Interstate '82's predecessor, Interstate '76 won several game of the year awards in 1997. While the sequel expands and enhances gameplay in some areas, the designers ignored other aspects that needed an overhaul. The most significant change lets you leave your vehicle to run, switch cars legitimately, or car-jack someone else's wheels. Vehicular mayhem is still the name of the game, as you customize 15 cars from the 1980s with weapon load outs from an arsenal packed with 25 gut-wrenching, metal-ripping, lethal implements of destruction.
More than 40 missions guarantee program life, but the overall storyline is much weaker, more contrived (if possible), and less feasible than the original. Upgrading vehicles between missions is done by using cash earned from salvaging enemy cars, and the option to keep car-jacked vehicles allows a choice of which set of wheels you take into the next mission. As an arcade-style shooter, Interstate '82 requires 3D acceleration, but the graphics aren't significantly improved from '76. Joystick controls are sluggish and difficult to master due to non-responsiveness.
Three previously unreleased tracks by DEVO will delight DEVO's fan base, but the '80s soundtrack is still, well, '80s music, which doesn't help. Dialogue is spotty with a fair amount of repetition, all the cars sound remarkably alike and actual driving requires suspension of disbelief for reality purposes. Considering the year of release, graphics are pedestrian at best, and lack of a cohesive plot ensures an early trip to the junkyard.
I had a blast playing Interstate '76, so I was the first to bare my teeth and fight off the flocking gawkers when we got Interstate '82 in at the office. Althougsh certainly not the prettiest game of its time, I'76 combined solid gameplay with a funky soundtrack that got your booty shaking in your chair while you gunned down Creeper after Creeper from the safety of your souped-up muscle car. The game was just full of great atmosphere and character. So, being a child of the 80s, I was extremely eager to see what the team at Activison had in store for the sequel. So how does Interstate '82 compare to its predecessor? Well, read on and find out ...
First off, let me tell you that this game owes a lot more to its console cousin Vigilante 8 than it does to Interstate '76. With its pure-action stylings and scream-for-a-gamepad playabilty, I'82 just doesn't feel like its predecessor. It just isn't a logical progression to the series. While this isn't inherently bad, it's a big disappointment to I'76 fans who were looking for an update to the original. This isn't a driving simulation with guns, it's a Nintendo game on your PC. Okay, okay. The complete overhaul to the series can be forgiven as long as the game is fun, right? Well, unfortunately, I'82 ultimately fails at that as well, becoming more of a frustrating torture than an entertaining game.
The biggest problem with I'82 is its poor playability. The framerates were horrible on all of the systems I played it on, even on a high-end PIII system, and the game pauses intermittently as a new bit of scenery is loaded into memory. This is extremely annoying considering that this fast-paced driving game is supposed to be all about action. Refer to this equation for further clarification: bad performance = break in action = no fun = sad gamer. Car control is poor as well, and bear no resemblance to real physics whatsoever. The cars are too floaty and reach top speed almost immediately. This combined with choppy performance make playing I'82 an annoying experience to say the least.
Visually, it's hard to believe that I '82 actually requires a 3D accelerator. For the most part, I'82 looks extremely dated, and graphically the title is best described as inconsistent. The shiny, reflective car models look fabulous, but the grainy cutscenes look absolutely atrocious ... to the point where they might have actually been products of 1982. Well, at least the mouths move now. That's one improvement over the original. And while you can now lay rubber in outdoor as well as indoor locations -- including a mall, the Vegas strip, the Arizona desert, and an abandoned mine -- the uninteresting, generic backdrops do little to get you into the feel of the environments you're driving through. They're all plain and boring. Even the dazzling, brilliantly illuminated City of Sin seems lifeless. I'82 does sport some nice smoke and mist effects, but the explosions look primitive in comparison. Of course, I'76 never looked that great as compared to other games of its time, but you would think I'82 would be visually stunning since you have to own a 3D card to even run it.
Like the original, you can customize your vehicle with salvaged weapons, special add-ons, and armor, but the upgrade process has become more complicated and less realistic than I'76. Instead of labeling the individual components on the selection screen, you only get a picture of the item and you have to scroll through a list of pictures to determine exactly what components you have on your car. It's like playing a mini-game of Memory every time you want to customize your car. Plus, to make matters worse, there's absolutely no rhyme or reason to how these new components get salvaged or even attached to your car. If you remember the original, Skeeter followed you in his pick-up truck and repaired items while you were out blowing up Creepers. Now Skeeter plays a secondary role in the whole salvage/repair aspect of the game, and you have to slip him a little spending cash for his services now as well. There's not even a repair option anymore. Now every component is in perfect working order, you just have to dish out some of your hard-earned salvage money to get Skeeter to change parts for you. Now that's a true friend for you. I guess Skeeter became as greedy as all those Yuppies in the age of Reaganomics.
Remember the wah-wah heavy funk soundtrack in Interstate '76? Well you'd expect some poppy new wave synth rock 80s tunes from a game set in 1982, right? B ut, for the most part, the soundtrack is just repetitive and boring. Except for the three previously unreleased Devo songs, the music in I'82 isn't worth listening to. The voice acting in the game is well done, but the recording is scratchy and muddled, and it's not just because it's supposed to be coming out of a radio speaker. Even when Taurus and Vixen are standing next to each other they sound like they're working in the drive-through window at McDonald's.
Like the single-play game, multiplay in I'82 is a choppy affair to say the least, even on a high-speed cable modem. It's a little better on a LAN, but still not perfect. Game types are pretty standard: deathmatch, capture the flag (okay, it's actually "capture the trout," but with the same rules), and hot potato (Where you pass a bomb from car to car through collisions. If you're the one holding the bomb when the timer reaches 0, hold onto your butt). Overall, multiplay just doesn't offer anything new or meaningful to the game, and it's a frustrating experience simply because of the lag.
So, what are the high points of the game? And, yes, there are a few. Well, at least one ... now you can get out of the car. "What?" you say, "But I thought you were never supposed to get out of the car." Well, although it is rather dangerous to do so, it is a nice feature since now you can dive out of your damaged vehicle and jump into a less-impaired hotrod. You'll also run across different cars during some of your missions and you can switch your ride mid-mission by jumping into a rival car and speeding away. This gives I'82 a distinct mix of genres, combining an action-heavy driving combat game with a third-person shooter. While for safety's sake you shouldn't leave the protection of your car for long, there are times when it's actually beneficial to jump up, cap a fool, and jack their car.
Interstate '82 made me do a complete neck-jerk. It's one of those games which feels more like a spin-off than a sequel, and makes you wonder "What the hell happened to the series?," kind of like that Cheers-inspired "The Tortellis" sitcom. When I first loaded I'82 I went "guh," and then I played it some and went "buh," but I eventually just settled on a complacent and mediocre "muh." In the end, I'82 is just disappointedly bland and boring, which is really hard to say considering how much I liked the original.
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