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There are four play modes available in the game: the "T.R.I.P." (an acronym for "Total Recreational Interactive Production"), which follows the game's protagonists in an episodic story; "Multi Melee", an on-line deathmatch version of the game; "Auto Melee", a deathmatch with computer-driven cars; and "Scenarios", short free-standing adventures featuring the game's protagonists. The primary difference between the scenarios and the T.R.I.P., length of play aside, is that the player has a much broader choice of vehicles in the scenario mode, while the player is limited to only one car during most of the T.R.I.P. mode. The game's vehicles are faithful reproductions of various cars and trucks from the era, both in appearance and driving characteristics, though the names have been changed.
The game is based on the engine used for Activision's MechWarrior 2: 31st Century Combat, and requires a fair amount of strategy through the course of the game, as the player must balance the vehicle's armor and weapon load-outs appropriately in order to successfully complete the various missions. In the game's story mode, the player must also manage and repair equipment salvaged from the wrecks of opponents.
The game is set in the Southwestern United States in an alternate history of the year 1976, during a prolonged oil crisis. All the in-game vehicles in Interstate '76 are based on real cars, including many period American muscle cars.
Whilst set in an alternative timeline, in which the 1973 oil crisis is still ongoing, the game progresses through real towns and locations in the south-western United States including Lubbock, Seagraves, Seminole and Pecos in Texas and Roswell and Carlsbad in New Mexico. The game's final showdown takes place at Fort Davis, Texas.
The game focuses on the daring exploits of Groove Champion, his partner Taurus, and their mechanic, Skeeter. A powerful but shadowy figure is recruiting autovillains (also known as "creepers") from around the country for a private army. Similarly, civilians take up vigilantism to make up for the openly corrupt police force, and begin driving weaponized vehicles of their own so as to maintain order. Groove's sister, Jade, and Taurus are investigating the movements of the army when, on the night of July 3, 1976, Jade Champion is murdered outside Lubbock, Texas. Taurus recruits a reluctant Groove to the cause, with Groove operating Jade's heavily armed Picard Piranha.
Taurus introduces Groove to Skeeter and discuss the feeling of killing people. Later, Taurus asks Groove for a drive around. However a gang of Creepers are planning to destroy a school. Groove defeats without the aid of Taurus due to "radio trouble".
The two return but Groove is enraged however Taurus calms him down. A day later. Taurus is monitoring the CB and two Creepers named Disco Cat and Playboy are meeting at a bar and have paid off the Police. Groove and Taurus intercept and kill the Creepers to discover that the Creepers have millions of US dollars along with a blue print, Groove and Taurus plan to investigate what the Creepers where intending to do with the cash, Groove sleeps and has a dream about racing a Creeper named "Patriot" occupied by "Gas Bandit" and "Road Knight" Groove races them and defeats them but kills them in self-defense due to the three attacking him. He awakens to hear that Taurus is under attack and rescues Taurus in time and requests Skeeter to be at a restaurant however Disco Cat hear this and sends an Apache helicopter to kill Skeeter however Groove with an injured Taurus escape with Skeeter. Skeeter relives him and Taurus heals, Groove goes to get gas for his Piranha and defends a gas station where he meets Inferno and they discover that many gas stations are under attack in Texas and its surrounding states.
Champion and Skeeter meet and Skeeter says the blue print discovered in Playboy's car is a thermonuclear weapon and Groove captures a Creeper and interrogate him to discover that the money was heading to a Mexican-Italian Vietnam Veteran named Antonio Malochio who is resided at Fort Davis in New Mexico and Groove heads there only to meet with Police who have been paid to arrest Groove. Groove defeats them and meets Skeeter along with Taurus there however Skeeter's van's engine has overheated and repairs it only to spotted by the Police after their second battle with the Police and arrive at Fort Davis, Groove rams his Piranha into one of the Fort's walls and is knocked out by the impact and is captured along with Taurus and Skeeter by Malochio and Groove asks the motive behind the nuclear weapon and Antonio responds by saying that he will use the weapon on the biggest oil reserves in North America and therefore receive funds so he can seize power in The United States of America.
Groove escapes and battles Antonio at an oil reserve and manages to defeat him. Antonio pleads for Groove for help but Groove responds "Never get out of the car" and fires at him with his pistol and presumably his allies stop the nuclear weapon from detonating. Where the game ends.
Interstate '76 spawned a prequel/stand-alone expansion pack, Nitro Pack (known as Interstate '76: Nitro Riders in some territories), and a direct sequel, Interstate '82, as well as the Vigilante 8 spin-off series for video game consoles. A graphically enhanced version of the original game, Interstate '76: Gold Edition, was also released. The Gold Edition was later bundled with the Nitro Pack expansion as The Interstate '76 Arsenal. On 18 February 2010 Good Old Games released a downloadable version of The Interstate '76 Arsenal which is playable on modern operating systems and hardware.
The film rights to the game were acquired in March 1998 by 20th Century Fox and Davis Entertainment. However, with no further reports since then, the project has likely been consigned to development hell.
- Dr_Moo (5 June 2004). "Interstate '76 Review". Game Revolution. Retrieved 8 May 2013.
- Dulin, Ron (1 April 1997). "Interstate '76 Review". GameSpot. Retrieved 8 May 2013.
- "Interstate '76", PC Gamer, p. 76, June 1997
- Pipa, Brian (17 June 1997). "Interstate 76 PC Review". The Adrenaline Vault. Retrieved 8 May 2013.
- Walk, Gary Eng (25 April 1997), "Interstate '76", Entertainment Weekly, retrieved 8 May 2013
- Mackey, Bob (18 February 2010). "Get Your Groove on with Interstate '76". 1UP.com. Retrieved 8 May 2013.
- Chetwynd, Josh (6 March 1998). "Fox, Davis win "76' film rights". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 8 May 2013.