremely limited ammunition.
- Top-Down View: Everything except cutscenes and some menus.
- Weaponized Car: Just about every ground vehicle in the game.