This is a review of Autoduel from the May 1986 issue of Computer Gaming World:-
I’ve finished up Autoduel. In the end, I didn’t have to put that much time into it. The mission in Washington sent me on a chase around the cities. Rather than just give me the mission, I had to go to two other bars at opposite ends of the map and get the mission a bit at a time. Each bar gives me a third of a password phrase, which turns out to be great white whale and I need this when I pick up the package. Driving between all these places would have taken forever. I just caught buses between all the cities, then bought a new car.
The mission was to carry a new heart between two cities for the presidents transplant operation. There’s no diffiference between this mission really and any other courier job except there seemed to be a lot more cars on the roads. When I get there, they just say “Thanks for the package” and thats it. I completed another mission in the same way. The third mission sent me to a particular bar but when I got there nothing happened. I figured my prestige wasn’t high enough so I went to gamble it up all the way to 99. That mission had vanished by now and I got sent to the FBI in New York instead.
This turns out to be the games final mission. I have to carry evidence of illegal braintaping from Watertown back to New York to put away Mr. Big. There’s not much new in this mission. There are loads of cars on the roads to get past, but I lose most of them by driving straight on, so I don’t have any major trouble. When I deliver the package and there is a brief ending shown in the screenshots.
This was quite a good game. I would have enjoyed it much more back at the time but the gameplay really isn’t bad at all. This is the most open ended game I’ve played so far, and you really can play it any way you want. It would be possible to go straight to Atlantic City at the start of the game, gamble your prestige up to 99 and then just drive the one final mission and win the game. I’m sure the missions for the game will have been added on right at the end as a way to win the game, the game is really about building your cars. Playing it now, the truth is the limits of the Apple II stop it from being a classic. There is an Amiga version which is probably the one I should have gone for.
I’ve had a quick look through the list of games, I’ve got to play through to complete them all. There’s a few more than I expected – 60 in all counting expansion packs as a separate game. So far I’ve managed 9. I’d expect to slow down as some of the games get bigger, there is the likes of Ultima 5 and Privateer to go yet. At best, I might finish them all in a year. I’m still enjoying myself anyway, but I’m looking forward to getting to the PC era with some VGA graphics and MT-32 sound. Theres quite a few games before I get there.
Next: Ultima 4
I’m 1-2 hours into Autoduel now. It’s perhaps not as good as I was hoping. The technology used is very limiting to what you can do with this sort of game. The graphics while driving around are quite basic presumably due to having to scroll and there isn’t much variety to the missions or combat. On the bright side the game world is large, and the gameplay itself is reasonably entertaining.
You get to create a driver at the start, there are three skills you can choose to put your points into, driving, mechanic & marksmanship. Driving skill means, the car is more likely to go where you steer it, marksmanship increases your chance of shooting your opponent, and mechanic skill improves how much you can salvage from other cars. You can buy mechanic skill from garages so I sank all my points into the other two.
There is also a fourth stat, prestige. This can be built up by completing missions, winning fights, or easiest of all winning in the casino with a $200,000 bet.
You start off in New York. There are a wide range of places to go and the obvious thing to do here would be to purchase a car but I’ve had the bright idea of building up some cash quickly by going to the casino in atlantic city first. I catch a couple of buses there from the truck stop.
All the towns have their own map, some having much more facilities than others. Poker at the casino turns out to be a goldmine – the cards you will draw each time are decided before they are drawn. This means with the use of savestates, I break the bank in no time. Even without this exploit, poker would be an easy way to get cash as you get a pair most of the time. The IRS take 1/3 of it back in tax when I walk out the door but I’m still very wealthy so I head back to New York to buy a car.
The choice for building cars is enormous, and even with maximum money there isn’t an ultimate car you can build – its all about preference and compromises. You can place a variety of weapons pointing in 8 directions, add armor to any part of the car, choose suspension types, tyre types & power plants among other things. The car you need will depend on the combat strategy you adopt. You can own 8 cars so its possible to have different ones for different missions.
The combat is quite tricky, you can only fire one weapon at a time and you cycle through them with alt-fire. My best technique in my pickup seems to be to block the other car in and keep shooting till it dies. I’m sure with a bit of practice and I could come up with a better method but this is working nicely for now. Now I have a car, I can also drive between all the towns or take part in arena battles.
Arena battles are really just a road section with a lot of enemies. You have to kill them all, to win. There are various different divisions you can take part in with different classes of car and driver. As for the highways, each city has several exits, each of which will take you to 1 other specific city. There are branches on the roads, which can lead you on ridiculously long routes if you go the wrong way, but there is always just one town at each end of the map. There aren’t too many cars on the roads at all, you typically only run into a couple between any two cities.
One curiousity is that if you go to Manchester, Origin Systems are one of the buildings. If you go in you get a text screen advertising a few of their earlier games.
There has been no plot in the game so far, but I gather that you have to get your prestige up before the plot missions are available. I’ve got it fairly high with a bit of gambliing and have just heard a rumour that they are looking for me at the Washington truck stop. Thats as far as I got so my next step will be to drive down to Washington.
My stats are pretty decent even this early on. If I put a bit of effort in, I’d expect to be close to finishing this tonight.
I’ve not actually played this yet. I only had time to have a quick read through the manual last night so there isn’t too much I can say about it. The game is a futuristic arcade/RPG, set in 2030, in which the highways have become lawless. You have to drive around battling other cars and trying to earn some money. It was created by Lord British and Chuckles, based on a Steve Jackson board game, and is the only non-ultima game I can think of that was credited to LB before the end of Origin.
The manual for the game is quite lengthy, but has very little on plot and much more about gameplay. There are no long terms goals set and the game looks completely open ended. It takes place in the north east of the USA and you can drive between all the various cities. Each city has a variety of shops where you can buy armor, upgrade/buy cars, take part in arena battles for cash, get courier missions etc… The gameplay looks like its quite complex with a myriad of options for building your cars, and a variety of different missions to complete.
All in all, this looks like a promising game. It immediately puts me in mind of Privateer with cars instead of spaceships. I’m going to play the apple 2 release. The PC version doesn’t look any better and having savestates is just far too useful for getting me through these early games quickly.