Saturday, 17 May 2008

#13 - Freeway Fighter

13 books in, the team behind the Fighting Fantasy series were obviously not afraid of messing with the formula - by this point, the 'norm' was less common than variation, it would seem.

Freeway Fighter falls into the latter camp, being set not only on Earth (references are made in the introduction to society narrowly avoiding World War III and it being the year 2022) but in the near future (2022, I told you that already!). A virus has wiped out 85% of humanity, which has since divided into two camps - those who formed walled communities, and those who live on the outside as bounty hunters (NSFW).

It's the kind of world, the books says, where you'd kill someone for a can of beans. I came pretty close to this a few times in my flatting days, but it was a little more serious this time, I suppose.

As Wikipedia puts it, the Mad Max-isms are pretty blatant, you're heading from one civilised outpost to another in an attempt to exchange the excess grain your town has for 10,000 litres of petrol. Much like today. You're equipped with a car loaded up with awesome weapons like spikes and rockets, though the cover art is perhaps a little misleading - on the inside, on the very first paragraph, you're given a different image. It's basically drawn, but looks more like a De Lorean than a '50s Dodge.

I rolled some good personal stats and some bad car stats, so decided I'd try and fight my way through. Helping my decision were the higher bonuses given to stamina and the extremely forgiving, different fighting rules - I could tell this book would be a series of fights from the moment I read to roll two dice and add 24 to the result, instead of 12.

So I head off, ignoring anything along the way - at least that was my plan, just get right to the other town - but was distracted by a hot girl at a servo. Livingstone knows his target market, ha. Anyway, it was a trap, but the heavies were so lame I killed them no problems. Oddly enough, the garage had no fuel, which would prove decisive later on...

Which wasn't too much later on. After being told time and time again I enjoy the speed of the motorway clear of 85% of its traffic, and getting into random shootouts where it took hit after hit to kill anyone (guns in the future suck), I eventually ran out of fuel, ending my game. WTF?! Really? Apparently the Dodge/De Lorean gets pretty bad mileage, which leads me to ask why the hell wasn't I after 10,000 gallons instead of litres, if these gas-guzzling things were all that were left.

So, of all the least expected endings in any of the FF gamebooks, running out of fuel I doubted would be one. I was winning every fight easy, surely I could've hijacked something, someone? Arghgh. I was enjoying the atmosphere otherwise, though others report it gets a bit repetitive later on, as it's pretty much a blast through without too much variation. Still, running out of gas pissed me off as an ending.

My version is one of the later editions, late '80s I suspect, with the gold dragon thing at the top and the bold "X million copies sold" brag on the back, unlike the one pictured above.



Unknown said...

I sort-of enjoyed this one, although the 'do you have any extra fuel' thing got old, really quick. I think you need to scrounge 3-4 extra fuel cylinders to make it to the other colony. Since you're the last hope of your home town, you'd think they would take care to ensure that you had a full tank of petrol!

In any event, the highlight was a quasi drag-race against another driver with the prize being a (surprise, surprise) container of petrol. It was sort-of a mini-adventure all its own, with use of the spikes/oil, car combat, quick thinking and so on.

It was also one of the few adventures to have a possible ending that was a bittersweet victory as well as the total victory of entry 400.

FightingFantasyFan said...

Fun times. I did Freeway Fighter back in October 2014 and it still stands out.

The out-of-petrol thing was annoying, but in retrospect it's the same thing as having a door combination or the correct three keys. The difference is that running out of petrol at least ends the adventure there on the roadside, as opposed to waiting until the boss fight at the end.

Really annoying was that the rally race (the plot hinges on it) is pure luck: roll 2d6 again and again, see if the dice let you win. And it wasn't even 400 paragraphs, as if they were rushed to get it done.

But what I did like, was the three types of combat. Guns were brutal, rockets and road spikes are just awesome, and fists can stun instead of kill. That did shake it up a bit.

Anyway, it was nice to see that you revisited Freeway Fighter six years later. Fight on!

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