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At first I thought this game was a little bit too simple, later I decided that it wasn't at all bad. Then a little later I settled on the idea that the game isn't too bad but it is rather too simple. I like the idea of a Trans-American road race set along the lines of those whacky American films with Burt Reynolds. The view of the race itself is fine and the way the car responds to the player's whims works well. My overriding disappointment rests with the lack of plot -- wouldn't it have been great if the other characters listed as your competitors at the start of the game had existed during the actual race? Instead, all you get is a never-ending stream of cars and motorbikes that either pass you or are being passed by you. Whatever happened to the mean guys who used to drive up alongside you and push you off the track? Another thing -- it's not fair that when my car hits a patch of oil it skids all over the place, yet everybody else can drive through them as if they didn't exist. There are a few nice touches which help make up for the game's shortcomings. The engine noise and gear change work realistically and running out of fuel is a serious problem, especially when the fuel pumps are so hard to spot. On the whole, this game may be inferior to some in its genre but then, there aren't that many games that are that superior.
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Welcome to Game of the Week! Each week there will be a new featured game on this page. The game may be good, average or diabolically bad, it really doesn't matter! Just look at the pics, read the text and enjoy the nostalgia! :-) Game of the Week! is open to contributions so if you would like to contribute a game article for this page you're more than welcome to! Every article we receive will be considered!
The Great American
Cross-Country Road Race
1985 Activision
Programmed by Kevin Kalkut & Alex DeMeo
 
Most text of the present article comes from the review published in the fisth issue of the British C64 magazine ZZAP!64 (September 1985).
 

THE GREAT AMERICAN CROSS-COUNTRY ROAD RACE
Activision, 9.99 cass, 19.99 disk, joystick only


With a name of such length as The Great American Cross-Country Road Race, you may well wonder what lurks beneath such a mouthful of a title? Well, it is in fact another addition to the Pole Position genre, but this time there are overtones of the Burt Reynolds film, The Cannonball Run (you know the sort of thing -- a group of speed freaks who regularly take part in a high-speed race across the States).

The game attempts to inject new life into the mould by giving you the chance to take part in such a race -- from the West coast of America to the East. Not only have you gotta get from West to East as fast as possible, but you have ten other racers, all as determined as yourself, with which to contend. There are eight 'fields', that is, groups of ten racers' previously established times, for you to attempt to beat and you can choose from any of the eight.

Four possible cross-country races are offered, three (Los Angeles to New York, Seattle to Miami, and San Francisco to Washington) being of the straightforward coast-to-coast in the quickest possible route style, and the fourth is a complete US Tour, where you need to drive through every city on the map. Once you have made your choice it's into the race . . .

Racing from coast to coast ain't so simple though. Not only do you need to plan your route, but you need to be aware of your surroundings and limitations. Police speed traps, changing weather and road conditions, and of course the ever present pressure of a time limit make things that bit more interesting. Should there be a police vehicle in the vicinity then the handy radar at the bottom of the screen will bleep madly, informing you of the approaching danger. Depending upon your urgency you can either choose to pass by the police slowly and politely or attempt to leave them standing by speedy and skilful driving. Getting stopped will cost you precious time, so any decisions have to be made wisely.

Current road and weather conditions are indicated on the map screen for advanced warning, and driving skills and speed need to be adjusted accordingly. Snow, rain and fog are there to hinder, and road conditions vary frequently (if things weren't tough enough as it is)!

Continual checks need to be made on your fuel, for if you should run out you'll end up pushing! Fuel, or gas as the Americanism goes, can be topped up from pumps at 100-mile intervals along the route though, and advance warning of any approaching pumps is given so that you can slow down and pull up in time.

The route you wish to take is planned through use of a map screen and any racing is done in the 3D Pole Position approach that has become such a standard for race games today. A flashing cursor indicates your current position on the map of America and you can move this cursor to adjoining locations in order to select a destination. Other cars and motorbikes also race along the road and you get brought to a rather abrupt standstill on hitting someone. The scenery to the sides of the road changes accordingly, depending on which area you are racing through. On nearing a city you are told that you are approaching it in the form of a flashing message on screen. The city in question even appears in the background to reassure you of this fact!

One of the original features of American Road Race is the use of gears. The fire button acts as the accelerator/clutch and gears are increased or decreased by pushing forwards or back on the joystick, respectively. Gear changes are not quite so easy though, as you must first build up enough revs to change gear. If you over-rev the engine you'll blow it and end up pushing your car to the next gas station. Changing up too early means too high a gear for your speed and will result in poor acceleration.

It's possible for the race to end in one of two ways -- either through disqualification (failure to finish within the allotted time limit), or through actually crossing the line in time. If you complete the race in a quick enough time then you can enter your name in the 'hall of fame' which can then be saved out for appreciation at a later date.


I had doubts that this sort of game theme could continually be released and maintain its popularity any longer. A few healthy games soon quashed my cynicism and by the end of the day I found myself enjoying this racing game as much as any other (with the exception of
Pitstop II, but then that is the apex of race games to date). The graphics are of a good standard and although the sound is lacking in variation and quantity, it is still effective. The new gameplay element (such as the speed traps, weather etc) and new controls (ie the gears) give the program necessary original appeal. American Road Race may not prove popular with some and may be discarded by others as just another race game, but I think it's something race fans should at least take a look at.
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Presentation 86%

Multilingual wallpaper instructions and stylish approach.

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My first impressions of this game was that it was a rather bad version of
Enduro, but after further playing I found this was in fact quite a good little roadrace. Things like gearchanging, fuel and radar traps are all part and parcel of the game and there's plenty of challenge to keep you coming back 'just for another go'. I really liked it, and finishing the race in first place will be a goal anyone would seek for quite a long while.
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Graphics 79%
Good 3D graphics and perspective on both cars and road.

Sound 48%
Little more than some brrrms, chugs, pinks and a couple of bits of music.

Hookability 78%
Addictive as any other of the genre.

Lastability 80%
But has that little bit more than your average race game.

Value For Money 70%
Would have been a bit more tempting if it was a slightly cheaper.

Overall 77%
A good variation on a popular theme.
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Htmlized by Dimitris Kiminas (12 Jan 2003)

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