In an era populated by hip-hop megastars who flaunt their street status while simultaneously lending their names and likenesses out for a billion different marketing deals, the concept of "keeping it real" obviously isn't as important as it used to be. That said, 187 Ride or Die is a fairly standard car combat game with extremely repetitive gameplay and a hip-hop theme that feels about as fake and forced as possible.
When you get right down to it, 187 Ride or Die is really an attempt at making a gangstered-up version of a Mario Kart game. Most of the modes are races with combat involved. You'll drive over weapon pick-ups, which cause the person in the passenger seat to climb up through the sunroof and start blasting. You can fire ahead of or behind you, and each car has an armor rating that dictates how much it can take before it blows up. There are also health power-ups around the track that will give you some of your armor back. The handling is loose, making it easy to steer and skid around corners. Skidding earns you boost, which lets you fly ahead of the competition, but the meter drains quickly, preventing you from getting too far ahead.
Also standing in your way in races is the game's extreme desire to keep things close. No matter how well you corner, no matter how many times you fill up the boost meter and blast through the straightaways, the other five cars in the race are always right on your tail when you're in the lead. They'll also slow up if you're at the back of the pack, giving you plenty of chances to take the lead. Overall, this makes for some frustrating moments, because the last 30 seconds of the race are what really matters and it's possible to lose a race at the last second.
Aside from the standard race, there's also a mode that replaces all the weapons with mines; a mode that eliminates the last-place racer after every lap; and an arena-style combat mode that puts you in a pickup truck with two weapons--a Gatling gun and a mysterious gun that looks like an assault rifle yet somehow manages to fire like a shotgun--and has you simply do battle with other racers. When playing alone, you'll also get tossed into a few "po-po chase" events. Here, one-time is on your tail and you've got to lose them by completing a race. There are new cop cars at every turn, and there's only one track for the event--so even though you'll encounter this race multiple times, it's identical each time. Also, the cop-avoidance events are the only mode where you can't shoot at your foes. Given that the rest of the game has you blowing up cars left and right, this seems like an obvious cop-out.
The single-player mode takes you through all of these different event types over and over again and attempts to wrap it in a story. But the story gives off the impression that someone wanted to make a long, elaborate tale, but then the money ran out, a deadline crept up, or something, leaving behind a mess that barely qualifies as a narrative. Even after taking the four or five hours it takes to finish it, you're left wondering what the heck this was all about. You're given a few terrible cutscenes along the way, but most of the motivation comes from Dupree, the guy you're working for, who narrates the pre- and postrace descriptions. All of the voice work in the game is unintentionally hilarious, filled with poor delivery. But what really make it an over-the-top laugh-fest are the awful subtitles and transcriptions, which are filled with typos and punctuation errors that read as though someone who's never heard any hip-hop slang before tried to write them. Here's an example: "Yo Buck, you ready gangsta! Its only pop-lockin'. Race these bustas. You know what to do. Win. G-ridas like us don't lose. Holla back atcha boy." In this case, the speech mostly lines up, but the actual line is, "It's on and pop lockin'."
The game has some multiplayer options to it. A second player can control the shooting while one player drives. You can do this through the story mode or play that way online, if you choose. Online, up to four cars can go into regular races, mine races, and deathmatch events. But the cars you can select are limited to what the host has unlocked. Considering that we had trouble finding a lot of games to get into, this left us at the mercy of a host that hadn't unlocked anything at all--which makes an already unexciting game practically unplayable.
There are a decent number of vehicles in 187 Ride or Die, and these are broken up into classes. Some races are for SUVs, some are for muscle cars, and some are for sports cars. The unlicensed vehicles are another place where the developers felt the need to inject some hip-hop references, so you'll see cars named Fo Shizzle, Big Pimpin', Groupie Luv, and Just Blaze. Like most of the other stuff in 187 Ride or Die, the car names just feel forced.
The graphics are the best thing about 187 Ride or Die. The game runs at a smooth frame rate on both the PS2 and Xbox, and the environments also look reasonably sharp--though there aren't many different tracks, so the look gets a little tired over time. The car designs are nice and varied, though, and the animation of your passenger rising through the sunroof and firing is pretty good. The game doesn't have a very good sense of speed to it, but considering it's more about the shooting than the driving, that's not so crippling.
We've already covered the voice work, but to make it crystal clear, the voices in the game sounds flat and uninterested. The script is ridiculous and tries way too hard with the hip-hop slang. Listening to the delivery, you get the impression that working on this game was the absolute last thing in the world that Larenz Tate and Guerilla Black wanted to be doing. On top of that, the in-game quips occasionally get stuck on repeat when you're armed with certain weapons, and you get to hear the main character, Buck, shout about peeling some wigs over and over again.
Overall, 187 Ride or Die is a competent but uninteresting combat racing game that looks good but is dragged down by dumb writing and poor performances. While there are some laughs to be had at the game's expense, there certainly aren't enough to make this game worth picking up. If you're a sucker for bad writing, rent it for a few days.