Release Date: July 19, 2005
Come and die… come and Die with me! Those lyrics by rapper Fatal come to mind when playing 187: Ride or Die. Taking you into an over-the-top experience, the game resembles the gangland feel of the movie Judgement Night, where there’s excitement, danger and mayhem, but it’s a little too much to be seriously scary. Ubisoft hits this point intentionally in its development of 187. Officially set to release in Q3 of this year, the game is a driver, but definitely not in competition with the current field of simulator releases.
The game features Larenz Tate, as the budding gangster and main character throughout the game. Recently, he portrayed Quincy Jones in Ray and lends his likeness and well-suited voice to 187. Tate is Buck in 187, and you will be this aspiring and fearless gangster on his way to the top. Drive through L.A. as Buck to fulfill crucial missions for your mentor, Dupree, and rise to the top of America’s Most Wanted, maintaining and regaining the control of some of L.A.’s most dangerous turf. Dupree is in an all-out war with another gang, and your missions will focus on this prime competitor and deadly enemy, Cortez. This leader is played by Noel Gugliemi, already experienced in this role, as you may remember him from the movie Training Day. Not to be left out, Buck’s mentor Dupree is represented by the artist Guerilla Black, rounding out a fairly notable cast for this Ubisoft title, a real success at tying known voices and likenesses into a game.
187 is a racing shooter, or maybe it’s a shooting racer, but most importantly it seems that Ubisoft is trying to strike an even balance between the two modes in creation of 187. Yes, you are racing other cars in urban settings while trying to blow them to smithereens, but there isn’t any gore or ridiculously bloody ragdoll physics models for bodies flying out of the crashing cars. 187 is a fresh take on racing games that incorporate offensive weaponry.
Instead of a futuristic setting with hover-vehicles and plasma weaponry or 007esque super-weapons, 187 incorporates a gangland drama to make the player a West coast thug on the rise in his organization as everything is about to fall apart. This story yields the perfect setting for a driving game where each vehicle has an accomplice with everything from a handgun to a rocket launcher to take out other vehicles throughout the race.
A player’s goal in races of 187 is pretty simple: Survive the race, and don’t be last after completing each lap. If your car gets destroyed, or you are in last place, that’s it, you’ve lost.
Each level is a special mission as the drama unfolds, and the successful completion of the race/task keeps the power balance between your gang and the opposition in check. The racing levels range from narrow urban tracks with lower speeds and many square corners to high-speed highway challenges with plenty of oncoming traffic to end your life.
The game’s AI controlling the competing cars is designed for continuous action. The on-game engine will begin making mistakes if you get too far back, and get much better if you get too far ahead. This style keeps the race close right down to the end. However, this doesn’t mean that it’s going to be impossible to keep a lead in 187. Power ups throughout the race become tuned for your position among the field. When you are in the back, heavy offensive weapons like rocket launchers become available, and when you finally do make your way to the front, either through fancy driving or blasting the competition off the track, the power up weapons available switch to more defensive tools to keep you ahead of the pack.
As a single player, the game is manageable to play, but already the two-player action is promising. Combine into a tag-team, one player as the driver, and another as the car’s shooter to beat the field of vehicles. Multiplayer is currently targeted to support eight players in four cars, and that looks to be more than enough to create total mayhem.
Another aspect of 187 that may prove to be exciting is death match mode. The game we got our hands on was between pickups. There are no superpower powerups, just the basics like health. The driver is armed with a M-16, and each vehicle had a Gatlin gun mounted in the pickup bed. Essentially, we got to drive around a suburban map where the road layout looked much like you would find near a gaggle of strip malls, a bunch of ins and outs, access roads and boulevards just confusing enough to make it a bit challenging to drive and shoot your enemies at the same time. The shooter and the driver each have separate health, so you can lose your shooter temporarily, but drive to some health and revive him to resume the assault on others.
Control of the cars is very arcade in 187, and your vehicles will range from sports cars to SUVs throughout the game. Will you get a Hummer or an Escalade? Wait and see. Currently there are over 30 vehicles in four different classes, and before anyone goes all ballistic and says that more cars are needed, put the game in perspective. 187 is not out to mimic a racing circuit, or even be a driving simulator, and given the number of titles hitting the streets these days claiming to be the “most-realistic,” 187 is poised to provide a great experience for the share of the market not terribly concerned with tire temperatures, and just ready to have fun with an innovative arcade-style driver; or maybe a shooter that challenges you to drive on a tight, curvy course while destroying your competition.
In either case, 187 is one of those love-hate games where the final reviews will be conflicting. Some will praise the control system, others will obsess about the tag-team multiplayer environment, and some will call it poor as they attempt to compare it to other games recently hitting the market. When this game hits the streets, we’ll be back to give you more insight as the bullets fly during 187’s release.