|Playstation > Whats New > PlayStation Reviews > Staff Review|
No.1 No.2 No.3
|Game Type:||Shoot-em-up||Password Save|
|Review Date:||August 1998||Dual Shock|
Setting the Scene
There was a time when 2D shooters like Raiden, 1942, and more recently Raystorm , ruled the arcades. You would command a lone spacecraft or fighter plane against an endless horde of enemies. Only you, quick reflexes and your sore index finger stood between the earth and the constant stream of drone bad guys and end of level bosses. It seems like the mindless shooter genre is experiencing a minor comeback with future releases of the very brilliant N20 and not so serious, Frenzy (check out our review in the very near future). This trend continues and expands with the release of Viper, best described as a 3D Raiden with Helicopters. Put simply, Viper is a 3D helicopter blaster on rails, you take control of one of three choppers and proceed to wade your way through waves of enemies in an effort to free the earth from alien forces attempting to take over (what else would they do, they're aliens). The plot? If you REALLY need to know why you're putting a blister on your thumb then it's because every governmental power on Earth is slowly being infiltrated. Control is being diverted. Alien forces are conquering the planet, gradually eradicating humanity, and we haven't yet realized. Only one person know the truth and only you an save humanity. You are Viper, a crusader armed with a state of the art attack helicopter and a need to blow stuff up... blah, blah, blah. Who cares, just show me the ACTION!
Viper bares a striking resemblance to Raiden, only in 3D and viewed from behind (instead of from above). You have very little freedom of movement. You can't stop and smell the roses since most of your time is spent pumping the fire button and dodging the oncoming enemy. So, it's a modern 3D-arcade shooter.
Graphically, Viper is above average. The opening FMV, the menu system presentation and most importantly in-game graphics are all top-notch stuff, with a few exceptions. You are introduced to Viper with a very smooth looking CG sequence at the beginning of the game. This movie quality intro serves to show you just who you are, who the bad guys are and why you want to blow them up. Going for about 3 minutes this intro is, as usual, unnecessary to the game but still a nice touch. The Options screens are all very high-tech looking. The clean and sharp appearance adds to the dark atmosphere the game creates. For the majority of the game the graphics are excellent. Fast moving, scaling and exploding enemies are all fully 3D and very smoothly done. One of the most impressive graphical effects are the explosions, and there are certainly plenty of them. Each explosion causes colorful shockwaves to radiate from the point of origin and the surrounding area lights up as the shockwaves approach. The initial levels in the game are all very dark and it is a little hard to make out the details on most of the fast moving enemies, but as the game progresses the environment changes from well-lit canyons and deserts to underground tunnel systems. The entire playing environment is realistic and generally well done. Overall the graphics in the game are very impressive. Given that Viper is really just a 2D shooter in disguise it is good to see the developers going the extra yard to put some nice little graphical touches in, like real time light sourcing and some quality FMV. The only major floor with the visuals is some very bad clipping, especially when your helicopter makes contact with an enemy, a wall or building. Get too close to a side wall and you will appear to go right through it. This can be a little ugly and it happens far too often.
Sounds and Effects
Viper scores big points in the music and effects department. While the music isn't something you're likely to want to listen to without the game (unlike Wipeout or N20), it does range from orchestral numbers to thumping beat-driven techno. The music also changes according to the action during the game, with each end-of-level boss having their own theme. Overall, the musical score that accompanies you on your mission is very well presented and compliments the frantic gameplay very well. The in-game effects are equally high in quality. Personally, any game that gives you the choice to play in Dolby Surround will always score big points. Being a shooter the in-game effects mainly consist of shooting and explosions. In Dolby Surround mode the explosions actually seem to come from different points in the room and as you fly past the enemies the shots and effect sounds actually travel from the front to the rear. It is quite an experience listening to the sound as the developers intended, if you don't have a Surround Sound system you're really missing out on something since you're just not doing the game justice playing any other way.
Viper is about as custom-made as you would want a shooter to be. Before starting your game you can decide which difficulty level to play, adjust the sound (mono, stereo of Dolby Surround) and configure your controller buttons. In most shooters, the difficulty level usually effects the number, speed and type of enemies that are present. Viper introduces a new twist. The difficulty level you select effects not only the enemies but more obviously the type of helicopter you are flying. On Easy level you are armed with a very fast, agile and heavily armored bubble chopper. On Medium you are in a bigger, slightly slower, and less armored chopper while on Hard you are flying a behemoth sitting duck with very little armor and handling like a truck. This is a nice little twist on the difficulty levels since it essentially give you three different flying styles and forces you to adapt depending on which setting you have chosen. Once in the game, the flying style is very similar to G-Police. The game supports the Dual Shock controller so control is precise and you can actually feel the shock as your chopper is hit by enemy fire. The controls on easy mode is a little too responsive and you often find yourself over-correcting for the agility of your little chopper. Set the difficulty onto medium and this problem is solved, but you are an easier kill since your armor is decreased slightly. From the very beginning of your first game of Viper you know you are in for some real shooting action. The first level of the game has you flying through a night time city-scape in your attack chopper. Multiple enemies fly from all directions. Some provide a mere annoyance but others prove a constant threat to your survival. Luckily your heavily armed and armored attack helicopter provides you with the means by which you will survive and fight back. Your Heads-up display is helpful by highlighting the weak points of the enemy allowing you to make a one shot kill on most of them, if you're good enough. Each level in the game represents a new and fresh environment, starting with the City and progressing though areas such as canyons and desert landscapes. Your senses are constantly assaulted. Gameplay is not really effected by the different environments and they only serve to distract you from your tasks, however, the variety of background and settings is useful in breaking the monotony a little. Each level has several check-points where you will restart should you die during the level. This saves you the pain of replaying an entire level if you get killed near the end. There are also several hidden and special stages in the game which generally involved picking up more points or performing feats of skillful flying in order to get bonuses or additional power-ups. As you wade your way through wave after wave of enemies, you are given the opportunity to pick up various power-ups, of which there are four types - Shields, Primary Weapon, Secondary Weapon and Smart Bomb. Shields are a temporary survival device, if you have one in stock you can use the triangle button to give you temporary invulnerability from the enemy's attacks. The Primary and secondary weapons are automatically fitted to your chopper when you pick them up and you are now bothered with the chore of having to select them when you want to use them so just keep punching that fire button. A good feature of the Weapon power-ups is that the are preserved for you, even after you die. So the effects of picking up multiple power-ups is cumulative and permanent. The Smart bombs are not all that smart, but they do a nice job of clearing the screen of all enemies with one swift blast. The power-ups are very obvious on the screen and very easy to pick up. In fact, it would probably be harder to avoid them, which is a good thing because you'll probably need them. I may be giving the impression that the gameplay has no flaws, this is unfortunately not true. I found as I played Viper that I yearned for a little more freedom of movement. Actually, I yearned for a whole lot more. Since you are inexplicably compelled to progress through the level at a pre- determined constant speed, any effort to divert your chopper off the pre-set course is usually met with an untimely (and annoying) death. It would have been really nice to be able to explore the detailed environments and clear an entire level of enemy. As it is, should you miss a bad guy then you can't go back and finish him off, you just have to keep going. Some levels have a number of crossroads where you must decide which route to take, so the game isn't entirely on rails but this doesn't really help my need for more freedom. This lack of freedom seems very natural in traditional 2D shooters but in a 3D environment freedom is implicit, the lack of it only detracts from the game. Another bad point is the end-of-level bosses. Killing a boss generally consists of flying around I circles and shooting a lot. The bosses don't tend to shoot back and only occasionally try and defend themselves. A minor complaint but a little disappointing if you're expecting a stand-up fight at the end of the level. Forgetting the minor complaints, Viper is a classic shooter. What more can you ask for, hundreds of enemies, lots of power-ups, speed, color, and explosions. While not entirely original in the shooter genre, Viper certainly bring us an update on an old theme and offers some new features that are sure to keep fans of big explosions and mindless finger pumping occupied until N20 is released.
Value for Money
This section could easily be a copy & paste from any shooter ever reviewed. The longevity of this titles is severely restricted by the narrow scope and lack of variety within the gameplay. While shooting everything in sight is fun for a while it soon gets very boring. Luckily the quality graphics, sound and special/hidden levels make playing Viper a worthwhile experience. As with all shooters, your mileage may vary. If you enjoy the genre then Viper will keep you entertained for a while, if you want a cerebral challenge, get Chessmaster 3000. I recommend you hire Viper before you buy.
think that Martin has something against me, he keeps giving me shooters
to review and I think I'm getting some kind of repetitive strain injury
in my thumb.
Don't get me wrong, I love shooters and Viper is no exception. I love being able to sit down, turn on the Playstation and turn my brain off. Mindless shooting and pretty explosions are good for a bout of aimless destruction.
Viper pulls off the 'shooter' game very well. All of the elements for success are there, lots of enemies, lots of power ups, lots of options and lots of music and sound effects. The only real let down in the game is the bad clipping and on-rails gameplay style, which means you have no freedom of movement.
If you see something you want to shoot you better get to it fast or you're likely to just fly right by, in fact, you could probably complete most levels without shooting a single enemy, just fly right by and wait for the boss to appear at the end.
If you're into shooters and you're waiting around for N20 to arrive on the shelves (November at time of publication) then Viper may serve well to fill the gap and keep your thumb aching until N20 arrives.