You take part in a race from the west coast all over the USA to the east coast. Four different challenges await you. Before starting your engine take attention of road and weather conditions to pick the best way. Although graphics aren't any special there is some entertainment in this game.

Commodore 64

© 1985 Activision  


Disk / Tape

1 Player

Joystick in Port 1

Original Atari 800 Concept
by Kevin Kalkut and Alex DeMeo

Released in July? 1985

Re-released on Tape by Silverbird
in June? 1988


home-made Manual

Great American Cross-Country Road Race


 General Description   [ 1.0 ]
 How To Play           [ 2.0 ]
 Scoring               [ 3.0 ]
 Hints                 [ 4.0 ]
 Game History          [ 5.0 ]
 Troubleshooting       [ 6.0 ]

[ 1.0 ] General Description

From sea to shining sea, the race is on! Rally across the nation in
high gear in any of four cross-country challenges.

Mind you, it'll take a lot more than just good driving. You'll need to
select the race, map out the best route, check road and weather
conditions, look out for speed traps, watch your gas level, go easy on
the clutch, and, above all, beat the clock.

Because when that clock stops, so do you.

[ 2.0 ] How to Play


How to Start

 - Press F1 to get to the map screen.
 - Press F3 to select a race.
 - Press F5 to adjust the time of day you want to begin the race.
 - Press Y or N to select a field to race against. Note: The
   ability to load and save fields from disk has been disabled,
   therefore all fields are identical.
 - Press Y or N to select your route.
 - Press the fire button from the map screen to begin game.

The Task Before You

The first screen you'll work with is the "Field/Route Select Screen".
You will be asked to select a field of racers to compete against. A
"field" refers to a line-up of ten drivers whose already-established
times you will attempt to beat. There are eight fields to choose from
plus a field of computer scores marked "0" (zero) which appears when
the game is first loaded.

You will then be asked to select one of four possible cross-country
routes (races):

 Los Angeles to New York
 Seattle to Miami
 San Francisco to Washington
 U.S. Tour

Each race is from the West Coast to the East. The U.S. Tour also
begins on the West Coast, but requires you to drive through every city
on the map.

After selecting a race, the "Map Screen" appears. Here you will set
your time of departure, select your next destination city and check
road and weather conditions.

Once the race begins, watch out for police speed traps, poor road
conditions, night driving, bad weather, collisions and gas levels.
Also, don't forget to shift gears, or you'll blow your engine (See On
the Road, below)

When you arrive at a destination, a "WELCOME" message is displayed,
followed by the Map Screen. Then, it's time to select the next stop on
your cross-country route. Previous stops will become red on the Map
Screen. Continue in this manner until you reach your final destination,
at which time you will receive your final results and field ranking.

Getting Underway

The Field/Route Select Screen

Selecting a Field: The first message you will see asks if you wish to
"LOAD OPPOSING FIELD FROM DISK? Y OR N" If you wish to compete against
a field other than the one displayed, press Y. Then press a numbered
key from 1-8 to select desired field. If you wish to compete against
the field already displayed, press N.  Note: The ability to load and
save fields from disk has been disabled, therefore all fields are

Selecting a Route: The next note asks, "DO YOU WANT TO RACE THIS
ROUTE? Y OR N" referring to the race displayed near the top of the
screen. Remember, there are four routes to choose from. Press Y if you
wish to choose the route displayed. If you wish to take another route,
press N until the route you want is shown, then press Y. You will
automatically move to the Map Screen after selecting a route.

The Map Screen

Time of Departure. You must set the clock in the lower corner of the
screen for the time you wish the race to start. Plan carefully! Try to
project your arrival times to avoid rush hours and night driving in
hazardous areas. Press F5 to set the clock.

Destination. The flashing circle highlights your current location. The
arrow points to a possible next stop along your route. Use the
joystick to move the arrow to other destination cities. Check road
conditions as you do so (See Road Conditions below). Only cities
connected to your current location by a major highway are eligible

Road Conditions. A bulletin moves across the top of the map describing
the road conditions on the route you are considering. Poor conditions
can slow you down.

Weather Conditions. Check the weather symbols on the map. Snowflakes
indicate snow, rainclouds indicate rain.

Press the joystick button when the arrow is pointed at the destination
of your choice, and you will see the view from your idling race car,
ready to start the race.

The Race Is On!

Now that you've chosen the above settings, you may begin the race. The
clock is ticking, but first-timers might want to check the instrument
panel before taking off.

The fuel gauge shows your gas level. You begin with a full tank.

The timer at the center displays the amount of time you have to
complete that leg of the race. If time runs out before you reach your
destination, you'll be disqualified. Reach your destination with time
to spare, and that spare time will automatically be added to the time
allowed to complete the next leg of the race.

The mileage indicator below the timer displays the distance to your
current destination. This counts down as you approach your destination.

The radar detector will flash when a police speed trap lies ahead.

The RPM gauge tells you how hard your engine is working. Watch this
carefully or you may blow your engine.

The MPH 'clock' (speedometer) tells you how fast you're going.

You will see "ET" which shows your total elapsed race time so far.

To begin racing, press the joystick button.

On the Road

Controls: To accelerate, press the joystick button. Pull back on the
joystick to brake. Move joystick left or right to steer.

Shifting gears: Your car has four gears; it always starts out in first
gear. The faster you drive, the faster your engine turns - the speed
of these turns is shown on the RPM (revolutions per minute) gauge. As
the RPM rises, you'll hear the engine's whine get higher, and it will
be necessary to shift gears. Be careful! When that whine gets really
high-pitched and the tachometer tops 9500 RPMs, it is time to shift to
a higher gear. Otherwise, you may blow the engine, and you'll have to
push the car to the next gas station.

You can also shift too soon. If you are not driving fast enough to
warrant being in a higher gear, acceleration will be sluggish and slow.
Downshift to match gear to speed.

Push your car (when you've run out of gas or blown your engine) by
pressing the joystick button repeatedly.

To shift gears:

 - Release the joystick button. This pushes in the clutch.
 - Tap the joystick forward to shift into a higher gear;
   tap it back to downshift to a lower gear.
 - Press the joystick button to accelerate again.

Gas is available every 100 miles. Upcoming pumps are announced
onscreen. To refuel, pull up and stop next to the pump. You'll hear
the gas pumping as your gauge moves to the right. Note: A gas pump
will appear sooner than the 100 mile interval whenever a blown engine
or empty gas tank forces you to push your car.

Radar: The radar detector flashes to warn of an approaching speed trap.
You'll soon see a police car. Pass politely, unless you think you can
leave him in the dust. Can you?

Collisions throw you into a skid and put you back into first gear.
When the skid ends, accelerate, start shifting, and get back into the

Reaching a Destination

"WELCOME!" will flash over the skyline as you enter each city en route
to your ultimate goal. Then, the Map Screen will appear.

It will display your current ET (elapsed time) and average miles per

The flashing circle shows your current location. Your previous stops
will show on the map as red dots. The flashing arrow points to a city
suggested as your next destination. You can change this destination by
moving the arrow with the joystick. Your current ranking among your
chosen field of drivers will be shown above the map.

Resuming the Race: Once you've set your next destination on the map,
press the joystick button to begin that leg of the race.

The End of the Race

The race can end in one of three ways:

1. Disqualification. This occurs as soon as you run out of time at any
point in the race.

2. Finish, but not in top ten. You may finish the race but not rank
high enough to be placed with the top ten contenders in your field. In
that case, you will still be congratulated on screen, and your rank
will be displayed above the top ten. You can see how close (or far)
you were from a place on the board.

3. Finish in the top ten. You've earned a place in the rankings
determined by the computer. Look for the flashing square and type your
name and the date in the space provided. To save your outstanding
performance, select Save Game from the File menu.

Miscellaneous Control Keys

To begin a new race at any time, press F3 for the Field/Route Select
Screen or F1 for the Map Screen.

When on the Map Screen, press F5 to set your time of departure.

To freeze the action, simultaneously press the joystick button and the
Space Bar.

When left unattended, the screen will eventually black out. To resume
the action, press the joystick button.

Whenever you return to the Field/Route Select Screen during a race,
that race will be discarded.


 Function Key     Description
     F1           Restart at Map Screen
     F3           Restart at Field/Route Select Screen.
     F5           Set Departure Time on Map Screen.
 Joystick button  Pause. Press the joystick button to resume.
   & Space Bar


Steer the car by moving left and right. Accelerate by holding down the
joystick button. To shift gears, release button and push joystick
forwards or backwards to shift up or down, respectively. To brake,
pull back on the joystick.

[ 3.0 ] Scoring

Scoring is based on how quickly you are able to complete the race.
Compete with other players and see who can finish with the fastest

[ 4.0 ] Hints

If you hit a patch of snow on the road, always steer towards the
center of the road.

Alex DeMeo, Designer and Programmer:

"I remember this one great trick I used to do. I programmed the game
so that if you ran out of gas, it would feed you gas stations about
every ten miles. The trick is to get up to really high speed, run out
of gas, and glide. If you were good at it, and didn't hit anything,
you could glide all the way to the next gas station, so, effectively,
you'd never have to stop to refuel! Of course, if you missed the gas
station, there was no reverse, so you'd have to push the car a full
ten miles to the next one!"

[ 5.0 ] Game History

Alex DeMeo, Designer and Programmer

"I felt that in most of the driving games that were around back then,
you were basically driving in circles. So I thought, 'What if we did a
road race like the movie "Gumball Rally"?' In fact, if I remember
correctly, the working title for the game was 'Gumball'. That was what
we called it while it was in development. It was sort of a 'Cannonball
Run' type thing."

Fans of the Atari 2600 will certainly notice a similarity between The
Great American Cross-Country Road Race and a game called Enduro for
the Atari. (Look for it on the Activision Atari 2600 Action Pack,
Volume II.) Alex explains the similarity: "The Enduro game was a very
popular 2600 game. Enduro was based on passing a certain number of
cars in a certain time. The code and drivers [parts of the program for
the game] from Enduro that displayed the road and fed cars to pass
were used as the engine for Great American Road Race.  But when you
moved to more powerful systems like the Atari 400 or 800, or the
Commodore 64, more was expected of the game, so the whole design,
graphics, sound, and so on, were all redone for the new platforms. We
added elements too, like the dashboard and the police. The program
itself was rewritten from Enduro, due to the extreme differences
between the platforms. The Atari was a very simple machine - you
needed to do ALL the graphics yourself, 'by hand', almost, in the game.
The Commodore was more powerful and had better graphics capabilities,
like sprites." (A sprite is [from the Commodore User's Guide, p. 68]
"a high-resolution programmable object that can be made into just
about any shape". Sprites eased the programmer's job of redrawing the
screen as the game proceeded.)

"The Great American Road Race was originally programmed and designed
on an Atari 800. I did the sound, the music, the programming, the
design, and some of the pixelated graphics work. The C64 graphics were
done outside, though."

"For a while, Road Race had the distinguished honor of having the
longest title of any game, up until 'The Complete Computer Fireworks
Celebration Kit', another Activision title."

"When I was researching the distances between cities, to make sure I
scaled it right, I just used a regular old road atlas, and tried to
choose the cities so that no segments were too short or long. Of
course, due to the geography, some things were unavoidable, like the
drive from Boston to New York, which is really too short for this
game." Obviously, one can't drive from Boston to New York inside four
minutes, even at 100-200 mph (the game's speeds). "The measurements
were all an even multiple of the real thing - I think it was 128 times
faster than real time. So if you took 10 minutes to drive a segment,
theoretically if you drove that same drive in real life at the same
speed you did in the game, it would take exactly 1,280 minutes."

"It's really easy to miss a gas station, and I had this list of things
I wanted to fix or improve in the game, but we just had to ship it.
One of the things on that list was reverse gear, but the game had to
go out."

"We wanted a really interesting title screen, where the car would
speed by and blow up a lot of dust in its wake. At the time, Peter
Kaminski and Russ Lieblich were working on a game for the C64 called
'Master of the Lamps'. There's this one scene in Master of the Lamps
where the screen fills with smoke. I lifted the algorithm from Peter,
and made minor modifications so it would look like dust. It's not
smoke, though - if it was smoke, that would mean the car was a dog. So
if you look closely, there's actually a graphic under the back wheel
where the rocks are flying up from the road."

Alex is currently working for a computer game company called Absolute
Entertainment which he co-founded with other Activision alumni John
H.E.R.O. VanRyzin, and brothers Dan and Garry Kitchen. Also working at
Absolute is David Pitfall Crane.

[ 6.0 ] Troubleshooting

How to Start

 - Press F1 to get to the map screen.
 - Press F3 to select a race.
 - Press F5 to adjust the time of day you want to leave.
 - Press Y or N to select a field to race against.
 - Press Y or N to select your route.
 - Press the fire button from the map screen to begin game.


Los Angeles to New York
1. 021:10 Carsten Witzke 132 mph PAL
2. 021:43 Crashspeed O.J. 128 mph PAL
3. 022:13 Super Power L.J. 125 mph PAL
4. 022:37 Ark of Eagle Soft Inc. 123 mph NTSC
5. 022:38 Road Runner 123 mph
6. 022:55 Carsten Boss 122 mph PAL
7. 025:09 The Tai-Pan 111 mph
8. 025:14 Tim Wagner 110 mph PAL
9. 025:47 Road Roller Mike 108 mph NTSC
10. 026:21 Rough Kirchseeon 106 mph NTSC CCS64
11. 026:31 Jim Herrick 105 mph
12. 027:20 Section 8 102 mph PAL
13. 027:35 Tina Turbo HLG 101 mph PAL

Seattle to Miami
1. 026:47 Crashspeed O.J. 130 mph PAL
2. 027:28 Super Power L.J. 130 mph PAL
3. 030:06 Road Runner 119 mph
4. 030:20 The Tai-Pan 126 mph
5. 030:53 Pedaling Patrick 123 mph

San Francisco to Washington
1. 023:27 Super Power L.J. 131 mph PAL
2. 023:41 Crashspeed L.J. 129 mph PAL
3. 025:48 Road Runner 128 mph
4. 029:39 Carsten Witzke 111 mph PAL

U.S. Tour
1. 113:06 Steinmadspeed D 12552 miles PAL