Publisher: Eidos Interactive
Developer: Avalanche Software
Release Date: January 17, 2006
True Crime: New York City. Crime Life: Gang Wars. 187: Ride or Die. And finally, 25 to Life.
What do these "games" have in common? Each and every single one of them features stupid black people beating, or shooting the crap out of each other for no good reason whatsoever. Aside from True Crime, the most polished of the bunch, every single one of these games has come out of Europe.
With that in mind, Europe, I have a message for you.
Stop it. Stop it now. You're not fooling anyone.
I mean, at least put some thought into these travesties. Put some work into them. The reason GTA: San Andreas did so well wasn't because it had gangs and shooting - it was because it had fun gameplay, a sense of humor, expansive and varied gameplay types, and a story that, while cheesy, made sense. Why can't you ape those as much as you try to ape what you see in rap videos shown on BET?
After all of these knockoffs, with no end in sight, I've just about reached my breaking point. I don't know if this sick fascination with "thug life" is actual misguided infatuation, or some sort of dollar-driven conspiracy, but I know one thing - this is the first game whose ridiculousness I haven't been able to bring myself to laugh at. It's actually managed to make me righteously angry.
I thought 187 was the worst game I'd ever played, but 25 to Life has taught me that I should never jump to conclusions that fast.
In my time playing this game, I've gotten shot repeatedly from invisible places, and survived AK-47 blasts to the face. I've dealt with nonexistent aiming mechanisms which made sure that I did nothing but flail my arms around as my hails of bullets missed characters and hit others with invisible Kevlar vests. Despite all of this, I still got picked off with expert shots from my enemies. Said "expert shots," however, were rendered null and void if I simply ran through the streets without looking back.
Eventually, I just gave up, end ended up running-and-gunning through levels, forgetting about the secondary fetch quests that the game tacks on to each mission to give it the illusion of depth. It got me quite far, actually, but ended up with me bored very quickly. Mind you, so many times, I noticed that the game's actually quite theatric about what you see when your character dies - a black man lying in a pool of his own blood.
(This is a review, I will not pull the race card, I will not pull the race card, I will not pull the race card…)
Okay, enough of the game's horrific setting. On to the technicals; for you see, 25 to Life manages to be a bad game even without any help from its "urban" theme. The story centers around a gangbanger trying to get out of the thug life, a police officer caught in the middle of corruption, and… a gang leader trying to keep control of his empire. For all of their differing stories, however, they all have the same goals: make it through the stage alive, by killing as many people as you can, and not being killed. The game doesn't seem to care who you kill, be it hoodrat, police officer or hostage. Oh, but hey, look, you can take human shields, a gameplay concept already perfected years ago! The human shields mechanic is highly flawed, granting you about one shot of protection. This means that when you're facing down people with automatics or shotguns (read: just about every enemy in this game), it's pretty much worthless.
A somewhat noteworthy feature is that when NPCs aren't being engaged by your character, they'll look for their own fights. Rolling in a gang-infested neighborhood, for example, will result in you witnessing several instances of AI police and AI gang members shooting it out with one another. This will go on until someone sees you, at which point all bets are off; everyone hates you. Of course, all you have to do is duck behind a nearby overturned refrigerator - even if the enemy saw you run towards it - and you'll be safe once more. Solid Snake would undoubtedly be proud.
25 to Life's presentation is so below the mark that if I called it "sub-par" it would actually be a compliment. It sports graphics that would have been impressive for a first-generation Dreamcast game, getting points only for the expansive territories that the playable characters must travel through. However, those points are nullified by the horrific engine that powers the game.
Animations, for instance, are minimal. When characters have melee weapons, they have two to three frames for their usage - one moment, the arm is up, and the next, it's down. Walking animations are just as sparse, as is the game's overall framerate. The game forever plays choppily, which messes with the game's aiming even more. Aside from every model in the game being low-poly, the engine doesn't seem to be very aware of its own graphics. In one instance, my character was shot, and blood spattered behind him. Never mind the fact that this pretty much signifies that the bullet went through him, and thus he should have been killed instantly; no, no, this is videogames. What happened is that half of the blood spatter went onto a wall behind him. The other half… ended up being plastered on thin air in an open doorway.
Random glitch? I'd say so too if this hadn't happened twice.
The sound's a little better, though the soundtrack consists of generic gangsta rap from a variety of sources (having DMX in here is just not helping), and also featuring a few hip-hop names that I'm ashamed to have associated with this game. It should be noted that Guerilla Black, the sound behind 187: Ride or Die, is back for another round here, and the results are much worse. As for in-game sounds… well, just about every gun utilizes the same sound effect when fired, cars make a weak, almost tinny noise when hit by bats, and everybody in this game who speaks secretly wants to be a gangsta if they aren't already.
Most reviewers dance around reviewing the online mode of this game. I won't. I wasn't able to review it, nor do I wish to try. I refuse to believe that a game engine this bare-bones and buggy could prove to be any fun in any sort of competitive play. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it, darn it all.
After two weeks on the market, 25 to Life went from a full $50 price to $19.99. I was amused when this took place, but now I know that this is still too much to pay for this game. It's Max Payne without the bullet-time, the control, the atmosphere, or the fun. Avoid at all costs. Don't even try to get it to have a good laugh - you'll still end up apologizing to yourself.Score: 4.0/10
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