Release Date: August 23, 2005
187: Ride or Die is one of the worst games I’ve ever played in my life.
I don’t say this as a euphemism, I don’t say this to gather attention, I don’t say this as an overreaction. This is after taking the time to carefully analyze all of the games that I have played in my lifetime.
In said lifetime, there are games that I have encountered that are indeed worse than it in certain departments. Certain solitary aspects, if you will. Legacy of the Wizard for the NES was almost impossible to decipher, and Bebe’s Kids for the SNES was clearly programmed by Pinky of Pinky and the Brain fame. The Terminator 3 games for PS2 gave me headaches the likes of which no biological illness can reproduce, and don’t get me started on the likes of Rise of the Robots, or Sonic 3D Blast.
Still, with all of those games, there’s always a silver lining to be found. There’s always a “but at least it tried.” Not so here. As far as overall product and execution is concerned, I’ve encountered nothing worse than 187: Ride or Die.
(...well, okay, and Bebe’s Kids.)
I’d make a snappy, witty pun about how “I choose death,” but a million other snarky reviewers have beaten me to it by this point.
Still--enough talking about me, at least for now. Let’s get into what makes this game so unbearable, shall we?
At its core, Ride or Die is a car combat game. It involves mainly racing segments, but every once in a while digresses into specialized missions. The racing parts are similarly themed—in each one, you must always finish in first place, but some have special stipulations, such as not being in the last lap or your car will explode, or being an all-land-mines race. While racing, your character, one Buck Williams, will shoot things out of the window of his car—either automatic weapons (all of which are the same and don’t provide nearly enough ammo), shotguns (actually somewhat effective), rocket launchers (very effective, one-shot kill, but rare), and mines and molotov cocktails (which nobody will ever fall prey to but you).
Using these weapons is, of course, crucial to victory, as it does everything from slow the enemy down to taking them out of the race entirely. Without these weapons, Buck’s stuck with a sidearm which never does any damage, so it’s up to you to run over powerup icons on the road, or steal weapons from other cars by ramming them. Cars can also nitro-boost by grabbing boost icons or drifting to raise boost power.
It doesn’t take long to realize that as far as racing goes, the game seems to only be able to sport three or so tracks. Prepare to race the same exact course again… and again… and again, no matter how many different parts of the city you end up traveling to (or “blazing” in Ride or Die-speak). The missions range from standard arena car combat, to outrunning the police, to protecting another car that’s carrying an important package. The former one is easy enough—the latter, not so much.
The game is playable in two ways: single-player and co-op mode. (This excludes the multiplayer, which involves two separate players battling it out in different modes.) Single player involves two control schemes—a fairly innovative one that involves flicks of the right analog stick in the direction of the car that you want to shoot, and one that involves an auto-lock system that works when it wants to. Co-op mode involves one person driving, and one shooting. It looks to work out great, except for one thing. The gunner has control of the car’s turbo-boost. Worse, this cannot be changed. Suddenly, the fighter is stuck with a function that has nothing to do with his role, and the driver loses that much power. Wonderful.
Pretty much every mode that the game sports has a critical shortcoming in some way. The punchline here is that the gameplay is incredible compared to the game’s setting. I don’t know who greenlighted this overblown urban gangsta theme the game’s sporting and let it reach the public, but they need several good chops to the face. Badly-done slang, some of which has been out of style for years (and some of which I’m sure is made-up), is slung around as freely as other words in the English language. The paper-thin story and setting are fresh out of the lowest-quality hip-hop music videos and movies, and the dialogue makes absolutely no sense. It spreads to the names of the cars as well, as each one has a hip-hop-tastic moniker along the lines of “Just Blaze”, and “Cop Killa.”
As someone who appreciates good gameplay, I’m disappointed. As a hobbyist storyteller, I’m insulted. As a black person, I’m downright offended at this mess. I’m an expert at taking things in stride and finding comedy in stereotypes, but this just gets so many things wrong on so many levels that it stops being funny and just starts being… well, stupid. I work at a game store in the inner city and everybody who has bought this game has tried to return it. When we tell them that store policy dictates that they can’t, the look in their eyes is colder than the Arctic Circle itself. This happens every time without fail. When your game isn’t even received by its intended audience, you know you’ve messed up big time.
The graphics are the definition of mediocre. There is a widescreen format for high-definition televisions to take advantage of, but I’m convinced that HD actually hurts the graphics engine as opposed to helping it along. The nighttime streets are dominated with patches of red, yellow, and pitch black, making it almost impossible for you to see where the next turn is coming, where the next car is, where civilian cars (which have the uncanny ability to travel through the walls) are, or where one needs to shoot. The daytime streets, of course, have much better visibility, but they still don’t look very nice. When one factors in the load time required for each mission or race, one wonders where all the work ended up going.
The soundtrack, on the other hand, is easily the high point of this game. Guerilla Black, who provides the voice of the gang leader Buck works for, also provided the soundtrack, and thus, it’s the only part of the urban mythos present in the game that has some authenticity. It’s catchy, easy to listen to, and has some good lyrics. Sadly, the lyrical versions only play during the menu screens—during the races, we get watered-down instrumental versions.
The voice acting is another story altogether. In an attempt to pay homage to the urban setting of the game, the voices try a little too hard. Guerilla Black is most obvious in this, but Buck (voiced by Lorenz Tate) and the supporting characters are no slouches either. It ends up being equal parts funny and saddening.
Gameplay-wise, 187 is mediocrity hampered by bad mechanics and ambience. Theme-wise, it is, at best, a parody, and at worst, downright insulting. It is not fun to play, it hurts the ears, the eyes, and the mind. It takes a lot for a game to do that. I hope someone reworks the admittedly good 360-degree shooting idea and puts it in a good car-combat game, but outside of that and the soundtrack, this game shoots itself in the foot with everything it tries.
Play this at your own peril.