Windows - 1998
Description of Viper Racing Windows
Viper Racing is a highly realistic racing simulation designed to appeal to fans of Papyrus' other racing products. We feel that it should be reviewed as a simulation and not as an acrade driving game...the underlying technology is that of a simulation
- from the Viper Racing Reviewer's Guide
Viper Racing, from Monster Games Incorporated (MGI) and published by Sierra Sports, brings the thrill of one of America's premier sports cars to the more serious racing gamer. As Sierra claims in the Reviewer's Guide , Viper Racing aims to please the more demanding racing fan. But Viper Racing is not limited to the hard-core simulation driver; arcade drivers get a piece of the action too.
Viper Racing offers a simulation based primarily on the physics of the car in what amounts to a technology display as much as a game. By modeling each performance element, such as tires, suspension, engine and braking, the game enables players to modify or tweak the car for maximum performance. Drivers can do more than tweak, however -- they can configure the car in ways the Dodge brothers would never dream of.
Supermodels and their Cars
The most surprising aspect of the game is the lack of cars. I had expected a more realistic version of Need for Speed with several cars to choose from. Viper Racing does one thing and does it very well: focus on the Viper. Viper Racing offers three other cars and one, ahem, airplane, but these are merely afterthoughts to the design, not an integral part of the game. Other cars include a no-name "Supercar", "Sports Car" and "Sedan". The step-cars (as they're not part of the immediate family) provide a break from the Viper monotony but can only participate in Single Races, not the Career.
Viper Racing comes with three realism settings: Arcade, Intermediate, and Simulation. As you would expect, the car is more difficult to drive in the Simulation setting and easier in the Arcade setting. Each setting allows "driving aids" such as ABS braking, traction control and yaw control. These driving aids help a less experienced driver but reduce performance somewhat. Damage effects are optional in each mode.
Advanced settings allow players with more knowledge of mechanics to tweak the car to squeeze out every bit of performance. Players can modify the Viper's aerodynamics for increased or decreased downforce in the front and the back. The chassis adjusts the bump and rebound of the shocks, as well as the stiffness of the springs and anti-roll bar. The alignment can be modified for toe-in, camber and height, along with braking bias and wheel lock. Finally, players can modify the gearing and final drive.
If you don't know what each of these does for the Viper, the manual explains each in moderate detail. The best measurement of performance tweaks, however, is to take the Viper on the road and feel the difference. Adjusting the height of the car from the normal 6" to 20" creates a Suzuki Samurai ride, where rolling the car at 35 mph is no difficult feat. Spinning the tires from a standstill is easy once you change the gearing for maximum acceleration. Want to drive your father's Oldsmobile? Reduce the stiffness of the ride and watch the car roll with the curves.
The physics are quite realistic, especially compared with an arcade racer. I took the car through a variety of maneuvers and found the car to perform exactly as expected. Well, not quite as expected, but in a good way: the car has much more power than I anticipated and I found myself spinning the rear tires all too often. Once I learned to control the car it became friendlier. Handbrake slides, J-turns, donuts, steering with my throttle and slipping are all modeled with wonderful accuracy.
Luke Skywalker's Viper
I played Viper Racing with an ACT Labs Force RS Wheel , with force feedback on and off. The car handled well with a wheel - much more naturally than with a joystick. But Viper Racing really came to life with the force effects enabled. The feedback effects are not the same as you find at an arcade, where the force feedback feels more "cool" than realistic. The effects in Viper Racing are subtle but effective. As I drove the Viper around a turn I could feel the tension release on the wheel as my rear tires lost grip and began to slide out. Changing surfaces from road to grass or gravel is noticeable during the transition, but no effects are present after the transition. Bumps and crashes are barely simulated. I was somewhat underwhelmed with feedback effects, but as I played the game I began to appreciate the understated approach. I was able to focus on driving the car, with the feedback only conveying what I needed to help me drive, not distract me.
Arcade Action in a Simulation?
Arcade fun comes from the ability to launch a large, steel ball from the Viper when you honk your horn. Just hit another car as it speeds through a turn and watch as it spins out of control (and out of your way). Players can also choose to "pave the world" and drive on any surface in the game. The Airplane allows you to take to the skies and...well, I'm not quite sure why the Airplane was included. It's not very fun and you can't win a race with it. These Arcade enhancements were obviously retrofitted to the game as an olive branch to the arcade crowd, but don't fit well with the game.
The Arcade mode provides an easier driving model that may still frustrate novice drivers during initial acceleration. Once the "spin out" is overcome, the car handles much like the cars in Need for Speed and other arcade racers. Slipping and oversteer are minimized and the car remains in control under heavy braking. Intermediate mode is quite a jump from Arcade mode and begins to feel like a real car. All the bad things that happen when you exceed your limits or the car's limits appear here, but to a lesser degree than in the real world. Simulation mode takes all the holds off and the car handles responsively to every nuance of the wheel, brake and throttle (and clutch if you've enabled that).
While the Arcade mode may be helpful for the first two or three races, the real pleasure of the game comes from Intermediate and Simulation mode racing. Arcade mode racing lacks challenge -- especially when racing against other Arcade skill drivers and damage modeling is disabled. I don't recommend the Intermediate Mode because you will eventually want to move to Simulation Mode. Any time spent in Intermediate mode works against you in Simulation mode, as you must re-acquaint yourself with the changed handling and performance of the car.
Most effects aren't noticeable at speeds below 120 miles per hour. At these speeds the car drives with near-instant feedback and response. Once the car moves beyond the 130 mph barrier it's a different race. The key to playing Viper Racing is to understand that you are going fast. Very very fast. .
Viper Racing accurately models these effects to produce a driving experience with realistic details and real-world handling. I had been racing on the Dayton track and found myself unable to take one of the tighter turns at the speed I felt I needed. The rear wheels lost traction and the car became unstable. At this speed, any steering correction was futile -- the race was lost. I adjusted the downforce on the rear wheels and took her out for another try. The increased downforce allowed me to take the turn at a higher speed, but at the cost of a reduced overall top speed (the downforce creates more friction, hence more drag and a lower top speed). Further adjustments to the gearing allowed me to achieve the speeds I needed while maintaining control in the turns.
Tracks with winding turns require a different approach. Top speed is less important than control so adjustments to gearing (for acceleration) and chassis (for control) become more essential. Some tracks allow you to pick your own approach: win the track on the curves or win it on the straights. Because these changes are predictable and consistent, you can usually figure out the correct configuration in one or two races. Remember that tweaking the car will help, but the race is won or lost on how you handle the car. A perfectly configured car doesn't help if you're in the ditch on the last lap.
Viper Racing allows the player to choose from several views, including behind the car, above the car, inside the car with a view of the interior, inside the car with no interior view, and an X-Ray view with the front suspension visible. Views are changed with the function keys and can't be configured for a wheel button. Even though Viper Racing comes with a "rear view" feature, it's useless because you must take your hands off the wheel to tap the F8 key. I found the X-Ray view the most helpful -- I could see the track without the interior overlay (meaning I had a better view of the track) and the motion of the suspension helped to provide feedback during braking and turning. I would like to see the X-Ray view in every racing game. Without a rear-view mirror, however, you must rely on the F8 key to watch your six and keep other cars from passing.
Instant replay of the race gives more than just a view of the car, you can monitor your speed, g-load and performance. If you find yourself unable to navigate a particular turn, simply watch how the winning car took the turn, noting the speed and entry points. I generally ignore replay features because I would rather race the next race, not the one I just completed. Viper Racing's replay, with the telemetry graphs and ability to monitor other cars, is an essential training tool and shouldn't be ignored.
Tracks are built as true 3D worlds, not the roller-coaster world found in many arcade racers (no freedom of movement off the track). If you take the car off the track you can drive anywhere you wish. While I wouldn't exactly call this a feature, it does provide a greater sense of realism during the race. If you find yourself off the track and in the woods, you must actually navigate your car back to the raceway. I even found a way to cheat by jumping a hill and landing ahead of the other racers (this only works with damage turned off).
Viper Racing comes with 6 tracks that can also be raced in reverse, giving 12 driving experiences. Single races allow players to familiarize themselves with the tracks before taking on a career. Single races allow players to race against the clock, against your best time ever on the track via a "ghost" car or against one to seven cars. Other cars can be set for easy, intermediate, simulation or random ability.
The Three Stooges' Viper
The AI setting determines the ability of the car to win the race, but not the intelligence of the driver. What's the difference? If you are of moderate skill you will have no problem beating "Arcade" competitors -- they drive slower. Simulation drivers drive faster. It's fairly simple. But every racer is dumb and this can become quite frustrating in Career mode. More on dumb AI later...
Career mode takes you from neophyte driver through the ranks of professional racing. Players begin with a basic Viper and must earn money for upgrades. Winning races means more money and points. If you win the series by finishing with the most points, you get to advance to better competition (with more upgrades available). For example, after completing a few races (but not winning the series) you probably have enough money to buy competition tires. These tires help you to win more races and (hopefully) the series. Some upgrades aren't available no matter how much money you have -- you won't be able to drive a racing-class Viper in the novice class series.
As you race against Simulation AI competitors in Career mode, the key to winning is largely determined by the pole position. If everyone is driving the same car and everyone has the same skill level, it becomes quite difficult to overtake another vehicle. For that reason, your position at the start of the race determines your success -- especially in shorter races. I found myself with a perfectly configured car and sitting on the pole position ready to win the race. I took the first turn wider than my competitors because I set up the car for high speeds, not low speed cornering. I expected to get passed on the inside, and true to my expectations, all the cars headed inside for the turn.
What I didn't expect was the cars to follow some "imaginary line" that intersected with my "line." No matter how many times I raced the track, I was always hit from behind and spun out, losing the race. I certainly didn't initiate the contact and I even tried driving a wider line to avoid the other cars. It seems the other drivers have no real fear of hitting another car. This became quite frustrating in Career mode because so much effort is put into setting up the car and racing a perfect qualifying race only to be bumped out of contention by some idiotic driver. Even though my race was effectively over, I had two choices: complete the race and finish somewhere in the middle or abort the race. Neither option is acceptable. Completing the race has little reward -- especially when you've set your eyes on first place, not fourth. Aborting the race hurts your overall standings in Career mode. It's not my fault!!!
Even if you were smart enough to save your Career before the race, you must still go through a qualification lap. This angered me because I was consistently getting the pole position but it was a waste of my time. In the end I was forced to race their race, not my race. Wasn't that supposed to be left up to me? If I hit one of their cars, and we're both out of the race, it doesn't care -- it's a computer. The best feature of Viper Racing is Career Mode, but not against these dumb drivers.
Looks Good, but How's the Factory Radio?
Visually, Viper Racing feels more like a simulation than an arcade racer. You won't find visual effects meant to wow the audience. You do find realistic effects such as skid marks, smoking tires and realistic lighting. The frame-rate was quite good, but not the mind-numbing 60 fps required for a true sense of speed. If you don't have the hardware for optimal performance, Viper Racing allows you to change many of the visual features to boost the framerate, and even runs a "time demo" to show you how fast your machine will run. Every game should include this feature instead of forcing you onto the road with no idea of how your computer will perform.
Viper Racing comes with a paint factory to customize your car's paint job. It's easy to use and comes with several factory-made options. If you find a paint scheme you like but dislike the colors, simply choose another color set for the pre-made scheme. You may also export your favorite paint skin and edit in another program, such as Photoshop or Paint Shop Pro.
Audio was forgettable, and I don't mean that as a criticism. It means I wasn't distracted by the sound effects. This is a good thing. The engine sounds nice and throaty; the tires sound squeaky. I wouldn't drive this car at these speeds with the radio on anyway, but no soundtrack is included. I never even missed it. The only sound I missed was the white noise of wind at high speeds. If you've ever driven a car above 100 mph, you know the sound of the wind can become quite loud. Conversely, I'm certain I would disable this feature if they included it, so I can't complain.
I found one bug: I had to run the game from the CD Autoplay menu, not the menu under "Start". I was also unimpressed with the installation which insists on placing the game in a "Sierra" directory, even though I told it I wanted it in the "Games\Viper Racing" directory. I ended up with "Games\Viper Racing\Sierra\Viper Racing." It's about time for Sierra to join the rest of the civilized world and get on track with their lousy installation routines. And it's not very hard to configure a game to run from the "Start" menu, so why am I having these problems? Lastly, my Reviewer's Guide states the minimum requirements as a Pentium 166 and 4MB video card, while the box states Pentium 133 and 4MB video card, and the manual states Pentium 133 and 2MB video card.
An Early Finish
Arcade racing fans looking for a little more realism will enjoy this title. NASCAR and F1 simulation fans may enjoy driving a sports car with full realism settings turned on. Unfortunately the game begins to wear thin about the same time you are mid-way through a career. Why? At some point it's just not fun to drive a Viper against other Vipers. Even though the Viper is great to drive, I felt I had driven it enough and was ready for a different challenge, perhaps a Porsche or even a Ferrari. But Viper Racing is racing Vipers, not Porches. So the game falls apart rather abruptly, like the relationship you suddenly realize isn't worth any more effort. I am reminded of a line from Steve Martin's movie, L.A. Story : "You may not know when love begins, but you certainly know the moment when it ends."
Viper Racing is worth buying at a low price, but it's only half the game it could have been. By including just two more cars modeled as realistically as the Viper, this game would be a strong contender. Viper Racing has plenty going for it, but not enough to take it over the hump and earn a strong recommendation. Fun? Yes. Long-lasting? No.
Review By GamesDomain
Comments and reviews
toper 2019-01-18 0 point
Any chance to port Viper Racing to oculus...I know it is unlikely - but if I could play Viper with my current rig open wheeler G27 and oculus --- wow.
Chris 2018-12-31 1 point
Sorry for my News, i was thinking the game dont work, bud this work, without Problems.
Forniraddz 2018-09-23 1 point
WARNING! Playing this game with the newest graphics card/Windows 10 might having some issues like glitched graphics.
Sjalabais 2018-04-10 0 point
I played this game as a kid, and right now, my kids play it. How do you get the Lotus and Porsche?
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