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"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, whom 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 Badass 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.
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.
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.
- Alternate History: It's the gas crisis in The Seventies, only things are so bad that the criminals are using Weaponized Cars to raid gas stations for fuel, and the cops can't or won't give a damn. So ordinary folks must take matters into their own hands.
- Ancestral Weapon: Groove inherits Jade's screaming orange 1970 Picard Piranha. Qualifies as a Cool Car what with Jade's aftermarket modifications and... well, it has guns on it.
- Cool Shades: Groove, Taurus and Malochio.
- Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Skeeter, who is actually a competent driver and auto-combatant. He is also a complete space cadet and possibly narcoleptic.
- Badass Crew: Mess with Groove, Taurus, or Skeeter, and the other two will make sure you'll end up looking like a Pinto after The War Sequence.
- Badass Driver: Everybody.
- Badass Moustache: Groove rocks The Gunslinger look. Malochio's might count, though his is closer to Alex Trebek.
- Battle Couple: It's heavily implied that there was something between Jade and Taurus. This is as much about revenge for him as it is for Groove.
- Big Bad: Antonio Malochio, shady businessman, hired gun, and a Man of Wealth and Taste. Goes by the CB Handle of "Chioto". He intends to use an H-Bomb to blow up the West Texas oil reserves. His employer? OPEC.
- Big Brother Mentor: Taurus clearly has a soft spot for Groove, him being the little brother of his dead love. Even if he talks to him like Samuel L. Jackson on a bad day.
- Bland-Name Product: The names they have are rather amusing, such as Courcheval in place of Chevrolet and Phaedra for Ford. 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.
- Bottomless Magazines: Almost totally averted. You have a limited supply of ammo for each weapon at the start of each mission and no way to acquire more. Run out mid-mission, and you're hosed.
- Your .45 sidearm will never run out, but good luck using it to take out an enemy that isn't already spewing smoke.
- Briefcase Full of Money: A minor MacGuffin early in the game, critical to the Big Bad's plot. The theft of said briefcase by our heroes from the bad guys results in a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown on Taurus.
- But Thou Must!: But as Taurus says, "if you don't like it, you can walk the hell back to whatever it is you call a life."
- Call Forward: "Damn, I'm so good they should name a car after me." - Taurus.
- 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."
- Cherry Tapping: It's possible to kill an enemy driver by shooting a .45 pistol out your window. Doing so ensures better salvage after the mission, but generally only works when the enemy car already has low armor. If it works, the car grinds to a halt and its horn sounds, presumably from the driver's head hitting the steering wheel.
- Cloudcuckoolander: Skeeter, although he occasionally says some pretty deep shit. The second quote above is his Catch Phrase. Groove also exhibits this from time to time.
- Cluster F-Bomb: There's quite a bit of swearing in this T-rated game. No literal F-Bombs, but liberal applications of "damn" and "shit".
- Cool Car: The Picard Piranha you drive in the single player is a prime candidate. Virtually every car in this game is a Weaponized Car and even the Mooks have custom rides, averting Mookmobile.
- Crapsack World: "The economy is in the throes of a deep recession. Flames of riot rule the cities. Gas is expensive and scarce. Crime is rampant. No one seems to care. This is a time for Vigilantes."
- Cup Holders: An optional extra. Stated in the manual to eliminate the annoyance of having to hold your drink in one hand while you drive. Actually does confer an in-game benefit in that it protects you from other players sidearms in multiplayer.
- 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.
- Dead Little Sister: Older sister, but still.
- Dirty Cop: Pretty much every cop in the Southwest is on Malochio's payroll. They are pretty heavily armed, being cops.
- The Dragon: Auto-Mercenary Cloaker, who speaks with a smooth, deep voice and drives a blue longnose semi.
- 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. It's later revealed that Patriot and Gas Bandit were killed by Jade years ago.
Groove: Wow. Weird dream...
- Every Car Is a Pinto: Full stop. Watch out, the resulting debris and flames can damage your car.
- Everything Is Big in Texas: "Somewhere in the Southwest..." You do briefly cross over into New Mexico, but soon return.
- 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."
- 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.
- Grease Monkey: Skeeter.
Taurus: He fixes the cars.
- Hey, It's That Voice!: Greg Eagles voices Taurus, whom you may recognize as Peter Stillman and the DARPA Chief from the Metal Gear series, and Sergeant Morris from Quake 4. Tom Kane's voice for Callisto is basically Professor Utonium with a Scottish brogue; he's a bit less recognizable as Skeeter. And of course, there's John "Q" DeLancie as Malochio.
- Humongous Mecha: As a nod to the preceding game, the characters stop at a diner whose sign/mascot is a giant Seventies-style robot. Skeeter seems fascinated by it.
- I Call It Vera: Taurus calls his car "Eloise". It's a reference to the bull horns on the hood or something.
- Idiosyncratic Difficulty Levels: Wimp, Champ and Badass.
- Infinity+1 Sword: At the very end of the game, Jade's Piranha is totaled, and Malochio offers you a selection of vehicles he has on hand for the duel against him. Among your options is a fragile U.S. Mail jeep. You might think to take the tank... but the jeep carries the Cherub missile launcher, the only time in the campaign where it is available. It destroys any car with a single shot.
- It Never Gets Any Easier: "It's not all that easy, is it? Killing people."
- Ironic Echo: This exchange is more poignant if you've played the Nitro Pack.
- 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. 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.
- Lampshade Hanging: The following exchange lampshades the entire game.
Groove: I dunno man, this whole thing feels like a movie.
Taurus: I hate movies.
- With one exception, as revealed in the Nitro Pack: Love Story.
- Leitmotif: If you hear a low, funky bass riff, chances are Malochio is about to make an appearance.
- Lethal Joke Character / Killer Rabbit: See the Infinity+1 Sword entry, above.
- Let's Get Dangerous: About halfway though the game, after the No-Holds-Barred Beatdown on Taurus, Groove decides enough is enough and starts taking things more seriously.
- 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... and muscle cars.
- Nitro Boost: An optional extra, but a must for one mission in which you must jump a particularly wide chasm. There is a ramp to help you.
- 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-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Taurus suffers this at the hands of Malochio's goons. Groove saves him from becoming The Obi-Wan (pulling his almost-lifeless body from his bullet-ridden wreck of a Jefferson Sovereign), but he loses his car and is forced to ride with Skeeter in the van for the rest of the game. you are basically on your own from then on.
- Nonstandard 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.
- Oil Slick: Your starting "dropper" weapon.
- Only in It For the Money: Malochio's motivation.
Malchio: Muh-ney. They pay me well, young Champion.
- Ramming Always Works: Well, sure. But it won't do your chassis reinforcement any favors.
- The Seventies
- Scary Black Man: Taurus. Initially, anyway. You'll come to like the guy.
- Talking to Himself: When Callisto is captured, Skeeter handles the interrogation. Tom Kane voices both characters, though all the latter does in this scene is giggle.
- Tank Goodness: You can use a tank, and it obviously has the best armor in the game, but it's also quite ponderous and hard to see out of.
- Techno Babble: Skeeter, while attempting to explain nuclear fusion to Groove.
- Vehicular Combat: This is why you were invited to the shindig.
- The Vietnam War: Malochio served two tours of duty, and is stated in the manual to have had some dealings with Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge.
- Vigilante Man: Groove, Taurus, Skeeter and pretty much 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, and is gone by the end cutscene.
- Voice with an Internet Connection: Many characters, primarily Taurus. However, since this is The Seventies, it's not high-speed internet but good old Citizen's Band Radio. Everyone has a callsign, Groove is "Swinger", Skeeter is "Monkeywrench" and Taurus is "Stampede".
- Warrior Poet: Taurus spouts some soothing verse at a mere keystroke.
- Weaponized Car: Well, duh.
- Will: The training mission features a 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 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."
- 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.
- Foreshadowing: 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
- 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 Cutscene of the mission to announce he is Not Quite Dead.
- 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.
- Scrappy Level: "Velocity." Also a Whole-Plot Reference to Speed.
- 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:
- 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.
- Absurdly Spacious Sewer: Also without a doubt the game's Scrappy Level. Features federal Agents who have been convinced that our heroes are a bunch of Dirty Communists.
- The Alcoholic: Groove has become this in the years since the first game.
- Angry Black Man: Taurus' temper flares a lot in this game.
- 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.
- Blunt Metaphors Trauma: Hinckley is a bit of a Cloudcuckoolander, and talks a bit like Christopher Walken.
- Book Ends: What happens in Vegas...
- 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.
- Dark and Troubled Past: Taurus again. The first time we see him, it's a nightmare about Jade's death, echoing the first game's intro. He lets out a Big No and then leaps awake.
- Dirty Cop: They work for President Evil, so it's to be expected. They are still some of the game's tougher foes.
- The Dragon: John Hinckley, Jr. If you know your history, this may provide you with a clue as to who the Big Bad is.
- The Eighties: Well, duh.
- Femme Fatale: Autovillain Solarzano, who serves as the most visible antagonist for much of the game.
- For the Evulz: It's not really clear what the Big Bad is trying to do beyond make a lot of money.
- 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.
- Gosh Dang It to Heck: The pseudo-swearing in this game may seem a bit odd compared to its predecessor. As it turns out, the original dialogue was much cruder. Applying the optional "language patch" turns the whole damn game into one big incredibly vicious Cluster F-Bomb.
- 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 Badass, 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.
- Humongous Mecha: See that Chekhov's Gun entry up there? Well, it's the Final Boss. And it's piloted by Ronald Reagan).
- 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.
- Lampshade Hanging: Taurus comments on how one level is suspiciously similar to a scene from a popular science-fiction movie:
"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."
- Lighter and Softer: The tone of this game is decidedly less dark then the first game. Another possible cause of They Changed It, Now It Sucks.)
- Oh Crap: Turns out shooting Rank Dick was a bad idea.
Groove: Jesus christ, Taurus! Jesus Christ! You have no idea how bad that was!
- Outrun the Fireball: The escape from the abandoned mine.
- Pre-Ass-Kicking One-Liner: Tired of being chased by creepers, Taurus delivers a truly epic speech culminating in the threat of him crushing their very souls with his bare hands. They promptly run away afterwards. As it turns out, they were made aware of LARS being deployed in the area and simply retreated. Doesn't make Taurus' speech any less epic though. Bonus points for when he tells President Evil that he's going to spank his white ass from here to the Washington Monument.
- My Name Is Not Durwood: Taurus is getting pretty sick of being called "Mr. Tortoise."
- The Quincy Punk: Skye, and also Autovillain Rank Dick. No, really, that's seriously his name.
- Retired Badass: Taurus gave up this circus a long time ago. Skye drags him back to help look for Groove, who has gone missing at the beginning of the game.
- Secret Police: The SSS, or Super Secret Service, though they are less this trope in-game then simple Elite Mooks.
- Shut UP, Hannibal: Taurus is quite fed up with Rank Dick's rampant uncouth behavior.
- President Evil: Ronald Reagan as a Jerkass Motor Mouth. He is implied to have had various important figures assassinated, including Leonid Brezhnev and John Lennon. Taurus non-fatally shooting him results in a hilarious, long-winded speech on his part. The event is publicly blamed on John Hinckley Jr.
- They Changed It, Now It Sucks: Arcade-style controls, simplified damage and salvage systems, and other changes all led people to generally dislike this title in comparison to its predecessor. It is likely this game killed the series.
- Underground Level: Taurus descends into an abandoned mine in search of Groove. This culminates in a fight against a giant drilling machine.
- Viva Las Vegas: Where the game begins.