One of the most recent trends in the gaming industry has been the capitalization on the "hip-hop" style. Whether it's a fighting game in an underground arena or a sports title packed with slang and rap tracks, many companies feel the need to leap onto the "street" bandwagon. This means plenty of characters dripping in diamonds, throwing slang left and right, and tons of gunfire. The latest title to hit the digital streets is Ubisoft's 187: Ride or Die, a car combat title looking to gun down its competition. Grab a bulletproof vest and your favorite car, because we're entering some dangerous races.
The story behind 187 serves to give a general backdrop as to why you're shooting up your competitors. Players take on the role of Buck, a young henchman of a crime lord known as Dupree. He has been fighting a longstanding turf war with a rival named Cortez, who attempted to settle their differences by shooting Dupree multiple times. After recovering from his attack, Dupree gives Buck the task of taking all of Cortez's territory and finishing him off once and for all. Of course, Dupree gives Buck the admonition that forms part of the game title – he either rides and comes out on top or he dies.
Thus starts the premise of the game, in which you and five other "riders" race through the streets trying to get from the start to the finish line as fast as possible. This can be accomplished in one of two ways. First of all, you can steer your car through the streets, construction areas and alleyways, powersliding around corners and through tight turns. Unlike other racing games, these slides are designed to give you additional nitrous boosts that you can use for extra speed on the course. The other way is by literally taking your opponents out with the numerous firearms and weapons scattered across the racetracks. You'll be able to pick up everything from shotguns and automatic weapons to Molotov cocktails and landmines, and you'll be able to fire in front of or behind you to eliminate your competition.
187 does vary up the standard race formula a number of times throughout the story missions. For instance, every now and then, you'll race on courses that eliminate the last place in each lap. You'll also find minor variations on the destructive theme, such as removing all weapons other than land mines, which can make cleanly navigating the streets extremely hazardous later in a race. You'll sprint away from the police in one section known as the "Po-Po chase", and you'll also perform escort missions where you have to protect another car from incoming attacks on the road. One of the more creative levels drops you in the middle of a contained arena in your car with a shotgun and a chaingun as you try to take out as many cars as you can before time runs out. The shotgun is used to weaken other shooters, while the chaingun disables their cars.
The standouts of the game are easily the models of the cars, which are varied and relatively eye-catching. You'll notice the difference between the lowriders and the SUVs, and watching come of the animations connected to the cars, such as passengers popping out of windows or sunroofs to fire weapons looks very good. It's also apparent that the designers took a page from Burnout 3, featuring a close up on opponents that have been eliminated from races. However, one of the largest strikes against the game is the lack of environments that you'll drive through. You'll find yourself quickly getting bored as you race through the same streets over and over, around the same areas with a few minor variations to the mission type.
This isn’t really helped with the sound in the game, which is flatly delivered, dull (even for blatant stereotyping of characters) and uncreative. In a way, it’s almost embarrassing to know that Larenz Tate attached himself to this project for the main character. Most of his asides, which primarily consist of wanting to “peel wigs” and yelling at his driver, are extremely generic and not interesting to listen to in the slightest. Even worse, the “mission dialogue” for the intro and outro of every race is full of the most nonsensical crap ever written. It’s as if the designers felt they needed to throw in random lines of profanity and slang together to either cheer you on or yell at you. I have no problem with either profanity or slang, but at least make it sound like something someone might say. For instance, “my gangsta G rida homie Buck” just makes you sound 1) like you’re trying way to hard to be hip and 2) that you’re definitely not from the culture that talks that way.
Obviously, dialogue like this hampers parts of the gameplay. What further complicates it is the fact that the game itself is relatively threadbare. Once you’ve experienced the limited race types that are scattered sporadically through the game, you really find that there’s no depth to the title itself. Races are skewed, with a massive focus on rubber band AI that will infuriate the mellowest player. Weapons don’t really seem radically different from each other in terms of damage, and many of the guns feel the same when you pull the trigger. The storyline is essentially non-existent, with a random cutscene thrown in between a number of races to supposedly advance the plot. However, it’s so disconnected to what you’ve been doing race wise that you never get an idea why you’re going ahead, winning these competitions or making a difference in the game itself. Even the reason why the races you enter isn’t given, which doesn’t make the single player game interesting. Fortunately, it’s extremely short, so you can blow through it in one day or so. However, you’re not going to want to replay it once you’re done. While you can have a second player join in and drive or shoot for you in the story mode, or even take them on in multiplayer, you really have no reason to want to subject someone else to this game.
187 is one of those titles that you wish went in one of two separate directions: either it focused on the storyline and made an urban crime story, or they made a combat racer with a different theme. As it stands now, neither premise works in this title, and the game really isn’t that engaging. If you’re looking for a racing game or a combat game, this really isn’t the one for you.