Originally released for the Apple II and Atari 8-bit platforms by ORIGIN Systems (and designed by none other than founders Richard Garriott and Chuck Bueche) in 1985, Autoduel is a post-apocalyptic vehicular combat game that effectively combines the action and RPG genres. Based on Steve Jackson's Car Wars boardgame/RPG and set in the same post-nuclear future, the game puts you in the shoes of a driver seeking to become a famed "autoduellist" by "driving offensively" through the cities and across the freeways of the northeastern United States in the year 2030. This future houses a cruel world where outlaws and cycle gangs rule the highways, and surviving it is going to require a lot of armor, a lot of firepower, and some serious driving skills.
To achieve your goal of becoming an autoduellist, you'll have to participate in arena matches, transport cargo between cities, and take the fight to the roadway thugs in order to increase your skills, build up your prestige, and earn much-needed cash to build custom vehicles equipped with thick armor and impressive weaponry that ranges from machine guns to minelayers to lasers. There are a total of sixteen different cities in the game (from Watertown, NY down to Washington, DC), and they all possess a variety of buildings for you to visit in order to handle specific (and necessary) tasks. The most important of these is probably the truck stop, where you'll be able to catch a bus to another city, listen to rumors, recharge a vehicle's battery, buy some body armor for your driver, or stay overnight in the event that other buildings have already closed for the day. Those other buildings include the arena (for honing your vehicular combat skills off the main highways), the assembly (for building new vehicles), the weapon shop (for buying weapons and ammo), the garage (for recharging/repairing/storing your cars and taking lessons to improve your Mechanic skill), the Gold Cross (for healing/cloning/saving your driver), the salvage yard (for selling off cars and weapons you no longer need, or parts you've obtained from road wreckage), the American Autoduelling Association (for picking up courier jobs), Joe's Bar (for even more rumors and peddling courier jobs you no longer want), the casino (double down in Atlantic City!), ORIGIN Systems (a good reason to visit Manchester, New Hampshire), and a couple of others involved in courier jobs (namely the FBI and the pet store).
As with many of ORIGIN's games, Autoduel presents players with an open world and a heavy dose of freedom so that they can progress through the game as they see fit. Other than the pursuit for more cash and the prospect of becoming easy roadkill, there is nothing stopping the player from ignoring the courier missions completely and simply chasing a dream of building a heavily armored van with wicked firepower or doing some sightseeing along the east coast in a fast-moving subcompact car. At least some emphasis needs to be placed on progressing your character's Driving, Marksmanship, and Mechanic skills, however, as they won't just help you earn more money, but they'll also keep you alive. The Driving skill is important if you want to keep your car under control on the road, and can be increased by simply cruising the game's highways or by winning arena events. The Marksmanship skill allows you to shoot more accurately and inflict more damage to enemy vehicles, and it's increased through besting other vehicles in combat. Finally, the Mechanic skill increases your chance of salvaging weapons or ammo from road wreckage, and it can only be increased by spending $500 on lessons at a garage or by successfully salvaging items on a freeway. And while your skills are certainly important, you must also worry about increasing your prestige level if you intend to "finish" the game by taking down the notorious Mr. Big. This can be done through achieving victory at the arena, defeating opponents on the roadways, and finishing courier missions, though you can also lose prestige if you fail a courier job or take a dishonest path when the option becomes available.
All elements considered, there's an awful lot to do in Autoduel, and thanks to the arcade-inspired controls, none of it is very easy to accomplish. The game automatically maintains your character data for you, too, so taking a lucky shot from a highway bandit when your armor is depleted means game over unless you've paid the steep $5000 price for a clone at a local Gold Cross. But, really, what else would you expect from a desolate future filled with road ragers?