Review: I'd rather die.
Ubisoft has been on a roll lately with the resounding success of the Prince of Persia series, Brothers in Arms, Far Cry Instincts and of course, their cash cow Tom Clancy franchise. All good things must come to an end, however, and statistically speaking you just knew they would have to drop a stinker sooner or later.
Well, plug your nose and break out the Febreze because 187 Ride or Die has the dubious distinction of being that pungent statistic.
It's a game that seems to have come from a Dilbert-like MBA in the marketing department: ?Hey, the hip hop gangsta thing is pretty swell with the young demos, right? Just look at the huge numbers Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas pulled in! We should do something gangsta like that. I know! Everyone loved the driving missions in GTA: SA, right? Well, golly gee, let's make a rappin' hip hop game where you drive around shooting at people! Gosh, that would be the sizzle, my homely twizzler! Er, that's what the kids say, right??
Uh, yeah, okay there homie. In fairness, the concept does sound somewhat interesting: combine street racing with combat in an urban setting. However, the execution leaves a lot
to be desired.
The game takes place entirely inside vehicles where you race against enemies while blasting them with guns. During your laps around the tiny urban circuits you have to avoid annoying traffic, explosive barrels and other obstacles that get in your way, and grab weapon, health and nitrous powerups before your enemies do. There are about 50 missions split between 10 game modes, most of which are slight variations of the same objective: finish the race first. Some game modes pit you in a non-racing deathmatch competition where you just have to kill as many enemies as possible; others involve no gun play at all, like when you have to try and outrun the police. Your choice of vehicle depends on the particular preset game mode for each mission, so you will flip back and forth between fictional sports cars, muscle cars, SUVs and pickups.
The majority of the game is spent racing laps against five enemies in small circular street courses. You don't necessarily have to shoot your opponents but that's supposed to be part of the fun ? if you can actually apply that word in this game, that is.
The problems are apparent right from the start. Gameplay is simply awful; steering is very loose and every vehicle handles like they're running on greased Teflon tires. Hitting the brake ? even a slight tap ? in an attempt to slow down and take a corner smoothly will usually cause you to spin out or suck away all of your momentum. Since your vehicles accelerate with the fleet footedness of a fully loaded dump truck stuck in mud, you quickly learn to ignore the useless brake and instead have to slam into corners at full speed to maintain your momentum. This wouldn't be so bad if enemy vehicles suffered the same performance issues but apparently, they use better mechanics than you do.
And here is where the game really gets frustrating and annoying thanks to the terribly unfair AI. Enemies will always out-accelerate you with surprising speed, take corners flawlessly and have dead eye accuracy with their guns. They will aggressively bump you to make you spin out, and even bump civilian vehicles into your path. Since your vehicle has a slower acceleration than your enemies, it takes at least a lap (often more) to catch up to the leader ? if you can, that is. If you are taken out with less than two laps to go you are pretty much forced to restart the race since it is virtually impossible to catch up.
Supposedly, your boost feature helps make up for the speed differential. You can pick up nitrous powerups for a quick burst of speed, or build up a boost meter by successfully performing skids. Once the meter is maxed out, you can ignite what is supposedly a super boost, complete with cool zoomed-in motion blur effects as you zip down the street in what appears to be hypersonic speeds. Note that I've been saying ?supposedly?. While it's true that the boosts do make you go slightly faster, the effect is really more visual than practical. You can hit your super boost with enemies right on your tail and as soon as your boost ends, guess what? The enemies are still
right on your tail. Super boost in an attempt to catch up with the leader and you will be dismayed to find the gap is only closed by a few car lengths. As a result, trying to get away from enemies is frustrating because either the enemy AI super boosts at the same time you do or your ?boost? is marginal at best; regardless, other than looking cool the ?super? boost is virtually useless.
As a combined result of these problems, you can be leading a race with what you think is a large margin only to have an enemy zip past you across the finish line at the last second. This happened to me more times than I care to count and is extremely frustrating to say the least.
And when the game isn't trying to frustrate you, it tries to annoy you instead. In some game modes enemies continually respawn after you kill them, and they always seem to respawn right behind you. This means that despite killing off every enemy you originally started with, you could still lose the race thanks to a respawn riding on your butt.
When you grab a weapon powerup or change weapons, your character takes an agonizingly slow time to pull out his guns. The weapons (which include a pistol, SMG, shotgun, assault rifle, mines, Molotov cocktails and the rare RPG) have very little ammo so you can only do a tiny amount of damage until you reach the next powerup ? if you're lucky enough to get one since enemies grab them as well. Fortunately you have a target lock system that targets the closest enemy so your shots will always hit (if they're directly in front or behind you, that is). The bad thing is your character will sometimes shoot in some random direction at nothing and waste valuable ammo.
The missions are boringly repetitive since you play the same game modes on the same small number of maps over and over again. It feels as if the developers were working on a miniscule budget and were trying to artificially inflate the game's content through repetition. Even so, you could easily finish it in about six to eight hours.
Note that up until now, I haven't mentioned the story; that's because there isn't any. Well, I should clarify that there is a paper-thin attempt at a story about O.G. Dupree (voiced by Guerilla Black), a big bad gangsta who forces his young prot?g? Buck (Larenz Tate) to fight against his enemy Cortez (Noel Gugliemi) in some bizarre alternate universe where gang wars are won and lost based on how well you do in street races. The thoroughly uninteresting and unoriginal ?story? has absolutely no connection to the missions, which are simply random excuses to race and shoot. However, the story does highlight the most annoying part of this game.
In cutscenes and at the beginning of each level where Dupree describes your ?objectives?, the dialogue is so horribly bad I don't know whether to laugh or cry. Check out these gems, if you have the stomach for it:
?Buck you did your G-dizzle, gang-sta! Now peep this gangsta, you can hit the switches and blaze up the next hood you want. Ya heard. Keep that heater burnin' baby.?
?Ride against these fools and toss mines at their candy apple asses and blast these bustas. Ya heard.?
?Go buck wild on their asses.? (Hmm, I wonder if this is a Brokeback Mountain thing?)
And no, I'm not making these up. The dialogue sounds like a bad parody, something you would see in a Dave Chappelle sketch about nerdy white people lamely attempting to be gangsta. The voice acting is terrible too, but to be fair, you wouldn't put in an Oscar caliber performance if you had to read such tripe either. The worst part is that Buck repeats the same bad lines throughout each mission like a mouthy parrot; if I hear him say he's going to ?get yo wig pushed back? one more time, I'm going to go postal. Add in the fact that the same introductory video keeps replaying every single time you access the main menu and you've got one of the most aurally annoying games of all time.
Even the vehicle names are a bad joke: G-Funk, Big Pimpin', Fo Shizzle. Whoever wrote this travesty needs to have someone go buck wild on their candy apple ass. Ya heard?
In an attempt to enhance replayability, you can play the missions co-operatively with a friend, where one person drives and the other shoots. You can also have head-to-head four player races and deathmatches via split screen, System Link or Xbox Live. However, you won't keep your friends for very long if you force them to play this game.
So is there anything
good about this game? Well, the graphics are actually quite nice; as mentioned earlier, the super boost effect looks cool, and when you kill an enemy you are treated to a short slow motion in-game cutscene of the passengers being ejected from their tumbling exploding vehicle. The downside is you are still moving during the cutscene but have no control, meaning you can easily slam into obstacles or lose your line into a corner. But other than looking good, there really isn't much this game has to offer.