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LGR – Interstate ’76: Vehicular Combat Poetry [A Review]

LGR – Interstate ’76: Vehicular Combat Poetry [A Review]


Here’s one of those games I wanted as
soon as I saw the cover art! Interstate 76 released in 1997 by Activision
for Windows 95 PCs. This was one of the premier vehicular combat games released
at a time when it seemed like there was a new one of these kind of games coming
out every other month. But just looking at this box over and over at Best Buy
back then was enough to permanently embed it in my mind, with its promises of
exploding muscle cars and characters with polygons proudly on display. Inside
the box you get some ads for other Activision products, a handy reference
card for the control layout, and a substantial manual that’s fashioned after
the kind you’d get with a new car! Covering everything it needs to with a
few extra things like character bios and whatnot, then there’s the game itself
on two CD-ROMs, at least with this original release. There was also an upgraded gold
release later, which was then re-released in the Interstate 76: Arsenal box set,
alongside the standalone expansion, the Nitro pack. Nitro added new cars, weapons,
missions, and online racing modes; but it’s still the same basic gameplay, just
with new tidbits and minus any narrative tying it together. And because of that
we’ll primarily be looking at the base game. First things first, Interstate 76 has an
awesome installation process mimicking the sounds of browsing through
radio stations and setting the stage for the game’s story. “Keeping with the spirit
of 76, 400,000 pounds of red white and blue paper mache– RADIO STATIC, FUNK MUSIC” Once it’s installed, you then choose your
graphics card rendering mode while listening to some prime funkadelia.
Normally I’d choose 3Dfx Glide mode since i’m playing this using a
Voodoo3 card, but I was getting some major texture-mapping glitches and had
to use Direct3D rendering instead, so that’s what you’ll be seeing. Anyway, once
that’s sorted out, you’re shown one of the longest intro videos around. This
five-minute cutscene is like watching the opening act of a 1970’s
crime drama, just with people that don’t have any real discernible facial
features beyond excellent mustaches. And it’s worth mentioning the soundtrack
right away because it is phenomenal! Soul, funk, disco, and all sorts of groovy
Redbook audio tunes fill the CD with people like Santana keyboardist Tom
Coaster and Third Eye Blind bassist Arian Salazar performing and writing each of
the increasingly excellent tracks. Once that epic intro is finished it’s
on to the main menu, where you can play a short tutorial, begin the story mode, or
play multiplayer, either online or against AI opponents. And since
multiplayer features mostly the same gameplay, well, let’s just dive right into
the story mode so you can see what plays like. Interstate 76 takes place in 1976,
appropriately enough, in a world where the 1973 oil crisis only got worse. This is led to a Mad Max-style dystopia
where most everyone has strapped weapons to their vehicles and goes out killing
people in the search for gasoline. You play the role of Groove Champion… …yes really… on his mission to avenge the
death of his sister Jade, who we saw get shot in the opening cinematic. And it
turns out that she was a vigilante, which in this case is a citizen that took up
arms against the gasoline raiders known as Creepers, and he corrupt police forces
that roam the highways. So Groove becomes a vigilante as well and it turns out
that he’s just a natural at it, because plot. So that’s the basic, story but the
other big appeal of I-76 though is the car combat. Not only because vehicular
violence is a lot of fun, but because the structure of this particular game
remains quite unique to this day. You can think of this as an automotive game of
Mechwarrior, but instead of mechs you have armored muscle cars, and instead of
military radio chatter you have smack-talk and swearing. “Watch that shit
cowboy!” This comparison makes more sense than
you might realize, seeing as it uses the same engine as Mechwarrior 2 as well as
being designed, written, and directed by many of the same team members. Each
mission, or scene as it’s called here, gives you a waypoint to reach and a task to
perform once you arrive; like blowing something up, or intercepting an enemy.
Sometimes you’ll have help from a partner other times you’re going at it alone, but
no matter what you have some leeway in how you complete your objectives. Once you’ve completed them, you’ll head
back to headquarters and sort through any salvaged parts from the vehicles you
took down, and these parts can be repaired and used as upgrades. And of course,
you’ll have to repair your own vehicle before heading back out, so keeping a few
spares on hand is a good idea. You can also adjust armor and chassis
strength from a preset number of points, which becomes a necessity in later
levels against certain enemies. And that’s the basic gist of it! There are 17
scenes from the main story to complete following Groove on his path from basic
revenge all the way up to undermining a sinister plot involving government
corruption and nuclear weapons. And you know what? The whole thing is still
absolutely captivating! The characters of Groove, your mechanic Skeeter, and your
partner Taurus are all just super memorable, I love this stuff! Anytime something happens to them I feel
instantly invested in the upcoming mission and committed to seeing the
whole thing through all the way to the end, in a way that the Mechwarrior games
rarely ever pulled off for me. There’s a sense of camaraderie that makes I-76
stand out, with everything from the overarching narrative to little touches
like the poetry button. Yes, there’s a keyboard command dedicated
strictly to asking Taurus to recite poems. “Hey Stampede? How about a poem?” “it’s a high pitched sound hot rubber eternally pressing against
the blackened pavement, a wheel is forever, a car is infinity times four.” “Yeah, I like that, man.” Stuff like this goes a
long way in making a game feel unique and that’s great but it gets better! I haven’t even gotten to the combat yet!
Again it’s a lot like a mech game in the sense that you have a set of hard points
on your vehicle, which can be linked together, shot individually, and disabled
by opponents if you’re not careful. Each major component of your vehicle can
be disabled, actually, and if the wrong part is shot off it can end a mission dead
in its tracks. Seeing as several of these rely on you
doing things like pulling off stunts to proceed, and if your car is screwed up that
ain’t gonna happen. And the AI doesn’t play nice at all, even on the easiest
difficulty, so you’ll want every machine gun, rocket launcher, turret, landmine, oil
slick, mortar launcher, and flamethrower you can get. Each one is not only
destructible but they have a limited amount of ammo as well. There are no
recharging energy weapons here because hey, this is still 1976, even if it’s an
alternative one. At least you can gain special abilities like nitrous oxide,
radar jammers, and chassis enhancements, from scrapping down enemies, that makes
things a little better. And you also have a map and list of things to follow, but
again, being the seventies this is just a compass, a paper map, and a notepad. And
finally, you can shoot your pistol from the driver’s seat when things get really
desperate. But good luck taking down an armored helicopter like that… As for actually using all this stuff
it’s all up to your own skill as a driver to make it happen, and of course, learning how to use each
system and when. The missions have some real variety too, you’ve even got stealth
areas where you have to turn off your engine and coast right by turrets. So
it’s always keeping you engaged by having you try new things. And barring a
few exceptions, it works quite smoothly. Like, it can be difficult to judge what
terrain will ruin your day or not, largely because of how it’s rendered.
There’s an awful lot of object pop-in going on and level of detail stuff that
even on the highest settings doesn’t go away. So if you go off-road it’s a huge
risk sometimes, especially since anytime your car flips over on its roof, it’s an instant game
over. The camera also leaves something to be desired, with the view
either being obscured or the camera bouncing around so much that it makes
your eyes straight to see ahead. Still, overall, the combat is pretty freaking
solid for a game of its time, and it’s a whole lot better than the alternatives
on pc back then. You know, games like Streets of SimCity, which actually shares
quite a bit in common in terms of genre and seventy theme. But for all the novel
elements that game had (and I still have a soft spot for it) Interstate 76 and Streets of SimCity are
two games that couldn’t be farther apart in terms of how downright playable they
still are. I-76 is just a ton of fun to play
through even today, and I’d still highly recommend it if you can get it running
properly. And that’s a big if, as it’s notorious for performance and physics
issues on modern hardware, even with that digital release on GOG. It still just
doesn’t work right. You can patch that up and tweak some files for compatibility
but it still doesn’t play quite as it should in my experience. But once you DO
find its groove and everything is going nicely, Interstate 76 is well worth it
for the story it tells, the carnage you take part in, the terrific soundtrack, and
of course, the poetry. “Across white space to the frozen shore, I see through curls and eddies of falling
snow the once green field, and a birthday on the
grass, a party for three in the Boston sun. All now covered with snow.” If you enjoyed this episode why not
check out some of my others? And sometime in the future I hope to cover the sequel,
Interstate 82, and the spin-off Vigilante 8! So stay tuned or subscribe if you so
desire. And as always, thank you very much for watching LGR!

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100 thoughts on “LGR – Interstate ’76: Vehicular Combat Poetry [A Review]

  1. I'm so glad you did this review! This was a blast from the past. I remember getting a demo of this game in a magazine. Loved it ! This was one of the few vehicular action games at that time, and possibly the only one where you could load weapons on the cars! I think there was Twisted Metal for the Play station but on PC this might have been the only one those days…
    Cheers and best wishes Clint!
    Sid
    *Oops just saw the entire clip. I had forgotten about streets of sim city 🙂

  2. I dominated the online multiplayer for I'76. I went by Misery Machine, and was one of the best players in the world for a couple of years.

  3. Im surprised you didn't mention how this game takes a lot of notes from the classic, Steve Jackson's Car Wars. You can really tell from the game's initial premise, and the car statistics sheets when customizing your car.

  4. Hands down one of the best games of the era. I had DSL through my college at the time and dominated the online play (the lava drop and rear firing mortar where one hell of a deadly combo).

  5. Couldn't find any reference to Vigilante 8, which i had vibes from all the way

  6. I swear I'm gonna learn how to use the Unreal Engine and make a remake of this game. Also Hi-Octane.

  7. Huh…I was thinking this kinda looked like MechWarrior but thought that was just a sign of the times. Wasn't expecting to hear it uses the same engine.

  8. Are you kidding me? Interstate '76, a vehicular combat game made by activision. This is a prequel to Vigilante 8! i mean, even the characters has almost the same look!

  9. The only real problem with the GOG release is they needed to code an fps limit of 30fps regardless of renderer.

  10. I got the full game bundled with a Microsoft SideWinder Force Feedback Pro back when that joystick first came out but have never managed to get the game running even once on any system I've owned! I sure would like to get running somehow, someway, someday though, because from reading the manual cover to cover back when I first got it and now watching this review, Interstate '76 really looks like it would be a fun game to play!

  11. Still have my original copy of this, despite loving MW2 there was something about this game that I could never just into. Maybe I should fire this back up on the old Thinkpad T20 and give it another shot… Great review Clint

  12. By far, Intertate 76 was my favorite PC game in the day, seconded only — at a bit of a distance — by Duke Nukem 3D.

  13. This game was amazing with the microsoft widewinder feedback pro joystick! The cd also had music tracks on it, still listen to the 70s funk today!

  14. I had GTA San Andreas for pc back in the day and at first I had these awful polygon glitches. Spikes grew off of every character and vehicle. I had bought the exact graphics card it recommend too.

  15. I posted the COMPLETE guide on getting Interstate 76 and Interstate 76 Nitro Pack (Multiplayer also!) running on modern Windows computers. ALL files that are mentioned in this guide that you need to download are clean and good to go. Here's the link to the guide on reddit because it is quite long and probably will not fit here in Youtube: https://www.reddit.com/user/Xetrem190/comments/d5b8ho/complete_guide_on_getting_interstate_76/?utm_source=share&utm_medium=web2x

  16. As someone from Lubbock, I can tell you the landscape at 3:40 is entirely incorrect haha. All of the other towns listed (Brownfield, Wellman, and Seagraves) are in the correct order. The road in the cutscene though would probably be US Highway 62

    Very weird seeing Lubbock in a video game lol

  17. This is the game along with Quarantine witch is SCREAMING A REMAKE AND ONLY WITH UPDATED GRAPHICS and removing few bugs off course…seriously..this game is…..GROOVY

  18. Finally installing this on my new computer. I've got a fullsize boxed release, and I just built a Pentuim III PC. Installer is running now!

  19. I just finished doing a playthrough of Mechwarrior 2-4 Mercs (I guess Mech 1 was more POC than game to me). This is a game that I always wanted to try when I was younger, but never got the chance. Thanks for the reminder.

  20. One thing that I love about your show is the reminder of when I was a kid. Back when I didn’t care about the version of a game or the release date but the box art that made me want the game. Voodoo3d graphic card first upgrade of my pc for gta2. The mod community was so much alive. Every episode of yours is another trip down memory lane.

  21. Absolutely loved this game… When it worked. And pistol out the window was the best way to finish someone off without an ensuing fireball meaning the salvage had a lot less damage. It took some skill and patience to drive while looking out the side windows though.

  22. Note to my self at 2019. I still remember quite many characters and story points. Might be worth to revisit this even though it looks quite dated these days. One of the most memorable gaming experiences from that era.

  23. I remember playing the demo version of this game when I was younger. Never got to play the full game. Would totally love a re-master of this game

  24. One of the weirdest, best games ever, with a fantastic (if utterly hacked to hell) multiplayer experience and a deeply memorable single player campaign.

    This game was too good for us.

  25. This was a great game.
    It's one of those that could do with a new updated release for modern computers.
    But it probably wouldn't survive the new 'woke' movement. They would likely destroy the storyline and text because it would offend someone. (I hate those people, yes hate is a good word for the 'woke' movement. it's disgusting)

  26. Still waiting on the Interstate 82 review, Clint! I've heard that, for the Interstate 76 soundtrack, they went and found vintage sound recording equipment, not just vintage instruments, to make the soundtrack more authentic. And I agree wholeheartedly, the soundtrack is absolutely phenomenal! I've listened to it by itself many, many times. I honestly believe that every track, had you put lyrics to it, could absolutely have been a hit on the radio!

  27. This game confused me SOOO much as a kid. I wish I could go back and play it again, but I'm sure I won't have the patience for it.

  28. Interstate 76 is the best game that your computer cant run. When this game came out i was working in the wholesale computer parts business, i had access to all the latest & greatest hardware. I tried dozens of different configurations & never could get I76 to run properly. That didnt stop me from enjoying the hell out of it tho.

    IIRC it really wanted a voodoo card, which was a problem because the game came out shortly after voodoo went belly up. The graphics looked really good in glide mode, but it was so unstable you couldnt really play it that way, so you pretty much had to have a very high-end voodoo card, which as i mentioned above, they had just recently stopped making.

  29. This game kicked Twisted Metal's ass. There, I said it. I might be wrong about that but didn't using your pistol give you a chance to insta kill the driver if his armor was basicly gone on that side?

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