Rated PG-18 -
In the 1980's and early 1990's, the war on drugs wasn't fought with rehab and knowledge about potentially harmful effects. It was fought with a combination of fat, donut-eating cops and rock n' roll. Aside from that miserable failure of a plan, it was also fought more effectively with machineguns, loose-cannon cops who dive away from explosions in slow motion while delivering witty one-liners, and a clear message: "Say 'NO' or I will fucking KILL YOU." Code Name: Viper is a game that clearly represents the latter strategy. Right from the beginning, you are given clear instructions to fight a South American drug syndicate by gunning down every single trafficker and enforcer you come in contact with. Will murdering people involved with drugs stop the endless supply and demand of the industry? Maybe not, but that doesn't stop this tough-as-nails vigilante from emptying all his ammo on everybody in sight while trying.
And for fuck's sake, put on some pants before you leave.
Released by Capcom in 1990, Code Name: Viper pays homage to the 1986 arcade classic Rolling Thunder with nearly identical gameplay while adding a few new twists. Moving from left to right, you blow the shit out of everybody wearing a hat while checking often disguised doors for pistol and machinegun ammo, life bonuses and hostages, as well as utilizing doors as strategic hiding spots. Rescuing enough hostages will eventually lead you to a mustached hostage holding a grenade for you to blow the level's gate off to the next area. The drug cartel guys apparently don't search their hostages too well, which would lead you to think that their operation is doomed from the start. You would think that in the hostage-taking process, one of the first things you would check for is whether or not somebody is carrying a weapon or, at the very least, high explosives. Not only do they not check for this, they fail to do so every single time they capture the guy, who waits for you with a new grenade at the end of every stage.
Questionable intelligence notwithstanding, the drug cartel commandos are definitely waiting for you and do not let up right from the very beginning. There are several different colors of commando uniforms, and each one represents a different form of danger. The game starts you off with gray commandos, who have decided on the brilliant strategy of killing someone by running into them at full speed. The game gradually increases the variety of attacks in later stages with white, blue, and red commandos, among others, who develop superior fighting strategies by, get this, actually shooting at you.
There are 3 levels of difficulty to choose from, but don't let the choices fool you. "Easy," "Medium," and "Hard" are just different ways of saying "You Will Get Fucked Up If You Don't Get Really Good At This Game," "You Thought You Got Good At This Game But Now You're Going to Get Fucked Up Some More," and "Holy Shit, This Is Impossible." The normal enemies themselves are surprisingly difficult, and even on the Easy mode, you will find yourself out of luck and out of lives before the end of the first stage if you're new to the experience. Luckily, artificial intelligence meets artificial stupidity by allowing you to duck and not them. You can use this to your advantage throughout the game, although it won't save you from the relentless onslaught of enemies if you don't develop certain strategies for certain situations. There are also different twists added to the later stages through conveyor belts, spikes, and enemy bunkers. It's the perfect blend of challenging, panic-inducing action and strategic gameplay. The learning curve is steep, but taking the time to learn the ins and outs of this game will be your saving grace. If that doesn't work, there are passwords to unlock upon completion of some stages.
You might not think it's the best strategy, but you must admit, jumping on somebody's neck in this position would hurt.
The storyline in Code Name: Viper is self-explanatory. You are given orders by your angry-looking, cigar-smoking, hat-wearing commander to wipe out some South American drug cartel in several different locations. One twist to this game is that the final hostage of each stage has a different piece of enemy intelligence to give you, culminating in a final, definitive target to pursue. The rest of your job is straightforward. You have a gun. Walk to the right. And walk you will, at a pace you might not have thought possible considering Viper's stride. It's almost like he glides across the ground like a man possessed. A MAN POSSESSED WITH KILLING. Getting used to the fast pace is key, because timing some jumps over pits and spikes or while on conveyor belts will require some trial and error as well as patience. Much like in Rolling Thunder, you can also reach high platforms by holding UP while jumping. The most important aspect of the controls, however, involves utilizing your standard pistol or machinegun. Controls are responsive and tight, which will be necessary when dealing with hordes of enemy soldiers. The graphics are nothing special considering the year of the game's release, but they are colorful and do the job well enough, especially considering its resemblance to a game made in 1986. The music has a definite secret agent feel to it, and although there are only a few tracks that are recycled over the course of around 8 stages, each fits the mood and environment of the different areas.
Code Name: Viper is nonstop, sadistic action from start to finish, and it will take nerves of a cool, cigarette-smoking, gun-toting enforcer with a straight face and itchy trigger finger to see the end. There's also a surprise plot twist at the end for those who play games for the storylines. If you think you've got what it takes to fight an army of drug traffickers, contact your local DEA recruiter, then go find it.
"SURPRISE! Oh shit, I missed."