187 Ride or Die Single-Player Preview

We roll hard through the streets of the story mode in Ubisoft's upcoming urban car-combat game.

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Just recently, we got hands-on with the multiplayer component of 187 Ride or Die, the thugged-out combat racer from Ubisoft. Now we've spent some time with the single-player mode of the game to see what kind of thug life it'll let you lead. The game puts you in the role of Buck, a young tough who's working his way up the ranks of a criminal empire belonging to the hefty Dupri, an OG who's clearly well versed in the ways of the streets. Dupri's got a long-standing beef with another gang leader named Cortez, and you'll be dealing violently with Cortez's thugs as you run one lucrative street race after another and rise to notoriety yourself.

The story mode is set up in a linear fashion, and you'll tackle a number of challenges in one neighborhood of the city before moving on to a new area. At the outset, you've got access to only one car, but the more you play, the more cars with different speed, handling, and armor ratings you'll unlock. These cars (as well as a number of new playable characters) will then be opened up for use in the quick-race and multiplayer sections of the game.

The driving in 187 is pretty much by the numbers and makes you rely a lot on sliding to get around tight corners. You've got a nitrous-style boost you can hit to gain extra speed, which depletes your boost meter. The way to get your meter back up is to go into a "skid" by doing an extreme powerslide around the corner. The longer the skid, the more boost you get back. The game's racing mechanic has a fairly loose, arcade-style feel to it and is easy to get a handle on. After just a few races, you might not even have to shoot anybody; you can just outrun them.

But that would remove half the fun, wouldn't it? The other half of the gameplay in 187 is the shooting, which is obviously an important part of winning. The game basically plays like a gangster version of Mario Kart. As you tear around an urban track, you'll encounter a row of power-ups every minute or so that will grant you a weapon of some kind or, less frequently, a boost meter refill or some extra life. Weapons run the thug gamut from AK-47s to shotguns, submachine guns, and Molotov cocktails.

It's always easier to win a race when you shoot all of the competition.
It's always easier to win a race when you shoot all of the competition.

When you grab a weapon, you can choose to fire forward or backward, and there are two control schemes available. The simpler of the two uses an auto-aim system to make you hit whatever target you're pointing at, while the more advanced scheme lets you use the analog stick to shoot in any direction. This is obviously harder to get used to, but it lets you hit cars that are at weird angles, and it also gives you the opportunity to blow up stationary objects like fuel tanks at opportune times.

When you start off the single-player portion of 187, the goals are fairly basic--the first whip race merely challenges you to come in first (and blast anybody who gets in your way). But as you progress through the story mode, the race objectives and circumstances start to become more varied. For instance, later on in the first neighborhood, we had to run another race, but this time the only weapons available were mines that we could drop out behind our car. This obviously changed the dynamic of the race, since we had to get directly in front of an enemy to damage him, and the road was littered with other cars' mines, which made the driving a lot tougher.

Another race was more like a Twisted Metal-style arena challenge, where we had to drive around a large area and take out a set number of cars to win. Still another race had us escorting a van carrying an important package down a coastal highway and through a tunnel, constantly dodging oncoming traffic and blowing up thugs who were trying to take out the van. Even the more typical races will offer some variety. One challenge was a "death race" in which the car in the last-place position at the end of each lap was unceremoniously detonated. But no pressure, really.

The game provides varied objectives, from death races to escort missions.
The game provides varied objectives, from death races to escort missions.

The game has a solid aesthetic that's more than a little reminiscent of recent street racers like Need for Speed Underground, what with all the late-night settings, wet pavement, and neon lights. But the more we've played, the more variety we've seen, such as the aforementioned van-escort mission, which takes place during the day in a less, er, ghetto area of town. The voice work in the game is pretty authentic, with Buck being voiced by Menace II Society star Lorenz Tate, and Biggie Smalls soundalike Guerilla Black providing the lines for the sizable Dupri.

From what we've played, 187 seems to provide a solid, arcade-style driving experience with the added benefit of letting you shoot and blow up a lot of stuff, which is always appreciated. We'll be interested to see how consistently the game remains varied as the story progresses. 187 Ride or Die is due out later this month, so stay tuned for a full review.

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