Great American Cross Country Road Race

Reviewed by Jim Short 

 

Issue 21

May/Jun 86

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Activision
48K disk 14.95 

48k cassette 9.95

1 player
Joystick

 

 

 

 

 

 


Along with Broderbund, Activision has to be the most improved software house of the past year or so. Significantly, it was their recent UK release of the brilliant Lucasfilm range of games which rocketed them to the top of the 'Third Party' league (in my humble opinion, at any rate) and, with the quality of their own software improving all the time, a real 'killer' game was always on the cards. Well, it's finally arrived.

 

AMERICAN ROAD RACE is a high-speed racing game which knocks all other racing games for six. It might well have been based on the film 'Cannonball Run' such are the similarities between the two. Like the film, ROAD RACE is a city to city madcap excursion across America in which you must try to complete the journey in as quick a time as possible and, hopefully, add your name to that illustrious ROAD RACE scoreboard. Can you get your name in lights up there beside All American Al, Eastside Eddie, Move Over Mary and all the other hot-shot Road Racers? If you make it into the Top 10 your name will be slotted into the appropriate place on the board and you can then save that particular 'field' to tape or disk as a permanent record of your achievements.

 

The screen view is much the same as in Baja Buggies or Pole Position, though the scenery is far more spectacular and changes as you progress through the different States. The game would soon become monotonous if you had to suffer the same old background scenery, but the ever changing countryside gives an
added interest as you carve your way through the deserts of New Mexico, the ice and snow of Colorado, and the lush green fields of New York State.

 

This isn't a race track so, naturally, the roads are crammed with other motorists (read 'pests') cruising along at the kind of speeds designed to set your nerves on edge as you try to weave your way through them at turbo-speed. Speaking of turbo-speed, your car is capable of 240mph (which leaves you wondering exactly what sort of car you are meant to be driving as not even a Group 5 Racing Porsche can reach those speeds!), so nothing on the road can touch you - not even old 'Smokey Bear' himself A radar warns you of the presence of 'da fuzz', so get that pedal to the metal and, at 240mph, you'll blow dem Smokies off the road. You can also slow down to a respectable law-abiding speed (below 70mph) but anything in between will cost you a ticket and valuable race time.


At the outset you have the choice of four different routes with varying race lengths and degrees of difficulty. Three of these are West Coast to East Coast routes and the fourth is a slog round the whole of America visiting every single city on the map. The map is displayed at the start of each new game and at each stopping point along your chosen route. As well as relaying the obvious information, it also shows road conditions ahead and your current race position.


Just for added realism the road conditions vary from city to city and you will encounter ice & snow, fog, roadworks, potholes in the road, etc. as well as the obligatory night driving. As you may have gathered by now, this game's a real endurance test!


Obviously, you can't race all the way across America on one solitary tank of petrol and you have to make frequent stops at roadside Fuel Pumps to take on more gas. Stopping at these is quite tricky and should you miss one and subsequently run out of fuel, you'll have to 'push' the car to the next pump. This is also the penalty for revving too high in one gear and blowing your engine. All this wastes valuable time, so it's best to keep checking the instrument panel - located at the bottom of the screen - for signs of trouble. The instruments are clear and precise and include genuine rotary-dial speedometer and rev counters. None of this digital rubbish here!


In the race itself you have a set time in which to travel from one city to the next. The distance between each city varies considerably as does the amount of traffic on the road, but it always gets noticeably heavier as you hit the City Limits on each stage of your journey. All the cities have their own individual and, to the best of my knowledge, authentic skylines - the Statue of Liberty at New York, the mountains of Denver, the White House at Washington etc. - and greatly adds to the enjoyment of the game. It's even worth tackling the hazardous 'All Round Trip' in order to view the skylines of the individual cities on the map.


If I have any criticism at all about the game, it concerns the cars and motorbikes of the opposing traffic some of which aren't all that cleverly defined. As a driving simulation it isn't quite as realistic as Pole Position but the many and varied scenarios of ROAD RACE, the brute speed (it makes Pole Position look positively lethargic) and, most of all, the realistic feel of revving the engine as you change up and down through the four available gears more than compensates for any shortcomings.


To sum up, ROAD RACE is a true 'megagame' in every sense of the word and rates right up there alongside FRACTALUS and DROPZONE. Keep 'em coming Activision!!!

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