Sierra claims that Viper Racing is "the world's first true sports car simulation." Some may dispute this statement, but this game certainly has enough detail and playability to keep the ardent racing enthusiast happy.
Compared to other racing games, the first difference noticed about Viper Racing is that every car in the races is the prestigious Dodge Viper. After some fairly impressive introduction sequences, you have a choice to make. Do you want to customize your vehicle or pitch straight into some high-speed action?
If you choose the former, you'll have masses of technical detail at your disposal with which to personalize and improve your car; you can upgrade the brakes, gears, suspension, and color schemes. But, like most people, you'll probably want to head straight into the action with the quick race option.
Even by the high standards set by similar racing games like Gran Turismo and Need For Speed III, this game has stunning graphics. Your PC will need a good 3dfx card and a DirectX-compatible soundcard to get the very best from the game. Even without these, though, the action through the six featured courses will appeal.
The gameplay is simple to pick up and soon becomes addictive. There is a strong sense of realism to the game, which means that skill is required to stop yourself from spinning out on the more demanding tracks. Every small bump or shunt will affect the performance of the car, although seeing yourself skid (especially with the overhead 'plane view option) is visually spectacular.
The long-term appeal of the game is its only (small) flaw. Though Viper Racing has a "Season" option in which you can play through a racing career, the provision of only one basic vehicle type and six tracks may leave some players itching to try another racing sim in a couple of month's time. But try it yourself first -- as you look up the vast expanse of track, with smoke rising realistically from your bonnet, you can't help but love this game.
Graphics: Excellent, especially on a 3D FX card enhanced PC.
Sound: Plenty of wining of gears and tyre screeching.
Enjoyment: Great fun and a challenge of skill.
Replay Value: Addictive for the first few weeks.
Viper Racing is a mediocre game with would only entertain a niche market of gamers who own or admire the Dodge Viper. And it may not even do that. While I have never actually driven a Dodge Viper in real life, I am confident that it would not lose traction and peel out while turning at 17mph. So it is very possible with that glaring insult to the handing those who own and appreciate the Viper will be offended by this bland attempt at a simulation racing game.
The most annoying and constantly nerve-wracking element of Viper Racing is the total lack of handling and control on your vehicle. Using all the default settings the car basically skids with any slight turning of the wheels once you reach the blazingly fast speed of 17mph. Apparently the AI cars do not suffer from this same control issue, they seem to glide along the tracks on rails, literally. Very rarely will a computer-controlled vehicle acknowledge your presence on the track. This leaves you the driver in an annoying predicament. Either respect the AI cars and never challenge position in close range, or just chance it all on surviving the ensuing wreak and hope to come out pointed in the right direction.
I found that the former of these strategies was the preferred, as the tracks are often much larger than they should be. The turns of many of the circuit style tracks are wide enough to go 6 or 7 cars wide, when in reality most real race tracks fit three. And this disproportion is mirrored throughout the whole game. Buildings, trees and fences are all mismatched in size and length. This leads to distortion of game physics and it severely screws with the feeling of speed.
Graphically Viper Racing gets about half a thumb up. It does support 3dfx, but I am sure most of the game could be rendered with DirectX. There are no flares, no light sources and very little shading. A few mildly reflective surfaces here and there, but nothing impressive or remotely unique. Oh and on top of all that the frame rate was low. Need for Speed 3 ran smoother with more eye candy and effects. The tracks them selves look like they were inspired by Monster Truck Madness 1. There are about eight tracks total, and I doubt you can unlock any more. They are open range (you can drive pretty much anywhere) and sparsely dotted with signs, bushes and the occasional fence. Be careful not to try and cut corners by driving over these objects, they have some serious presence. A two-foot tall hedge will stop your Viper cold if you happen to drive into it.
The cars themselves are fairly puny and forgettable. In no way does it convey the kind of strong lines and unique shape that a Dodge Viper's are known for. However Viper Racing does allow you to fully customize the paintjob on the body of your car, which is probably the best feature about the entire game. (Notice in the screenshots our official "GO Mobile.") There are a few semi-hidden cars with can be accessed through the options menu, under the Hack tab. They range from the sports sedan to the.. Bright red plane. (yes.. what the fuck?) It's a plane, it flies, but you cant really control it. Further proof the developers got bored trying, futilely, to make the game not suck and coded a flying race plane.
As far as the audio goes, be prepared to listen to the sound of squealing tires, constantly. All the skidding while trying to turn translates into lots of high-pitched reminders of why this game sucks. There is no music, there is no play by play (which, sorry to disagree with ya umax, can be done right and can add to a game). The sound of two cars smashing into each-other is a bit too passive, lacking any crunch or "oomph." And that basically goes for the rest of the game: the sounds are there, sorta, but they really don't stand out or enhance the game.
Multiplay is the second best part about this game, it is easy to setup and has surprisingly low latency. This really adds to the "fun factor" overall. Having a ghost car and various other options make the multiplayer portion of this game its saving grace, well almost. This is not the first time this type of thing has come up. Many game elements can take a back seat if the multiplay is good enough, Subspace for example. Even with smooth multiplayer Viper Racing comes up short in many areas. It just does not compete with the caliber of racing games that have recently been released. It might have been competitive had it been released two years ago, when the stand for which racing games are judged was lower. But the fact is that with less than two months until 1999 this game is below par in the Graphics, Sound and Gameplay categories. Therefore, I can't recommend Viper Racing to any gamer. And for those who also own Dodge Viper, I suggest you pass as well. Experiencing the "interpretation" of the Vipers handling and physics might force you to sue Sierra for slander.
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