One or two players control chickens who can be made to run across a ten lane highway filled with traffic in an effort to "get to the other side". Every time a chicken gets across a point is earned for that player. If hit by a car, a chicken is forced back either slightly, or pushed back to the bottom of the screen, depending on what difficulty the switch is set to. The winner of a two player game is the player who has scored the most points in the two minutes, sixteen seconds allotted. The chickens are only allowed to move up or down. A cluck sound is heard when a chicken is struck by a car.
The original prototype version for Freeway was titled Bloody Human Freeway. A few major differences to the finished product were: at start up, cars were already on the freeway instead of all being lined up on the right side; the score and Activision logo were yellow instead of pink; instead of controlling a chicken, the player controlled a man and instead of being forced down a bit when hit by a car, the character would turn into a streak of blood; pressing the fire button reset the game. There were some minor differences in the sounds used.
If a player scored 20 or more points on either Road 3 or Road 7 and sent in a photograph of the television screen, Activision would send the player a cloth "Save The Chicken Foundation" patch featuring the Activision logo and the stylized "running chicken" image from the game package.