With the new rules and weaponry introduced in Freeway Fighter, it’s clear that an effort had been made to differentiate the experience from non-vehicular titles, but for the most part, I don’t think Freeway Fighter really pulls it off. Generally it’s the same model we see in every book, Firepower is Skill, turn left or right at this junction… etc. On a few occasions, the excitement does ramp up a little though, the best bit of the book by far was the Blitz Race, this section actually felt fast and dangerous, I would have loved to have seen more of these quick decision based sections than the gun-play of Firepower and Armour stats. It would also been good to have seen more of Pete the mechanic, it felt good to get my Interceptor upgraded – RPG players love their loot! Extra weapons and turbo thrusters would have been an entertaining way to develop my ‘character’ along the journey, perhaps even obtaining different cars. We will have to wait for Robot Commando to bring us that level of sophistication!
Sadly, my enjoyment of the book was mainly impeded by the setting, a barren wasteland is in the end, a barren wasteland. Most encounters felt like they revolved around seeing what’s in this next overturned vehicle, the unfortunately rather short raid on the Doom Dog camp at the end was a welcome turn. Save for those already mentioned and perhaps the dualist, there were few particularly memorable encounters. Similarly, the theme of the book influenced the progression gating, most Fighting Fantasy books put obstacles in front of you that you cannot pass unless you have acquired a specific item, often in a creative situation that makes you feel powerful or is just plain fun. In Freeway Fighter you refuel you car, which is a little dull when you’ve done it a few times.
As far as the landscape and the feel of the world we’re in goes, it really didn’t help that the illustrations were not particularly interesting. This flat looking style really didn’t do it for me, with these buildings coming close to level of dullness we experienced in Space Assassin. As mentioned in the intro, an Iain McCaig illustrated Freeway Fighter might have helped bring the book to life a little more.
The best illustration actually looks like it belongs in a completely different book altogether! I didn’t actually encounter this guy in my read-through, but this is Rat Man, a rat orientated fellow I would have encountered in the motel at the end of the book had I not slept in the cab of my tanker. I’m guessing this is where I could have sustained the rat-bite the text referred to, a very cruel twist at the end Mr. Livingstone!
All in all, Freeway Fighter is by no means a bad title, it just feels like a book that could have been taken further if it had a little more content and a little less driving south through rolling tumble-weed desert.