Fighting Vipers Review
Let’s get the obvious out the way first. There are two groups of people Fighting Vipers will appeal to. Fighting game veterans who remember playing Sega fighters back in the day and achievement junkies, who will feast on all 400 gamerpoints here in minutes.
Everyone else? It’s a little too hard to recommend. That sentence is said with the saltiest of tears welling in the saddest of eyes because there is one redeeming factor that could have saved Fighting Vipers.
Turn Back Time
Fighting Vipers was released in an era when 3D beat-‘em-ups were running rampant thanks to the likes of Tekken and and Virtua Fighter, and so it needed to set itself apart from the competition.
It’s immediately obvious how Sega did this and by that, we don’t just mean how Sega their slung characters into the game via the nearest fancy dress shop.
Instead, it’s the gameplay tweaks that stand out. Each fighter has been bulked up with heavy armour while each arena is walled in.
That sounds gimmicky rather than interesting but it adds extra layers of depth to the brawling. Armour has to be softened up and then destroyed with a power blow, leaving opponents vulnerable in that area.
Walls combine with a looser sense of gravity to allow for combos as you juggle opponents until they choose to recover in the air, although this opens them up for even more damaging blows.
It’s funny to laugh how Jane looks like Vasquez, Raxel looks like Randy Rhoads and Sanman is just a fat guy in a helmet but get playing and you can see how thought has gone into the actual gameplay design.
Fight For Your Right
The fighting is of the Virtua Fighter mould – Punch, Kick and Guard with low, mid and high attacks. There are sweeps, there are throws, there are attacks on downed opponents. So far, so 3D fighting game.
The power blow moves, which your fighter charges up a punch or kick, absorbs a hit before the attack comes out. Beyond the armour and the walls, that’s the real key to Fighting Vipers’ gameplay, when it comes down to the nitty gritty of players battling for position in the middle of the stage.
But you won’t get a sense of this strategy in single player. Arcade is a standard romp through a series of opponents, with no storyline or sense of progression besides how difficult each fight is getting. There’s almost no other single player content.
And if players aren’t put off by that, the dated presentation is an even bigger hurdle to overcome. Fighting Vipers is stuffed with clumsy, awkward animation that’s reminiscent of a genre just getting to grips with 3D while the droning soundtrack doesn’t help endear you to the game.
Achievement hunters can grab all 400 gamerpoints within 15 minutes and for that, they’ll be thankful it can almost all be done in the meagre arcade mode. For everyone else, it’s hard to find a reason to persist given how dull single player is and how ugly everything looks.
Multiplayer should be the saviour and yet it’s hard to see anyone sticking with Fighting Vipers to encourage an online community to blossom. Yet the cruel irony is that the netcode here is almost flawless.
Fighting Vipers seems to use the same netcode as Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown, which makes sense as both games share the same user interface, same publisher and same platform.
Few matches we played had any lag spikes or notably laggy response times and even though the majority of players online right now are Japanese, the netcode mostly survives the UK-to-Japan trip. That’s impressive those global connections is where a lot of big name fighting games stumble.
Yet it’s hard to imagine there being much of an online community beyond the initial honeymoon period. Even now, there are waits of almost 10 minutes for a single match and this is right after Fighting Vipers has been released.
This is when it should be thriving. Instead, you feel like a stranger poking his head into endless empty saloons in a ghost town. There’s simply not enough people playing.
Boom Boom Pow
Online shows the strengths of Fighting Vipers more than fighting against AI ever can – the desperate battle to attack and protect armour, to avoid being caught against a wall and to use power blows to absorb opponents attacks. It develops layers of strategy you simply don’t experience in arcade mode.
But Fighting Vipers doesn’t have the immediate appeal or the presentation to draw in players brought up on the likes of Tekken or Street Fighter this gen, where those games trade on spectacle as much as they do gameplay.
Even for the low price of 400 Microsoft Points, Fighting Vipers understandably can no longer bring the same explosiveness to fighting games, which has reinvented itself as a far slicker, sexier genre since Sega AM2’s glory days.
Which is why this is still best recommended for fighting game veterans and achievement junkies only, but at least they’ll be pleased with the flawless netcode and the hit-and-run gamerpoints on offer.
Version Tested: Xbox Live Arcade