This simple but playable road racing game was written by Alex DeMeo for the Atari 8-bit family of home computers and was first published by Activision in 1985.
You play the driver of a high-performance car, racing from town-to-town across America, avoiding other traffic, police speed traps, and running out of fuel in the process. Controlling the car is simple enough: you press the fire button to accelerate and push up to change gears. You pull back to break. By listening to the sound of the engine (or by looking at the rev counter) you’ll know when to change gear. If you run the engine too high by not changing gear in time the engine will blow and it’ll be race over.
Bumping into other traffic will bring the car to a grinding halt, from which you have to accelerate to full speed again. If your fuel runs low you have to slow down and pull over to a gas station, if there’s one nearby. If your fuel runs out, you can at least ‘push’ the car to the next gas station – if the game’ll allow you to. Disqualification from the road race will come if you don’t fill your tank up quickly enough.
Occasionally you’ll get a radar warning, which means that there’s a police car up ahead, so you must slow down until you pass it. Once you’re past the officer’s car you can then speed up again.
The Great American Cross Country Road Race allows you to choose different routes to race and the basic aim is to reach the next town without being disqualified. Certain routes have hazardous weather conditions, and the sky also changes from day to night depending on how long your race is taking. Other cars tend to drive faster at night. There are also some roads that have construction barriers on them, which make driving down them tricky.
While The Great American Cross Country Road Race is a very simple racing game overall, it is fun to play, and completing a run is quite satisfying. It does take a little while to get into the rhythm of things, but once you’ve figured out how to keep your car going this game does offer a reasonably compelling challenge.