Driving Interstate '82

Activision motors to GameSpot's offices to prove that its Interstate team is still living in the 80s.

Returning to the retro style it knows so well, Activision showed off its pre-alpha version of Interstate '82. With the added years, I-82 borrows parts of the 3D-only Heavy Gear II engine and adds new physics, a new graphics renderer, and a new animation system.

Game designer, Zack Norman, calls Interstate '82, a game where "Mad Max meets Miami Vice" and looks to build in attitudes of TV characters like Murdock, Magnum P.I., and Michael Knight. Although the title isn't close to completion, it looks like it will live up to the feeling of the era of glam rock and parachute pants.

Staying true to its history, I-82 will capitalize on a look reminiscent of the supercomputer of the '80s in its mission and information schemes - the TRS-80. Far from the days of the amber and green displays, I-82 supports '90s hi-tech 3D effects including rippling water effects, smoke trails, and particle effects. Rippling water was one of the more interesting effects and is used when an automobile drives over a shallow pool of water and the ripples slowly move away from the vehicle. What made it stand out was that the engine renders the ripples as a series of polygons, and although it sounds like a minute detail, the effect makes the ripple much more realistic.

The new engine runs under Microsoft's Direct3D or under one of the hardware accelerator APIs offered by 3D chipmakers like 3Dfx's Glide. Looking far ahead, the engine has been built with new hardware APIs in mind - Activision says that it can adapt the engine to any API in the course of a day or two. Considering the lead time that it takes to build a patch to run specific APIs in other popular titles, gamers should expect the best graphics their 3D cards can put out when running I-82.

Like I-76, automobiles in the game cover a few different eras - from pink Cadillacs, to deLorians, to a Knight Rider-ish Trans-Am (without the friendly KITT option). Physics for the autos have been improved - gamers now have the ability to roll their cars over instead of being trapped upside down, and there are more realistic effects during high-speed chases.

Managing weapons and other options is done through a drag-and-drop interface where you pull different weapons, engine, and chassis components onto grids, called space points (similar to the inventory in Diablo).

In regard to building cars, the I-82 team wanted to raise the bar on the strategy and management, but not like an RTS. What Norman and crew wanted to do was to make the car more like an efficient deck in popular card games like Magic: The Gathering. The team knows that there are gamers who'd love to fill up their cars with weapons and armor, but it wanted to make them sacrifice certain advantages - leaving them with less-technical defensive weapons like flares.

Single players will find that the classic I-76 gameplay still exists but within more of a puzzle-like atmosphere. For example, players can actually leave one vehicle and take control of another. This is helpful in places where cars can't go to activate switches and other mechanisms.

Along with music of the period - from Culture Club-sounding tunes all the way to Rick Springfield wails - Activision has been working on signing an '80s band but wouldn't talk about who that band was. When the company signs a band, we'll tell you about it.

Action gamers will be drawn to the title due to the inclusion of a deathmatch mode. Activision will be adding team play to the deathmatch mode with the hopes of building a ladder system to help rank players by skill.

When completed and set for release early next year (we'll party like it's 1999), Interstate '82 will contain 25 missions and eight to ten multiplayer levels. If you're still pining away for the '80s, forget the old-hat '80s dance party hit CDs on TV, and watch for Interstate '82.

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