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Vice: Project Doom (NES) artwork

Vice: Project Doom (NES) review


"If you need a break from the slashing and running, there a few driving and rail shooter levels. Yeah, Vice is like The Adventures of Bayou Billy, except fun. What better way to break from laser-whipping animals and Asian stereotypes than plugging a few bullets into ninjas? "



In the future, law and order are established with a .44 Magnum and a laser whip. Alien drug dealers don't negotiate; they push until they're on the ground bleeding. But the latest push isn't the same as the others. It reeks of conspiracy and manipulation. Hart doesn't realize the path he'll be taking until he's exposed the mother of all cover ups and found his missing partner Reese.

Vice: Project Doom asset
In the future the streets are meaner and the night life is of the devil. Welcome to Vice: Project Doom.


The very start throws you off. Though the images on the box show early 90s side-scroller goodness, level one is a shmup a la Spy Hunter. You can blast through this level and kill its boss with minimal skill and finesse. It might leave you wondering if the rest of the game will just lay limp like the first level. But don't hit that power button yet. Level one was just a teaser. It amps you with some easy chumps to pick off and plenty of mindless explosions, violence and action that gets you psyched for the rest of the experience.

We all know what an 8-bit side-scroller entails: uneven platforms, precise leaps and well-placed attacks. Strategy doesn't sit in jail for the night; instead, you strategize on the fly and take each situation as it comes. If you're running along and two mutant fish leap out of the water and fire poison darts at you, you won't have time to think about it. It's react or die.

But this is true about all of the best side-scrollers. Vice brings little new to the table, but it refines what its predecessors started. Its one offering sounds like a small one, but it adds so much to the gameplay as to make it thrilling and fast-paced: smoother controls.

Just the basic movement feels smoother, like Hart is a vibrant kind of dude, physically active, straightedge, hits the weights, eats his fiber. It doesn't stop there. He can send his opponents screaming to hell with the flick of a wrist, even while moving. This allows you to mow through the many thugs--psychotic clowns, Chinese undead, crawling gutter-punks--and not break stride, keeping the pace hot and speedy. He can even crouch while walking and not sacrifice speed.

Still want more multi-tasking? Add platforming to the equation. This game will have you slicing through a bazooka-toting commando while outrunning another's shells, only to leap off a platform into a set of rotating blades. The only thing to save you is the moving ladder which elevates you into another set of rotating blades. Leap from one moving ladder to another until you come to the next platform and you'll be thrust into another burly brawl against single-shot commandos.

It's not just that one level, but the entire game. It only becomes more ridiculous as you advance, battling larger groups of enemies that crowd the screen, tearing through feral dogs on the streets of Chinatown or dodging pissed off birds (gulp) on some cliffs in South America. The challenge is demanding, but not unreasonable. Taking damage doesn't mean flying back fourteen feet and being ravaged by the other baddies or plummeting to your death. You can recover and be back in action before the pace drops. Dying doesn't result in starting back at a previous level, and continues are infinite. It's an open invite to chop till you drop, something many other developers on the NES didn't get the grasp of.

If you need a break from the slashing and running, there a few driving and rail shooter levels. Yeah, Vice is like The Adventures of Bayou Billy, except fun. What better way to break from laser-whipping animals and Asian stereotypes than plugging a few bullets into ninjas? While the rail shooter levels don't compete with games like Operation Wolf, they are a cool breath of fresh air and they help to keep the testosterone level high.

By the time you reach the end you'll have dropped your share of f-bombs, but you won't feel like the game cheated you much. Sure, it'll throw the occasional screwball like dart-throwing ninjas that leap out of pits. And they just have to do so right as you're leaping across. But Vice is such a solid and fast-paced action game that one can easily overlook a few cheap moments. It doesn't tease you like Ninja Gaiden by forcing you to go back a few levels if you die at a boss, and doesn't kick your teeth in like Castlevania.

Vice: Project Doom does exactly what a side-scroller should. It keeps the action moving, keeps the challenge difficult, but doesn't make you feel like you need a vacation from gaming when you're done playing it. Rather than innovating, it polishes. Sometimes that's all a game needs to do.

Rating: 9/10

JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Community review by JoeTheDestroyer (April 13, 2011)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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Feedback

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overdrive posted April 13, 2011:

Good review. I remember reading about this game in Nintendo Power and thinking it looked kickass, but I never could find it back in the day. And for some reason, I never played it via emulation once that became an option. I think I tried, but the initial primitive emulator I used before upgraded to OS X on my Mac didn't run it. I'll have to try again.
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JoeTheDestroyer posted April 13, 2011:

Thanks OD. This is one of my favorite NES side-scrollers. I used to rent it quite often as a kid, invite the friends over and play the crap out of it. Never did beat it then, but did so recently.
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pickhut posted April 13, 2011:

I don't think I've ever heard of this game before. If I did, it must have been in passing...

Good review, Joe. Always nice to read about something you've never knew existed until now.

Btw:

It's one offering sounds like a small one,

You meant "its", right?
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JoeTheDestroyer posted April 13, 2011:

Thank you, pickhut! It's fixed.
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honestgamer posted April 13, 2011:

I had posted a review for this game on the site a long time ago, but ultimately I removed the review and rewrote it for a "Graveyard" review when I wrote for Hardcore Gamer Magazine. It's a great game and I was excited to write that piece so that there'd be another record of its greatness in print.

Vice: Project Doom was on the cover of one of the early issues of "Nintendo Power" magazine that I got, and I still have it in a box somewhere. It always looked great, so around 7 or 8 years ago I bought it used at a game store and played through it the same night I bought it. I was thoroughly impressed by how well it hold up as a high-quality mix of some of the great games of its era. Definitely it's one of the NES system's oft-overlooked gems.

I'm glad that you reviewed it, Joe, and brought more attention to a game that definitely deserves it.
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JoeTheDestroyer posted April 14, 2011:

Thank you, Jason. I agree that this game deserves more attention. It's one I also failed to list on my recent Virtual Console topic. Of course, there are a bunch others I wouldn't mind seeing on there (Kick Master, Mendel Palace, etc.).
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Masters posted April 15, 2011:

This is a fucking awesome review, your best of the ones I've read -- and I've read a lot.

Just the basic movement feels smoother, like Hart is a vibrant kind of dude, physically active, straightedge, hits the weights, eats his fiber. It doesn't stop there.

Full of win.
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JoeTheDestroyer posted April 15, 2011:

Thank you! I had a hard time writing this one at first. I pretty much sat there slack-jawed for an entire night before an intro came to me.

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