"HornBall! BodyWork! A Red Biplane?"
Well, lookie here campers. If we don't just have another racin' tech-demo! Yessire! As uh matter 'o fact, in this one yuh can bust up yur fender and shatter all dem winduhs. Yup boss, we got ourselves uh com-plete damage mod-eling system rights about here! HICK!
How do most racing games make names for themselves? Good control? Kick ass graphics? Axle breaking chases with the long arm of the road-kill law? Illegal weapons? Pedestrian splattering? Well, one thing that you can be assured is that most do not promote themselves based on a hyper realistic 3D visual/physical damage modeling system. Viper Racing, on the other hand, does.
Viper Racing is the first racing simulation that exclusively models the Dodge Viper GTS-R (Racing Edition). Now, a lot of realistic racing games out there have you driving Indy Cars, Nascars, or Formula 1 cars. Viper Racing, in direct contrast, is the first simulation racing game that I can think of that has you driving in style. The Dodge Viper is one of those cars that are on the road to put the fear of god into the guy in the lane over on the expressway. It's a true blue racecar just barely fitted into the body of one of the world's most stylish sports cars.
Viper Racing is a good sim, a foxy 3D engine, an entertaining game, and, thanks to a miracle of a fine print contract blunder on the part of Dodge, a kick ass demonstration of what drunk driving can do to a perfectly fine fuselage. Yes, because Dodge never made it clear that MGI, the developers of Viper Racing (mostly old Papyrus chaps), could not model damage to the Viper . . . you can trash the sucker beyond the wildest dreams of Smokey and them Duke boys.
The way that the damage modeling works in Viper Racing is that the entire car is a polygon mesh which can be dynamically adjusted. So, based on the physical impact force of a rock or tree, you will either lose an appropriate amount of the space below your hood, or your bumper will be a foot higher and your front wheel will be bashed into the engine compartment. Even paint job scraping is included. In fact, the only thing that Viper Racing does not do is shatter your windshield, which seems a little strange.
Even included is a "wheelie" button which pops your car into the air whenever it is pressed. If you continually pop wheelies, the actual body of your car will become so compacted that all you can see are your 4 wheels strung together . . . Neat.
By now I assume that your all shouting "What about the gameplay?! Tell us now Johnny B.! We are lost without you!" (Well, not really. - Ed.)
The game basically gives you 3 ways to drive. Quick Race, Carrier, and Multiplayer. I shouldn't have to explain Quick Race or the adequate Multiplayer but Carrier is fairly interesting. In Carrier, you earn money depending on your finish position and with this cash you can by some sweet little accessories for your favorite Viper.
The racing itself is compelling. The game can be played in varying levels of realism between Arcade and Simulation. Arcade is not Need For Speed 3 or DethKarz, but it is accessible enough to the average everyday gamer who is not familiar with the proper procedures for finessing a Formula 1 racecar into 1st place at Monaco. In simulation, you basically spin out a lot, but this is not a flaw in the very accurate physics model of the Viper. The damned thing just has a whacked power distribution between front and rear.
The tracks are decently designed, ranging from your average IndyCar loop, to a jaunt around the outside of a metropolis. One very original feature of the tracks is that there are no actual boundaries; the entire track is a connected 3D surface on which you can drive anywhere. So, if you flick on the "Pave the World" hack (there are a few hacks included in the game menus including Hornball, a few new car models, and even a Red Biplane), you could drive off into the grassy fields for a couple of miles. The tracks feature some nicely laid out dips and turns so that conventional simulation racing wisdom still applies here, even though you are on unconventional tracks.
The Graphics. Well, the graphics are decent, but not exceptional. The track and car modeling is compelling but the textures are fairly plain and the game has a certain Spartan feel to it as there are no colored lighting effects. However, the cars feature some very convincing reflections and some very nice window transparencies that actually allow you to see your driver through the back windshield. There is also a car paint job editor included if you just gotta stencil your girlfriend's name to the side. One thing I did not like about the graphics is that they did little to invoke a real sense of speed. That is a fairly serious flaw considering that a Dodge Viper GTS-R can achieve 200+ MPH speeds.
The game includes almost every view available. They range from 3D cockpit, to overhead, to behind car cam, to a view showing the front wheels and shock assembly (shows off the physics model), and others. There are about 10 slick views in all.
So, the problems. Well, sound isn't a problem; not a boon either, but it ain't the problem. The problem is that the game feels like there just isn't much to it. I cant quite put my finger on any one thing. Perhaps it was the sterility of the textures, the lack of a sense of speed, or the fairly bland appearance of the tracks, but I was easily bored with Viper Racing. It's one of those games that feels like a technology demo with no real gameplay.
In the end, serious sim freaks are probably going to like Viper Racing a great deal. It has just about everything they usually expect to get in their diet of axle grease, and even gives them a few new environments to get their fix in. For the rest of us, the main attraction will be the effect of the wheelie button. But, two questions remain: 1) Why does a cactus have the structural integrity to compact the front of a Viper in a collision? 2) For god's sake, why in the hell does the opening movie use audio quotes from the beginning of Star Trek 4: The Voyage Home?!