"Electric as Green, Shocking as Pink, Rocking as Ronnie. Burning Down The Road."
Oh baby, it's back to the glory days. Ordinary guys, matches, houses, cars, Reaganomics, non-cinematic Star Wars, and enough bright hues to blind a nation of bats. The 80s, God yes, the 80s. Funk is over, it's through. The rule of the day is shameless greed, mindless decadence, electrified music, some damn good James Cameron flicks, and even faster cars than before. Put aside the old Picard Piranha, forget about the oil shortage, disremember the name OPEC, it's finally time to hot-wire a DeLorean, slap on some artillery, and kick some Moto-Sucka ass.
That's right, Interstate '76, the auto combat game funkier than your grandma's undies, has at last been given a sequel. And once again it's time to hop into the hot seat and do some down to earth automotive killing, American style.
In 1982, six years after Groove and Taurus stopped the threat of Antonio Molochio, a new and even more insidious threat has arisen: Ronald Reagan. Taxes are cut, national dignity is eroded, Groove is kidnapped, Taurus cuts off his Jive-Ass Afro. President Bonzo himself is finding new and interesting ways to cause our heroes trouble, not to mention a few Ollie North shenanigans. Not bad for a senile old guy, huh?
So, powered with a new graphical engine and a whole bunch of changes, Taurus and Groove's other sister, Sky, set out to save good old 'G,' stop Iran-Contra (sort of), and smoke more creepers (bad dudes) than there were misspent dollars in the 1982 military budget.
I'82 is, for the most part, I'76 with synthesizer. The play system has been dumbed down… err, streamlined a bit to cut down on some of the former title's frustration factor. However a few rough edges and that same old malady of unforgivable brevity mar what otherwise is one of the most entertaining games of the year.
Anyone who has ever logged a few hours in I'76 should be completely comfortable, even without practice or training, in I'82. The feel of the combat, control, and overall… the game, is largely the same as I'76. Some changes include the removal of having to shift to back up, the ability to flip over and not automatically die (in fact the game rights you after about a minute), the removal of damage to weapons, no 3D cockpit view, and that some of the game's excellent levels take place indoors as well as out.
You can also now get out of the car. Once out, you are armed only with a pistol and your wits. If you make it to another car, you can carjack it, thereby changing your ride (which you have to do a lot in the Single Player game) and occasionally there are switches to pull out-of-vehicle. Controlling Taurus as he walks around outside of the car is a bit tricky with a steering wheel, but it doesn't matter much given the extremely brief amount of time you spend on foot.
Salvaging of auto parts has also been taken out. Instead, you simply get cash for killing creepers, which you can use to buy parts and stick them on your car. Incidentally, customization is now based on a system of available grid space for weapons and armor on the car, meaning that certain weapons will not fit on certain cars, and that modifications to the car's attributes effects the amount of available space.
But, once you get past the somewhat simpler, more arcade gameplay, you'll find that I'82 still feels just like I'76… dropped in the '80s. Even though the vast multitude of cars featured in I'82 all handle differently, they perform about as you would expect them to if they had just been part of I'76. The same tricks work, power-sliding still feels the same, and old fans of I'76 will be right at home, grinning from ear-to-ear. Interstate '76 had the most satisfying, solid auto-combat of it's time, and Interstate '82 is no different.
Since I'76 came out, Activision has switched it's in house engine from the geriatric MechWarrior 2 code to the band new Dark Engine. First featured in Heavy Gear 2, the Dark Engine is able to produce some very appealing visuals. Where I'76 suffered from a host of erratic polygon-popping in the terrain, I'82 is stable as granite. Furthermore, the Dark Engine is able to produce some very convincing terrain, and I'82 benefits greatly from some very compelling driving areas that feel real enough to sink your teeth into. While some texturing and special effects are not as flashy as some of the top performers this holiday season, the overall graphical effect, combined with some excellent framerates, makes I'82 a plenty pleasing game to look at, provided you have the required 3D accelerator.
Just like in I'76, music and sound are some of the game's highest points. I'82 features three previously unreleased tracks recorded in 1982 by 80's rock sensation Devo as well as instrumental music composed by members of the band. They result is a set of true blue 80's sounds mixed with just a little Funk flavor to make yet another one of gaming's most compelling soundtracks.
Still, as fun, good looking, and great sounding as Interstate '82 is, there are some definite problems. For starters, cars are able to drive up incredibly steep inclines, which sometimes confuses the physics engine into doing some very strange things, especially on a few of the games indoor levels. There are also a few AI quirks and some assorted bugs that sometimes make I'82 feel like an incomplete product. Finally, and most gravely, I'82 is just as short as I'76 was, which makes for an extremely fun single player experience that, in the end, leaves you wanting more. Although instant action is included and multiplayer is seamlessly supported and a great deal of fun, the brevity of the single player game takes away a lot from what could have been one of the best games of 1999.
It may have a few problems and an intense similarity to its predecessor, but I'82 still does not fail to please. It's got the looks, the style, the sound, and the gameplay of a winner. It's even got one of the zaniest, funniest, most politically motivated plots in the history of gaming. I'd spoil it all for you, but suffice to say that someone important angrily screams that "I frickin' hate this Hedonism! I'm going to climb into that giant robot and use it… to kill you all!" I'll leave you to find out who. Just get out there and, if you can be a little forgiving, pick this one up and give it your sweet loving. If you don't, you can have it your way… but they'll find you… just like they found Belushi.