Most driving games are all about driving, which makes sense. But Atari Games’ RoadBlasters (not to be confused with Data East’s animated FMV game of the same name) decided to try something a little different, and added the ability to shoot. This was a fairly unique idea in 1987, and perhaps paved the way for other car combat games, like Twisted Metal, Vigilante 8, and Wipeout.
There are 50 levels in RoadBlasters, and the difficulty ramps up rather quickly. At least you have the ability to credit-feed through most of the game, which may take your entire life savings, but you only get one shot at the final level, and if you lose, it’s an instant game over. At that point, you have the option to dip into your kids’ college tuition and try again. Thankfully, you are occasionally given the opportunity to warp to higher courses, and you’re awarded big bonus points for doing so.
The driving in RoadBlasters is fairly straightforward, but it’s fun and handles well. It’s not as varied or interesting as a game like Outrun, but then Outrun doesn’t let you blow up the other cars that get in your way. Your car is equipped with a standard machine gun, but at least once in each course, a jet will fly overhead and drop a new item onto your car. Items include a new machine gun, cruise missiles, a speed booster, and even an invincibility shield.
There are a variety of enemies in the game, from standard orange cars, to bulletproof purple cars, motorcycles, buggies, turrets on the side of the road, and occasional land mines. Each one requires a different strategy to deal with.
There’s no timer in the game per se, but your fuel gauge continually depletes whether you’re moving or not. You can get extra fuel by collecting green and red orbs on the road, and by crossing the checkpoint in each course.
The game has a cool futuristic style to it, with some pretty good music. It’s simple, but it really captures that atmosphere of “the future as envisioned in the 1980s.” It puts you in the mood to go back and watch classic sci-fi movies like The Terminator or Mad Max.
RoadBlasters was ported to the NES, Sega Genesis, and Atari Lynx, as well as numerous home computer systems. The arcade version is also emulated in the Midway Arcade Treasures collection on the PS2, GameCube and Xbox. Although you don’t get to play it with the cool steering yoke that’s on the original arcade cabinet, it will save you from spending your kids’ college tuition. Your kids will thank you for it, and it will lead to a better future (although, not as cool as the one in RoadBlasters).