Reviewed: September 15, 2005
Released: August 24, 2005
Ever since the release of the wonderful Rayman 2: Revolution, Ubisoft France has been stumbling two steps behind the pack. Rayman 2 may have put them on the map, but any releases since have proven to be less than stellar – especially considering the hype they received during development. Rayman 3: Hoodlum Havoc was earmarked to revolutionize the platforming genre, and the comic styled XIII, was a sure bet for FPS of the year. Those two games all but promised to change the face of gaming, but by the time they finally hit the shelves the unique visual style and revolutionary gameplay were already thin, outdated and overused.
Ubisoft is once again two-steps behind the competition with their newest release, 187 Ride or Die. Obviously in an attempt to ride the hip-hop tsunami caused by the likes of GTA: San Andreas, Ubisoft has created their own version of urban warfare with 187 Ride or Die…too bad it's already a case of too little and too late.
With 187 Ride or Die, Ubisoft France combined equal parts GTA: San Andreas and Twisted Metal: Black, and then tossed in a dash of Burnout 3 – which when mixed thoroughly, results in a strange concoction that closely resembles, well…Midnight Club with weapons. Sound familiar? It should, because Midway tried this same mix two years ago with their flop release, Roadkill. Roadkill’s concept of a GTA-inspired vehicular combat game was so ill-received, it was a mere matter of weeks before the game was relegated to the bargain bins. It’s a wonder then that Ubisoft would even try to run with a flattened ball like Roadkill…but they did…
Now, to be fair, Roadkill was a bit more in the vein of the Twisted Metal-styled arena combat, whereas 187 Ride or Die does have elements that lean more towards racing. Still, there is no denying the resemblance between the two – the fast-paced combat, the gratuitous violence and profanity, the loosey-goosey controls, the thinly-tied storyline – Roadkill and 187 are like a pair of fraternal twins that kinda-sorta look alike, but not so much that you can’t tell them apart. Regardless, neither game is all that good.
187 Ride or Die puts you in the shoes of a fledgling gangster named Buck, who has been hand-selected by the gang’s leader, Dupree, to head up a war against the rival gang. This war is not to be fought on foot, but in a series of deathmatch-flavored races set in and around a loosely rendered version of the City of Angels.
As expected from a title like this – in which vehicular destruction is the name of the game – the vehicle selection is a varied lot of unlicensed fantasy rides. But while the cars aren’t real, the weapons certainly are – 187 Ride or Die features a bevy of single-shot weapons (pistols, shotguns), automatic assault weapons (AK-47, UZI), throwables (Molotovs, mines), even rocket launchers and gattling guns. Weapons are set at predetermined hotspots and driving over them will add them to your arsenal.
Combat can be controlled in one of two wildly different control options. The first option allows the player to toggle aim front to rear (or vice versa) with a quick press of the corresponding shoulder button (R1/R2) – any actual targeting is completed with an auto aim feature. The second option allows the player to aim in a full rotation about the vehicle with the left stick. Obviously, the first option is the more manageable of the two, but neither is very user friendly – especially when there is that whole "steering the car" thing you have to do.
Events come in the form of lap-wise combat races, all-out arena-style deathmatches, and a few police chase and escort-style missions thrown in to boot. Looking at the recipe, it seems like all of the ingredients are present for great gameplay – but in reality, the game cooks up flat in the single player mode.
To begin, it doesn’t take long for 187 Ride or Die to become tiresome. It seems than in an attempt to lengthen the game’s short lifespan – the entire game can be completed in less than five hours – the developers defaulted the race events to five or more laps. Since the tracks are of substantial length, it seems to take forever to finish an event. To make matters worse, the rubber band AI is so blatant that it is really only the final stretch of the final lap that decides the winner.
If you felt that the first four and a half laps actually mattered it might make races a bit more exciting. But forcing yourself through four minutes of boredom just to make the final boost push to the end is not much fun. Especially in those frequent cases when your car is destroyed by an opponent just moments before crossing the finish line, and you have to go back and do the whole boring race all over again.
187 Ride or Die would probably hold a bit more excitement if the combat itself were more satisfying. While the idea of racing around unloading lead into you opponents’ sleds sounds fun, trying to juggle the driving and aiming mechanics becomes tedious and confusing. Especially when the game doesn’t really place much necessity on eliminating the opposition in the first place. Sure, the game awards for eliminating the competition, but not as much as it does for finishing first. So, why waste time shooting when you can keep riding the boost to keep the lead?
On the other hand, the deathmatches do require liberal use of the supplied weaponry – a machine gun and a shotgun – but the arenas themselves prove to be the biggest enemy. You spend more time trying to simultaneously avoid enemy fire and garner enough health packs so the game will allow (yes allow) you to shoot back - because for some reason, Buck can only shoot when Buck is at full health. What’s up with that?
One shining addition is that the entire game – story and multiplayer – can be played cooperatively with a friend; one gamer in control of the vehicle, the other is in control of the weapons. Naturally, sharing duties with a friend makes for a more enjoyable experience, and allows you to forgive the game’s obvious downfalls; the repetitious missions and races.
The two-player scheme works in the online mode as well, and would serve as a great way to introduce friends to the world of online gaming should there were any open sessions playing anywhere. I trolled the servers over a dozen times during peak hours over the period of a week and never once found any game sessions in play. So much for online…still, with a friend, a six-pack and a few hours to kill, you can have a fairly fun time with 187 Ride or Die.
The visual presentation is probably the strongest aspect of 187 Ride or Die. The graphics are certainly on par with the other “night” racers (Midnight Club, Need For Speed Underground, Street Racing Syndicate) and feature all of the cool visual effects that we have come to expect from the genre; edge blurs, slow-motion cuts, bright neon lights, shimmering roadways, etc. Don’t expect anything new, but what is here is certainly impressive.
The vehicles show the appropriate and compounding levels of damage, and once fully destroyed the game forces the camera into a slow motion crash scene that simply reeks of Burnout rip-off. While it looks cools for the first ten-or-so times, I find these scenes to be a bit of a distraction, as they tend to throw off my racing groove.
The story mode is told through a series of fairly well modeled CGI cutscenes. The characters look believable enough, save for the slightly cadaver-like facial expressions, and lip-synching seems to be matched up fairly well. While the entire game has a dark and sinister aura about it, the cutscenes really do a good job of showcasing the seedy underbelly of gang warfare.
While the graphics may be the strongest aspect of 187 Ride or Die, the sound is very nearly the worst. Not so much in terms of the technical production quality, but more in terms of the script writing and voiceover acting, both of which are some of the absolute worst yet seen (or heard) on a console.
First, the profanity is in full effect in 187 Ride or Die. Full effect. With an F-bomb (or some variation thereof) thrown into nearly every spoken sentence, that this is probably not the game you want to share with the family. I am no prude when it comes to foul language and I know that some profanity is necessary to add a genuine flavor to a game like 187 Ride or Die, but this is overkill. Seriously, these voiceovers would make even San Andreas’ CJ cringe.
If the swearing is not bad enough on its own, the absolutely ridiculous overuse (and misuse) of urban slang will definitely make you cringe. It seems like the French developers took their French script, translated it directly to English, and then haphazardly threw in urban slang phrases and loosely sewed it all into an unintelligible screenplay. These characters shizzle and fizzle more than Snoop Dogg, and when they start layering these phases onto each other it truly gets ridiculous – so much so that you have no idea what is being said, even with captions on.
And if those two items don’t seal the deal for you, then the atrocious voiceovers should. On an elemental level, the actors’ voices sound very genuine for a couple of gruff urban guys. However, when you consider all of little nuances that make up speech; pacing, inflection and tonality – it becomes quite apparent that either these actors are truly horrible orators, or they just plain did not give a shit (see, now it’s got me swearing!).
The incredibly slow, drawn-out narratives are rife with inexplicable mid-sentence pauses, confusing verbal inflections and accentuations. Really, it cannot be given justice without hearing it in person, but it sounds like the actors had one blunt too many before they picked up the script. Play………..ya!
While 187 Ride or Die will never reach the cult status of “All your base …” there is no denying that it is one of the modern consoles’ best examples of the worst examples of video game scripting.
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. As expected, Black's music leans towards harder-edged rap, the surprise is that it actually sounds quit solid and authentic - at least compared to the rest of the audio in the game.
As a full-priced release, it is a bit difficult to recommend 187 Ride or Die for a purchase. With mediocre gameplay, offensive scriptwriting, laughable acting, a story mode that can easily be knocked out in a single evening, and an online community that seldom materializes, it’s just not worth shelling out the fifty bucks just to be bummed out.
Still, a friend, a six-pack, and a few hours, and you have a good Saturday night rental.
Although 187 Ride or Die tries hard to mix tried-and-true gameplay elements from a number of wildly popular games, the result comes across more like tired-and-phony. While not a total loss, it definitely is not worth the price of admission.
If you really want to give 187 a go, I would suggest calling a friend and sharing the fun. Even so, you would still be better off spending your dough on Burnout: Revenge, which should be out as you read this.