The latest entry in the growing genre of thugsploitation games is Ubisoft's 187 Ride or Die, a title that attempts to promote an incredibly simple premise with a parade of four letter words and urban violence. Aside from the presentation, 187 is a generic racing combat game that falls far below the standards set by previous games in this genre.
It's impossible to discuss 187 without mentioning the incessant use of profanity and slang. This stylistic choice may have become increasingly popular due to the incredible sales of the Grand Theft Auto series. However where Rockstar's games attempt to capture an entire zeitgeist, 187 is a simple arcade game with a paper thin story line. It stars a young man named Buck who is commissioned by the local gang leader to take down members of a rival crew. The presentation seems more like a marketing ploy than a depiction of life on the mean streets of wherever.
Not only does the constant swearing and use of slang become annoying, it feels as though the text was sloppily pasted together from a spreadsheet of popular terms. Here's an excerpt from the text that appears after Buck wins a deathmatch challenge:
"Buck, you did you G dizzle, Gang--sta! Now peep this gangsta, you can hit the switches and blaze up the next hood you want, Ya heard. Keep the heater burnin' Baby."
One can almost see the designers checking off a list of requirements: "Good, we used the term gangster twice in this paragraph, but let's try to add few more swear words."
The basic and most commonly occurring challenge is a race that circles some rather small urban tracks. The turns are mostly at right angles making powersliding a necessary skill. Cars also have a boost meter that fills up by performing skids and super skids. Attaining a full boost meter enables a super burst of speed that puts players in first-person mode and completely blurs the edges of the screen. As for the general feeling of speed in this game, the sports cars travel at a decent clip, but the SUVs are downright slow. This combined with loose steering makes for generally unresponsive controls and driving that is functional without being fun.
The roads are littered with weapons, health, speed boosts and are filled with civilian traffic that constantly gets in the way. There are two control schemes in 187. One setup allows player to have full 360 degree control over their shooting with the right analog stick and with the other player simply hits one face button to shoot forward and another to shoot behind. The second scheme has an automatic lock-on system that makes smoking the competition incredibly easy.
Outside of mines and Molotov cocktails, the weapon variation is hardly noticeable. There may be a slight difference in the rate of fire of an Uzi when compared to the AK 47, but weapons run out of ammo quickly and are readily available on all of the courses. Players can continuously shoot at anything that moves without worrying about conserving ammo or switching guns. The only weapon players should look out for is the rocket launcher which lights up vehicles with one fiery explosion.
Aside from racing, there are also elimination rounds where the rider in last place is eliminated after each lap. There are also deathmatches which equip Buck with a chain gun and a shotgun. One weapon is used to eliminate gunmen while the other is better suited for damaging vehicles. In these situations players have separate health bars for Buck and his ride. If Buck gets tagged enough times, he'll be incapable of returning fire until players can find a health pack, but if the vehicle takes too much damage it bursts into flames and the mission is over.
187 sporadically shows promise during the story mode. There are protection missions where players must escort a vehicle from point A to point B while taking out or avoiding wave after wave of rival gang members. Later in the game there's a similar mission where players have to keep their speed above 105 mph or a time bomb detonates in their trunk. The strength of these challenges lie in the fact players are no longer trapped in the confines of the repetitive race courses and death match maps. The game would most definitely benefit from larger, more open maps that use only the fastest cars.
The multiplayer mode includes split screen function that allows two players to go head to head or team up for co-op action. When two players work together, one person controls the car while the other holds down the weaponry and the boost. It's an interesting combination that promotes teamwork but the gameplay is so simplistic that breaking it up into two segments makes the individual tasks fairly monotonous. Multiplayer includes the normal "whip race," mine field challenges, and deathmatch.
The game also supports system link and multiplayer over Xbox Live. Playing against live opponents is only slightly more fun than challenging the AI. The real bonus is that in addition to the never ending loop of obscene comments made by the main character, players can hear real live people creatively curse at the game.
187 is filled with shiny cars and flashy explosions that at times make the title more exciting to watch than it is to experience. When Buck kills an opponent the game cuts to a slow motion crash sequence ripped directly from Burnout 3. The character models in the cut scenes look like gangster themed Barbie and Ken dolls and the storyline reminds me of the what the Simpsons said about CSI: all style and no substance.
The voice acting is decent, but oftentimes sounds ridiculous due to the terrible script. The decent licensed soundtrack by Guerilla Black features fifteen previously unreleased tracks but is offset by the generic west coast beats that play over most of the missions.
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