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Game Over Online ~ Interstate '82

GameOver Game Reviews - Interstate '82 (c) Activision, Reviewed by - Pseudo Nim

Game & Publisher Interstate '82 (c) Activision
System Requirements Pentium II 266 64MB Ram, 3D Accelerator w/8MB ram
Overall Rating 67%
Date Published Tuesday, December 14th, 1999 at 07:40 PM


Divider Left By: Pseudo Nim Divider Right

There seems to be this cliché misconception about games that, generally, the sequel to a very popular game is usually much less stellar, to say the least. Why misconception? Because I don’t think there’s any law that states that, and the only reason it is widely believed is because it happens much too often. This wasn’t the case with Rainbow 6: Rogue Spear, Warcraft II, Gabriel Knight 2, Fallout 2, Wing Commander 2, 3, 4, 5; Privateer 2, Crusader: No Regret – and the list goes on. However, it did happen to quite a few games, one of which, to my utmost chagrin, is Interstate ’82.

The original Interstate ’76 took the industry by storm with its no-holds-barred attitude, amazing soundtrack, stylish movies, and most of all, a completely immersive and entertaining gameplay. Cars were authentically modeled, the story was tight, and multiplayer was wicked. How does Interstate ’82 fare in that respect? Let us examine it section by section.

My first and foremost grudge about the game lies in the physics department: this doesn’t feel like an Interstate game, but much more like Twisted Metal, and that comparison isn’t a flattering one. Cars don’t feel like they have mass; when I put a few machine guns on my Courcheval Manta ’73 and raised its weight to over 10,000 pounds, not only did it not feel much different from the previous 6,000 but the collisions and the momentum transfer were just as unrealistic as before. What I mean by this is that when cars collide, there should be some exchange of energy, and physics governing laws of motion should take effect, such as changing vectors of motion, inertia, momentum and so forth. It doesn’t feel like any of that is present in I82, though – it feels kind of like if you were to glue together a paper vehicle, stick some plastic machine guns onto it, and ram it into a wall. No, that wouldn’t bend the bodywork. It just bounces off. Bodywork also bends in a very strange way: seems as if the actual car model isn’t often warped, and usually the texture is stained with ripples and waves to make it look bent. I did manage to expose a wheel on my Porsche 911 (which, for the lack of a licensing agreement with Porsche and all other manufacturers is called the Messernacht, which, incidentally, I can’t manage to translate – to the best of my (limited) German knowledge, this means "razor night," a term that I fail to understand), however, the wheel was completely undamaged (am I being too picky?) and I was unable to replicate the effect. Cars also never flip over – a la Need For Speed 2, they flip back onto the wheels in most intriguing feats of black magic. When cars fall from rooftops, or other elevated positions, they bounce off so lamely that I almost stopped playing the game.

Next up for disection is the gameplay. In one of the previews on I82, the developers were quoted as saying that the gearbox would be dropped in I82 because nobody ever used it in I76. Excuse me?! I wonder where they got that from – in any case, I’d much rather use the gearbox than the incredibly lame auto-brake system that was implemented in 82. In 76, when I’d drive up a hill, I’d switch to Park, kill the engine and observe. If I wanted to do some nasty spins, I’d throw the car into a skid and hit Tab to switch to Reverse. Granted, that isn’t entirely realistic, but it’s enjoyable, and something you may have longed to do for a while but were too scared to do in your own car. What does I82 have in this sense? Nothing. You hit Up, you go forward. You release it, you slow down (because of friction, kudos for getting that right), and then what? Your brake lights come on, and you’re stopped. Want to go back? Hit back, wait a second or two, and go backwards. Doesn’t sound bad? It is. The time it takes to change from forward to reverse motion is so abysmally long that in any proper Deathmatch one would be dead by the time it’s done, or at least badly wounded. Same applies from changing from reverse to forward. Need I mention the white reverse lights don’t work? Oh, and there’s no more cockpit. I guess that wasn’t used too much, either.

There are about 30 missions in the game, set in about 20 different areas. Each mission has sub-missions, like "Flip switch to open gate," "Drive to point 1" and, one of the most eloquent, "Kill all creepers" and/or "Kill all Dickies," coupled with "Ambush these fools." The story is told via pre-rendered movie sequences, as well as engine-rendered cinematics, most often taking place while driving. All in all, I find, the story is more or less of a premise to blow up stuff, rather than being the integral backbone, like it is in some other games. These 30 missions are played out through the means of equipping yourself with different vehicles, different weapons for the vehicles, different equipment and so forth. One very good feature that I like about the game is you no longer wait for some omnipresent Force From Above to grant you a new car, but you get what you have the guts to take – you kill, carjack and steal parked cars. The good old pistol is still there, which means you can get an essentially undamaged car from your opponent; you encounter parking lots every once in a rare while which might have a vehicle or two worthy of notice on the premises; and, last, but not least, you can run up to a dude driving a car and try to kick him out of his vehicle (though that won’t always work, what with the lack of pacifism in the early 80s youth and all). All that is accomplished via the means of getting out of your car, a novel and interesting concept. Equipping your car is done via purchasing upgrades on money that you get for blowing up other cars, aka "salvage." I strongly feel, however, that "salvage" is an incorrect term here – "bounty" is more appropriate. In I76, you actually did salvage components from destroyed cars, and Skeeter, your mechanic, would often produce the niftiest pieces of hardware out of the rubble. Now all you do is buy, and I don’t think I like that idea, generally because the things you really want to buy cost about three times as much as you happen to have at any given moment. I think what Activision should’ve done was have both, and perhaps have a usage meter on the weapon/equipment, so that if you don’t repair it, it wears down eventually, and salvaged items would have a certain amount of wear on them right off the start. But they haven’t… so this discussion is rather pointless.

The AI has some problems. For one, if you’re fighting an enemy and stand in one place, he will traverse the same closed-ended route to go away from you and come back guns blazing, so you can just sit there quietly and snipe him. Moreover, why is it that all computer opponents drop oil slicks 97% of the time, even if they’re driving towards you? It almost seems like… but I can’t make that joke. Of course, (fairly) obviously, they eventually drop so many oil slicks they get stuck in them themselves. While I’m at the oil slicks, why is it that the car behaves so badly in them? By that I don’t mean that it handles poorly, after all, duh – you got oil on your tires, but whatever happened to the wheels locking? That is, if you drive into an oil slick and stop you are unable to move for a good 10 seconds: I’m sorry, but that’s not how oil slicks work in real life. It almost seems like they’re poodles of glue instead. Or toxic, paralyzing gas that puts the driver into complete anaesthesia for 10 seconds. In any case, whatever it is, it isn’t oil.

When I read PC Gamer’s preview of I82 in the November 1998 issue, I looked at the screenshots and drooled. I had a 3Dfx Voodoo 1 back then, and wondered, will it or will it not be enough to run the game with all those beautiful explosions, nice-looking cars and cool scenery… then Redline came out, and it really drove my Voodoo into the ground – so much that I had to turn down most of the detail. Now, after having played I82… I must say that the screenshots lend it a bit more justice than it deserves. First off, there are sprites in the game. In case you don’t know what sprites are, they are 2D bitmaps plastered onto a 3D world in hopes that a player won’t ever actually reach them to see that they have no volume to them. It saves processing power, and was widely used in the mid- to early-90s games due to insufficient hardware at the time. Now, however, sprites are becoming significantly rarer, if only because processors can handle the extra load and it adds so much to the graphics quality. I82 uses sprites rather freely, along with tiled textures on walls, which is fairly standard practice, but which look like bathroom tiles, which is not. There is one building, that can be seen in one of the screenshots which had me wondering for a good couple of minutes whether that was intended to be someone’s very, very big bathroom at some point during the development (as a sort of an inside joke). Or those endless fences textured like some sort of a happy graveyard, with all the vines et al; all in all, I am somewhat disappointed with a large number of the textures used. The backdrops are usually quite nice, though, and the mountainous scenery is pretty appealing, if low-res. Water is very un-watery, though – it’s just a mirror. I suppose that’s a way of making the player go "Wow, nice reflection" and leave… but that doesn’t really justify doing it. Overall, things don’t look too bad, as long as you don’t get too close to them.

In summary… Interstate ’82 is a lot less impressive and groundbreaking as it was originally touted to be. Its astounding resemblance to the lame Twisted Metal on PC and its horrible physics, tiled textures and lacking environment variety make it significantly less enjoyable than Interstate ’76 was. I’m not sure I can really recommend it, perhaps only to those who actually enjoyed Twisted Metal (for anything other than multiplayer – I must admit to having played that for about 8 hours straight one sad, sad night). Activision, as the proverbial saying goes, dropped the ball on this one – and ended up with a very mediocre title which is sure to disappoint the fans of the original.

 

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Rating
67%
 

 

 
 

 

 

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