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Interstate ’76 Arsenal, The

From the Database of Home of the Underdogs

GAME DESIGNER:Zachary Norman & Sean Vesce



Copyright 1998, Activision

One of the best and most atmospheric action-driving games ever made, Interstate ’76 is a great game that evokes the 70′s atmosphere like no game before or since. There are many great reviews of this gem on the web, but this one at Adrenaline Vault says it best in my opinion:

Interstate ’76 is possibly the greatest example of action gaming style that I’ve ever seen. From the atmospheric 70′s radio-broadcast installation program to the Starsky and Hutch flavor throughout thecutscenes, this game is a tribute to pervasive theme. The original was hot, but now this swinger isback with sequined bells on. The Interstate 76 Arsenal is a slick combo of the maingame and the Nitro Pack, an expansion extraordinaire. I76 Gold iscomprised of all the original levels, remastered to support dazzling 3D acceleration options. The Nitro Pack is essentially a fuel-injection ofnew scenarios featuring our favorite stylin’ protagonists. These missionstake place prior to the Trip in the main game, and are split up betweenTaurus, Jade, and Skeeter.

Both sides to this cookin’ vigilante duality have been given a gorgeousnew face. Rolling 3Dfx cloudscapes slide gently across the plains asyou rocket down the freeways of the great Southwest. The sky textures themselveshave been reworked to appear three-dimensional and photorealistic in their own right, which piles great visual atmosphere on top of established solid gameplay.

And in the multiplayer arena, the standard melee repertoire has been expandedto include drag races and CTF team duels the likes of which will have you spillingslurpee all over your 8-track deck. You can also set up local duels versus AIdrivers, wherein you can specify the number of opponents, and the various souped-upmuscle cars that they wrangle.

Gameplay essentially runs like this, sugar. You jump into a heavily armed 70′s gas guzzler and take on sinister auto-mercenaries at extremely high speeds. The interface is superlative, with multiple camera angles andrealistic vehicle physics, right down to the skid marks that result froma desperate E-brake 180 turn. As neo-funk swanks jovially in the background,you blaze across the countryside in a variety of scenarios, defying thespeed limit for the good of gasoline, freedom, and the country. I knowI often tie things in to old RPGs, but hey folks…this is 1970′s Car Wars.You can choose from a huge library of cars, and customize them down todegrees of chassis reinforcement. Weapons range from simple machine guns to turreted flame throwers, land mines, and guided missiles. The combinationof strategic vehicle design and frenzied action is spellbinding.

Now, the Nitro Pack is an all new set of wheels. The scenariosare like mini-episodes unto themselves, and they take place before the death of Jade Champion, and the introduction of her brother Groovein the original title. In the Nitro, you get to assume controlof Taurus, Jade, and Skeeter in five or six missions apiece. The missions,while they’re single-shot rides and aren’t spiced by cutscenes like theoriginal trip, simply rock. The sheer diversity of the mission goals isbrilliant in its own right, and they encompass everything from dragracing versus a clown to a challenging funky takeoff on Speed.

This, coupled with the comfortable influence of each character’s individual personality on the attitude of the mission, brings back all the groove of Interstate ’76. It was just plain bad ass to take control of Master Taurus and his supercharged Jefferson Sovereign, Eloise. Playing as Jade was also a thrill because she’s just so…sassy. And of course, Skeeteris as confoundingly lovable as ever, even while adding impromptu high-caliberventilation to enemy vehicles. In short, the design team for this entire project has achieved something very special; they have brought game atmosphere to a new level of immersion.

Okay, now it’s time to point out what was wrong with the 70′s. I76 has its share of shortcomings, and while I’d recommend this title to anybody, these kind of difficulties are important to examine. First of all, the 3D accelerated graphics are glitchy. While the textures are slick and fast, and the motion is fluid and beautiful, severe 3D errors pop up all the time. Occasionally, cars will pass through pieces of terrain. Sectors of the surrounding mountains fluctuate, pulsating weirdly as if the protagonist is experimenting with some of the other…wonders of the 70′s. Shards of colorful texture will revert to a negative palette, or go entirely black for no apparent reason.

Obviously, having a wingman in the single-player missions would have bizarre effects on the objective programming, and the storyline. At least, the ones where you’re supposed to be alone. However, while it is entirely possible to create a simple, unrestricted duel between yourself and four AI cars, you can’t have anyoneelse along for the ride. Let’s face it folks; the code for co-op is there. Use it! It would be relatively easy to combine the multi-melee interface with the AI-melee system, to create cooperative autoduels. This simple addition would multiply my gameplay hours by a factor of at least five. I’d even go so far as to request a patch from Activision containing this grotesquely missing feature.

But none of these rather significant losses can even begin to scratch the surface of what is, by any standards, a fantastic game with a brilliant soundtrack and style dripping out the wheel-wells.”

The “Arsenal” version is the “ultimate” version that includes patched I76 game (w/ better 3D graphics) and Nitro Pack add-on. A must-have for every fan of action and driving games.

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