With all of the furor surrounding M-Rated urban-themed games, 187: Ride or Die was no surprise. After all, EA has the Def Jam series, Take Two has Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and Activision brought out True Crime: Streets of LA. Now it’s Ubisoft’s attempt to hit that gold mine with their own urban-themed racer.
The twist in this game is that while it’s a racer, the player also has control of guns that are picked up as you race about which you can use to destroy your opponents. Adding in a variety of game modes, a number of online multiplayer modes and an urban gang-related story, it would seem that all the ingredients for a successful game were in place.
The graphics in 187: Ride or Die are average at best. There’s really no comparison between the graphics of this game and another game that came out at the same time, Burnout: Revenge. While everything appears shiny and clean and the characters are nicely animated, there’s just nothing that really stands out. The motion-blur while using the special boost feature and the slow motion when destroying an opponent is nice. However, it’s not anything that hasn’t been done, and done better, in other games in the past. The cut scenes are nice as well, although a bit more detail could have gone into some of the sequences. The general feeling from it all is more of a ‘been there, seen that’ than is really desirable.
187: Ride or Die features a rap-heavy soundtrack by Guerilla Black, who created fifteen tracks specifically for this game. This helps with the urban feel of the game, but honestly the music starts to feel rather redundant after a while, making one wish that it offered the option for custom soundtracks. The race and in-game sounds are nice but nothing really stands out. What does stand out, unfortunately, is the fact that during the races Buck tends to spout out one of five or six catch phrases repeatedly.
Special mention must be given to the dialogue of the game. The language that is used in the game is quite rough, similar to that in GTA: San Andreas. However, one can point at the language in San Andreas and compare it to a movie such as “Boyz ‘N the Hood” as depicting how people actually talk in an urban setting. The language in 187: Ride or Die seems more over-the-top and ludicrous in nature, a mish-mash of urban slang and Snoop Dogg-isms. It was nearly impossible to take the dialog seriously, especially when some of it started to get repeated. It’s almost enough to make one wonder if the target audience is urban and expected to identify with the characters in the game, or if the target is 18-year-old white suburban males who watch MTV and BET and think that they’re ‘gangsta.’
187: Ride or Die features two control schemes. The main difference between them is in your firing ability. Classic mode allows you to only fire forward and back (with the X and B buttons, respectively) while the Direct mode allows for 360 degree firing via use of the right control stick. Neither is really good or bad at doing that, as it is impossible to shoot someone beside you in Classic mode, while in Direct mode it’s hard to hit certain angles. The triggers handle acceleration and braking as with many Xbox racers, while A is your boost button. The other buttons handle switching weapons or the camera modes and dropping your weapon.
The major issue with the controls is that none of the cars really feel different while driving. The cars tend to skid easily and running into walls tends to bring you to a dead stop. The more maneuverable vehicles (unlocked later in the game) can minimize the skid, but never really gives you the sense of drifting through corners as high-performance cars in other racers do. Outside of that one major issue, the controls are solid if unspectacular.
In 187: Ride or Die, you play as Buck, a young gang member who was taken off the streets by Dupree. After Dupree was shot nine times by Cortez and the Mexican Mafia, Dupree recruits Buck to race against Cortez’s gang to save Dupree’s turf. Of course, if Buck can’t handle it, Dupree will just find someone else who will, and there’s a body bag waiting with Buck’s name on it in that case.
While it’s not too certain how racing cars around Los Angeles (and shooting other people in cars) wins or loses turf in a gang war, or for that matter how a gangster in Los Angeles is living in a gated residence that looks like it costs a few million dollars, that’s the premise of the game.
There are a variety of race-types in the main story mode. You have the Whip Race, which is a simple race where you have to finish first. There’s Deathmatch mode, where you have to kill everyone else while keeping yourself and your vehicle alive with the winner being the one with the most frags at the end of the time limit. Death Race is an Eliminator-style race, generally in SUVs. You have Escort missions as well as The Hit, were you’re the one trying to destroy an escorted vehicle. There’s Bomb, where you have a bomb on your car much like the movie Speed. Survivor is like Death Match but without a time limit and a specific number of enemies to destroy. Mine Field is a Whip Race where the only weapons are land mines. The Lot is a death-match style race where you must kill everyone on each level of a parking garage in order to escape. The last mode is Po-Po Chase, where you’re being chased down the highway by invulnerable police cars that set up barricades and attempt to ram you into walls.
The game has other menu options than Story Mode. Quick Hits allows you to play other stages that you’ve unlocked already, Credits shows the credits of the game, Options allows you to set your various options and Bonus allows you to play any movies you’ve unlocked.
Multiplayer is handled by System Link, Split Screen or Xbox Live. Split Screen allows two players while System Link allows up to four. Presumably Xbox Live is either four or six players, but it wasn’t possible to determine that due to a complete dearth of players on Xbox Live for this game. No matter your style of multiplayer play, however, the modes are the same, giving you a choice of Whip Race, Bomb Race or Deathmatch to play with. You can also do various modes via split-screen co-op style.
Unfortunately, none of this changes the fact that the missions get repetitive and boring very quickly and the gameplay really doesn’t have a sense of speed while racing along. Throw in the over-the-top dialog and the rather inane story mode, and there’s just not much gameplay here.
With a lack of people to play over Xbox Live and no real incentive to replay various areas other than to unlock various things in the game, there’s not a lot of replay value to be had here. The storyline isn’t that engaging and the gameplay gets quite boring and repetitive at times. The over-the-top dialog makes it hard to take the game seriously, even though it’s obvious that it was intended to take the subject seriously.
This really feels like more of a ‘borrow from a friend’ or rental title than a full-price purchase. There are simply too many other good games to play to give this one much time at all.