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File:76 Coverart 5417.png

  "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.

See also Vigilante 8, a Spiritual Successor (that was arcade-ish from the start) also by Activision.

Interstate '76 provides groovy examples of:

  Groove: Wow. Weird dream...

  • Every Car Is a Pinto: Full stop. Watch out, the resulting debris and flames can damage your car.
    • 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.
  • 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.

 Skeeter: Jade, she built a good car.

Groove: Yeah.

Skeeter: But she got out.

Groove: What?

Skeeter: Never get outta the car.

 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.

 Groove: Why?

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:

 "This kinda reminds me of the trench run at the Death Station in that movie 'Space Wars'!"

  Groove: Jesus christ, Taurus! Jesus Christ! You have no idea how bad that was!

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