I got 99 problems and this is one.
If it's hip-hop, it'll sell. Associate almost any product with even a partially legitimate rapper and watch the Benjamins fly in from middle-income gangsta-wannabes nationwide. Representin' the suburbs, yo. This must be the hope of 187 Ride or Die
, since it offers little more than an amalgamated front of what's hot in the current market.
A hybrid of Mario Kart and Twisted Metal with some light Burnout bling, 187 Ride or Die's gameplay could have had some potential if it wasn't as cheap as a fitty-cent ho. Gang violence has never been so dull.
The first crime here is the god awful story. You play the role of a hoodlum named Buck working for a Marcellus Wallace look and sound alike named Dupree. In an effort to bring street-cred to your boss, you set out to silence a rival, a Latino aptly named Cortez. This is accomplished through battling Cortez's crew in preposterously dangerous races throughout the city streets. If you lose any of these races, you die, hence the title.
You also might die if you spend too much time trying to piece together this stereotypical, slipshod narrative. Just wait until you have to sit through the terrible "plot" snippets before and after every mission. It helps if you think of the plot as the background bio of a random hood from a beat 'em up game like Beat Down: Fists of Vengeance.
This is all told in the main Story Mode, which features three types of racing missions: finish in first place, blow up X cars while finishing in first place, and don't be last at the end of any lap…and finish in first place.
Handling cars while simultaneously firing ahead or behind is simple to pull off, as is skidding to boost your nitro meter. Grabbing nitro boost icons fills your meter up a bit for that much needed mph boost. Trigger it and the screen blurs, giving an extra sense of speed, but the pacing never breaks the Please Hammer, Don't Hurt Me threshold. Though you have the gangsta act down, you drive like a little old lady. It's far too tame.
You'll also drive through weapon icons, which grants the guy in the passenger seat a machine gun, shotgun, glock and all the other standard arms any cookie-cutter gangsta should have. There's an auto-aim feature at work, so as long as the nose of your car in pointed in the general direction of an opponent, you can just hold down the fire button and watch their life meters drain like a 40oz tipped to your homies. Unfortunately, the auto-aim renders the guns identical, as you either shoot the guy immediately in front or behind you. A number appears onscreen showing how many shots you landed in a row, but the combo is pretty much meaningless. Even worse, when you run out of ammo, your pea shooter of a default weapon is as pointless as its slow, popping sound effects are abrasive. Overall, the weaponry lacks the arcade flair a game of this type desperately needs, but damn straight we gots guns in dis piece! Right? What?
You can choose which car to use before each mission - SUV, sports car, or muscle car - and completing missions unlocks cars in a linear fashion. However, the car category is preset for any mission and the last ride you unlocked is always better than the one you used previously, so choosing which to use is a no-brainer.
The three classes result in pretty different play styles, but all of them have problems. In a sports car mission, you'll be way out in the lead by the second lap. The computer assistance ramps up and one car will speed up right behind you, so you hold the shoot backwards button for a while, destroy it, and repeat. You will lag behind for a while in the SUV class, so slide a lot, use your nitro, and shoot cars from afar to slow them down since they will not hit a snag on their own. Muscle cars are the happy medium between the two, making it evident how mundane shooting cars on a rail can get. The difficulty relies upon your own cranial gaps and the irritating rubber-band catch up feature, but with most of the tracks being fairly identical, there is no room for error as long as you keep an eye open during yawns.
To break the boredom, two different missions periodically show up. Escort missions require that you protect a car from being destroyed, while PoPo Chase is basically a race against the cops. It's enough to spark some initial interest, but these don't save 187 Ride or Die much face.
Nor do the other modes. One drops you into a Deathmatch arena to destroy enemy cars that spawn in, Royal Rumble style. Built as primarily as racing game, 187 Ride or Die just doesn't give you the control or mechanics to have a worthwhile battle. Your cars don't turn tightly enough, leading to frustration, especially if anyone is auto-aiming your ass off. As an alternative, you can try your hand at Mine Field, which is merely a race while avoiding road bombs.
The game fares no better in its multiplayer, where any game quickly degenerates into a who-can-get-behind-who lineup from hell. Whether playing off or online, prepare to be the one in second place until destroying the car in first right before the finish line, while the guy behind is reaming you the same way. You can also opt to have a friend control the shooting, but that's not very fun for either of you.
187 Ride or Die is rendered decently enough during races with a solid framerate and some nice effects, though the dingy, urban, red-light district look gets tired the hundredth time you see it. When cars blow up, you get a good five seconds of bullet-time footage, just so you admire how straight the polygons are. Cut-scenes depicting random events of ghetto violence crop up now and again, featuring models straight out of the original Playstation with modern day anti-aliasing tech. Not my kind of ghetto.
The soundtrack by Guerilla Black is probably where a good chunk of the development cash went. It provides the gangsta feel for sure, though unless you listen to his music otherwise, it will sound, well, like random, generic rap. To further hammer home the slipshod manner in which this game was assembled, there's a really annoying sound bug in online Deathmatch where Buck will repeat, "Let's flip his wig back!" like a broken record. However gangsta rough that statement is has yet to be decided.
The voice acting quality is fine, but it doesn't matter - the dialogue is wretchedly forced in its unrealistic, overly ghettoized slang penned by writers who have read every stereotypical hip-hop street language book on the shelf. Expect something like: "My big dog G-gangsta Buck, dog! You blaze down the streets and show them that I'm the real street O.G. Ya heard?" Being raised in the South Bronx myself, I can tell you that no one talks like that, ever. They talk like this.
And they, meaning real tough guys, should kick this waste of time out of their hood in a heartbeat. If you define yourself to be ghetto in the first place and are attracted to 187's roughneck outer shell, prove you're a hoodlum and blow your money on more dubious material instead, like a bottle of Old English. After spending some time playing this poser, I could use a swig myself.