Reviewed: October 1, 2005
Released: August 24, 2005
“A'ight all you gansta-ass nig…” Nope…sorry, I’m not going to go there, although after only a few hours of playing 187 Ride or Die you might be more adept in “gansta slang” than actually driving a car or firing an Uzi from the passenger seat.
I’m not sure where the French designers took their lessons on ghetto slang but after consulting with a few “authentic black people” they assure me that nobody talks like this in real life, but they, like me were amused at the cutscenes and missions briefings that are peppered with more “F” and “N” words than a Chris Rock concert. In fact, the designers managed to pick up on a few terms that even had my “urban friends” feeling like displaced “crackers”.
So why am I stressing so much the use of foul and abusive language that is so overly abundant it becomes downright hysterical? Because that is what the designers are stressing. It’s certainly not the gameplay that is a mix of a heavily flawed racing engine and an even worse shooting mechanic. What started off as one of the most impressive booth displays at the 2004 E3 show has degenerated into a game that will have you laughing your ass (black or white) off during the non-gameplay segments then cursing the game when you actually have to play it.
Racing games typically don’t need a story, but 187 gives you one regardless. You play as “gansta ass nigga Buck”, the only guy who is capable of driving a car in illegal street races while his passenger blasts away at the competition with an assortment of weapons.
The story mode of the game takes place in L.A. and features a large map divided into various gangland territories that you will travel to and participate in a series of race events. A reward system ranks your performance with bronze, silver, and gold bullets and grants you new cars, venues, and power-ups for future races.
187 can’t seem to make up its mind whether it wants to be a shooter or a racer. If you play the game and try to shoot and crash into the competition you will NEVER finish a race within the time limit required for a gold bullet. So you either have to play each race twice, once for the time and once for the kills, or…well, you just have to play each race twice.
Driving and shooting, at least shooting with any type of accuracy is troublesome at best. The B and X buttons shoot forward or back using an auto-aim that locks onto the nearest car. You can also use the right stick, which is a little more accurate, but best used when a second player is coming along for the ride.
The object of the game is to win races and to do that you have to cross the finish line first. It doesn’t really matter if you shoot anybody, but it certainly is more fun. Of course anybody you shoot will have their car magically repaired and reinserted into the race instantly, so there is no winning through elimination. Of course the slow-motion Burnout-style explosions are pretty spectacular complete with flailing bodies sticking out of doors and sunroofs.
Cars come equipped with a boost meter that is filled as you run through on-track power-ups or drift through turns. When the boost meter is full you can kick in the nitro for an ultra-cool boost recommended only for long straight-aways. This blurring nitro effect is one of the coolest features of the game, arguably cooler than the blur effect in the latest Burnout games.
After several hours of problematic racing by myself I had a fellow reviewer step in and assume the coveted position of SHOTGUN, which, much like the frontier origins of that term, literally means he is often wielding a shotgun.
Weapons are scattered about the track in the form of glowing pick-ups or you can also sideswipe opponent cars and steal the weapons from the enemy. Of course they can jack your weapons too. Weapons come in various forms and damage ability ranging from the pistol and machine gun to Molotov cocktails and rocket launchers. As cars take damage their meter depletes and when it’s empty it’s slow-motion city.
187 is immensely more fun with two players, almost to the point where I would recommend that nobody even consider purchasing this game unless you have a second player to join in. You can play the entire story mode cooperatively and only with two players is the game much fun or even playable for that matter.
With me concentrating on driving and my trusty sidekick in the passenger seat using the right stick to fire in accurate 360-degrees 187 went from a poor racing game to a fun and violent shooter whether we were racing around the streets of L.A. or trying to escape from a multi-level parking structure.
Visually, 187 is pretty good, although with so many nighttime racing games out there they are all starting to blur together. The track designs are interesting enough and take place on somewhat authentic streets of L.A. with plenty of back alley and parking lot shortcuts.
The streets are loaded with traffic that you have to dodge and weave through to keep up speed and power-ups and new weapons are often tucked away in hard to reach places. The Xbox is put to full use with all of the expected lighting and blur effects associated with racing games these days. There are plenty of destructible objects on the tracks including tankers and propane tanks that will explode in fireballs when shot or collided with.
The movies are pretty cool with some great CG work and realistic faces, character designs, and animation. The car models are exquisite with various familiar car models that accumulate damage then blast apart in fiery crashes, all from some exciting camera angles.
The 187 Ride or Die soundtrack features 15 tracks of exclusive music recorded by relative newcomer Guerilla Black, who also lends his voice to Dupree, the gang leader in the story. As expected, Black's music leans towards harder-edged rap, which is fine if you enjoy that kind of music. It started to wear thin on me in about two hours and with no custom soundtrack support I was left to cringe for most of the game, especially when that limited selection started to repeat. I’ve already commented plenty on the appalling dialogue, yet despite the poor writing and audible overdose of ghetto speak, I do have to commend the voice actors for delivering some solid performances. Of course anybody who can say these absurd lines without cracking up deserves some kind of recognition.
Sound effects are exactly what you would expect; various car engine noises, skidding tires, crunching metal, and nitrous whines, all peppered with the sounds of gunfire followed by the inevitable explosion. I have no complaints with the sound.
187 Ride or Die is doomed to the bargain bins, and while all titles eventually go there this one will probably get there ahead of schedule. Only when the game is $20 can I half-heartedly recommend it, and even then with the caveat that you have somebody nearby to pick up the second controller.
As a solo experience, 187 will deliver 15-20 hours of mildly entertaining fun with the occasional “wow…that was cool” moment. With two people you can have a lot more fun because the game makes a whole lot more sense. After all, there are two people in the car so why should one person have to worry about both of them.
In addition to the cooperative story mode 187 also offers some moderately fun multiplayer using system link or via Xbox Live for up to four players in a variety of modes like Whip Race, Deathmatch, and Minefield. There are several settings that allow you to customize each of these modes, once again making 187 more fun to play with somebody rather than by yourself.
If you played the old Starsky & Hutch game back in 2003 and enjoyed it then you will probably have some fun here, although much like that game, 187 Ride or Die is a game that was designed around two players and is best played as such.
There are much better racing games out there and much better shooting games out there. I have to at least commend Ubisoft for trying to marry the genres, but the awkward solo game and the grotesque abuse of urban slang makes this a hard sell with so many other game competing for you gaming dollar.