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Review by: Bob Mandel
Published: January 6, 1999
One of the primary features of a computer game that potential buyers look for is the presence of a diverse set of instruments through which a goal can be attained, enhancing the replay value. For example, in first-person shooters we like a choice of a lot of different types of weapons, and in role-playing games we like a choice of a lot of different personalities to assume and spells to employ. Within the racing genre, in particular, consumers look for variation in vehicles as a primary way to gauge whether a game is worth purchasing. Even when you love to race (as I do), it can certainly get monotonous driving the same car over and over and over again.
So when Sierra Sports decided to release Viper Racing, developed by Monster Games Incorporated, they really violated generally accepted rules. This offering is absolutely unique among major racing games in that it has but one model — the Dodge Viper — as the choice to drive around the courses. You can get the Viper GTS (with its $250,000 price tag), but other than color there is no difference in the physical appearance of the cars in the game. In some ways, this is the ultimate test of your driving skill, to be able to beat other cars with virtually identical capabilities (there are different performance-related options in the game) simply on the basis of your superior technique; in so many other racing games, if you put yourself in the most powerful vehicle, you can win even if your driving is terrible.
Despite the absence of car model variety, the game offers plenty of other choices. You may activate a number of driving aids, including auto-shifting, auto-clutch, anti-lock braking, and traction and yaw controls. You may choose the length of your race, the number of cars in your race, and whether you run the race in forward or reverse mode. You may also decide whether damage is enabled. There are an astounding 12 different views from which to look at a race (the aerial “blimp” view is one of my favorites), and the replay system is the very best I have seen in letting you change the way you see one of your completed races on the fly. You may drive on one of 8 diverse tracks. You may race in Quick Race mode (which includes competing against up to 7 other cars, performing time trials, and going against a ghost car from a previous race); Career mode (where you compete against 4 different classes of Vipers and earn money to buy upgrades to rise through the ranks); and Multiplayer mode (where you race your friends via Internet, LAN, or modem).
Since the color of the car is the only thing you can modify to give it a sense of individual identity here, Viper Racing bends over backwards to give you customization capability. The game includes an easy-to-use, full-fledged Paint Kit to allow you to tinker with your car’s appearance to your heart’s delight. The utility actually has more functions than many stand-alone paint programs, and there are 20 pre-designed templates here to help you out (plus the all-important default button to return your car to its original state if you have made a mess). My only criticism here is that the options are not nearly as snazzy as the complex “skins” that Ubi Soft’s Speed Busters offers for its cars.
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