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Classic Games: The Great American Cross Country Road Race

Of all the games I owned for the Commodore 64, very few managed to addict me as much as Activision's Great American Cross-Country Road Race. While it doesn't sport top-notch graphics, the playability of the game more than made up for any flaws...and it's easy to be immersed into the game even if the cars don't quite look authentic.

The game boasts a number of interesting ideas, many of which are as fresh today as they were when the game was originally released. For starters, there are several races that you can choose to complete--from simple cross-country coast-to-coast racing (similar to the Cannonball Run for those of you who lived in the 80s) to a more difficult mode which requires you to visit every city on the map, while outracing your opponents and picking routes that won't make you lose precious time.

There are many hazards on the road that keep you on your toes, many I have not seen implemented in other games. The time of day, for example, helps determine how much traffic is on the road. During rush hour, the traffic becomes thick and clogged...while the non-peak hours will leave the roads nearly empty. One of these non-peak times is night, when the visibility drops allowing you to only see what is in the range of your headlights, and the taillights of approaching cars.

Other hazards include weather and construction. Navigating on slippery snow and ice or over patches of rain water can be difficult. Road construction can cut off access to one side of the road, reducing your ability to race quickly for a short period of time. Better keep one eye on your gas gauge as well; because running out of gas can put you in a tricky spot. Fear not, if you do run out of gas, you can always push your car to the nearest gas station (though it will eat into your time).

Even when you've got a clear road, you aren't without hazards. Going to fast can get you in trouble if a state patrolman happens to be clocking you when you pass. When you hear those sirens, you have two choices...either pull over and take your ticket or put the pedal to the metal and hope you can outrun him. If you do, you're home free, but don't count on it being easy. So why not go slow to start with? Because you are also racing against both time and the other speed is of the essence.

Finally, learning how to shift gears correctly helps a great deal, since it will keep you from blowing your engine. But, just like running out of gas, popping down to the next gas station can fix you right up if this happens to you.

One of the coolest parts of the game is that there are different "leaderboards" that can be loaded. As the race progresses and you rest in each city, you will be advised of your position and who is ahead of you. When you finish a race you qualify to be put on the board, you save your name and it will be used on the leaderboard for future races (which is why I use a different name each time like "Jedi John" or "Frankenwheels"). It's a great thrill to see that the person ahead of *you.* And it increases the difficulty in the game as you try to beat your past scores to win the race.

As mentioned before, the game doesn't have the best graphics, but they are decent, allowing a vast variety of terrain, from desert to grasslands. Far off cities are actually fair representations of what they might look like in real life (I swear the first time I saw Las Vegas it looked *exactly* the way it does in real life when you approach from a distance...but I could be insane).

There is very little music to speak of, and the sound effects are merely average. But none of this takes away from the experience. If only modern racing games had so many things going for them. How I wish someone would do a decent remake of this game.

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AceNThaHole Posted on Jan 02, 2013 at 09:08 PM

Does remind me of Outrun. That was one of my fav racing games.

Vaporman87 Posted on Dec 31, 2012 at 12:44 AM

Foul! Foul!


ProphetSword Posted on Dec 31, 2012 at 12:19 AM

I probably should point out before someone tries to call foul that this is an article/review I originally wrote back in 2002 for the Lemon Commodore 64 webpage (and you'll notice their address is included in the pictures).

I am the author, I didn't steal it. Just wanted to make sure that people are aware of that.

Benjanime Posted on Dec 30, 2012 at 08:39 PM

it's a breath of fresh air in seeing games mentioned that aren't talked about as often as many other usual ones out there. great article!

Vaporman87 Posted on Dec 30, 2012 at 04:18 PM

Never heard of this game before, but the options make it sound like it was ahead of it's time.

I had a similar feeling about Road Rash. A depth to the game that kept you coming back.

Nice read, ProphetSword. Thanks for that.

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