Based on the titular car-customization MTV show starring the self-proclaimed Mr. Black Bruce Willis himself, Xzibit, Pimp My Ride is a failure, primarily because it can't decide what it wants to be: Is it a driving game? Is it a series of awful driving minigames? Is it a car customization sim? Is it an unholy crossbreeding of all of the above? The answer is yes to that last one. It is this complete lack of dedication to making any one of the things it cobbles together fun that sinks it. It's too bad because X-to-the-Z's influence is stamped all over this game, and it does basically grasp what it is that makes such a silly show fun to watch. It's just not fun to play.
Pimp My Ride takes place in the glorious metropolis known as Pimp City. The residents of Pimp City like to drive pimped-out rides. So, what's an up-and-coming car-customization nerd like you to do when tasked with making the unpimped rides of the town's more hapless citizens into full-on works of pimp-flavored art? Why, drive around doing lame ghost riding and cruising minigames to earn cash so you can drive around in the customer's clunker to get new parts and make it into a gaudy monstrosity, of course. And then you do this exact same sequence of events over and over and over again until the game concludes, or you simply can't stomach the lame gameplay any longer. Or maybe you'll just give up once the game crashes on you for the third or fourth time, which is as good a reason as any to stop.
Again, the primary problem with Pimp My Ride is that the progression of events neither makes any sense nor is any fun. When you're driving around trying to earn money, you're limited to a specific section of Pimp City but can take part in specific events around the map for which there are a few icons. When you go to a ghost-riding event, you take part in an idiot-simple rhythm minigame that isn't all that rhythmic. You just press a displayed sequence of buttons as quickly as you can for each stage of the game, and all the while, your dude dances alongside the car like all those horribly awesome Internet videos you and your buddies have been watching over and over for the past six months. There's also a hot steppin' event, but in actuality, that's just a new name for yet another ghost-riding event. You have to press buttons with a different sense of timing--but that's it. The worst part about the ghost-riding games is that they never change. The game slowly and surely tries to ramp up the difficulty, but it does it so slowly that you'll barely even notice. The game can't even be bothered to change the hip-hop beat that plays behind you--it's the same beat every time.
The other minigame, cruising, is almost not worth mentioning. You drive up to a group of gawking hip-hop kids, holding down a button to put your car into 10mph cruise mode. As you drive by, you press a quick series of buttons to send the kids into some kind of spastic frenzy and earn yourself some cash. That's it. It's even less fun in practice than it sounds on paper.
As you keep driving around, you'll also be wrecking into other cars and various billboards, which earns you cash for some weird reason. Eventually, you'll earn enough cash to meet the budget for your next customer. You then drive to the customer and a cutscene pops up that is similar to the sort of sequence you'd see on the TV show: a squealing 19-year-old girl with a horrid car and a heart of gold. Xzibit makes fun of the car for a while, and you're treated to some truly atrocious voice acting from the kids. Finally, you get the keys, and the pimping can begin. Of course, the pimping isn't all it's cracked up to be because the catch is that there's a rival pimper of rides out there competing with you on every job. When you get a car to work on, your rival gets the same car. So you and the other driver drive around the city under a time limit, trying to get to as many part suppliers as possible. The car with the highest rating at the end wins.
It sounds neat and all, but there's almost nothing to it. When you get to a part supplier, you get to choose from several different types of parts, some of which are very expensive and some of which are not. The trouble is that there's no reason not to pick the most expensive parts every single time. The most expensive parts translate into bigger boosts to your meter, and you're never hurting for cash. Sometimes you can choose from multiple types of parts that cost the same, especially when it comes to the crazy custom parts the show is known for (a trunk-mounted anvil for an aspiring metal worker or an in-bed tattoo parlor for the pickup truck of an apprentice tattoo artist), but you never get to use or experience those parts. You can drive around the cars you pimp, but you don't do anything with them except travel from place to place or engage in the occasional bout of ghost riding. There's no reason to put much thought into the ride-pimping aspect of the game, beyond picking the most expensive part and deciding which part shop you can get to most quickly.
You repeat the same series of actions through 16 different customers, and eventually the game ends. There's no multiplayer component, nor is there any reason to want to go back and play any piece of the game again once you're done--not even for the remainder of the Xbox 360 version's 30 achievements (you'll get a pretty good chunk of them on a single play-through anyway). The minigames are bereft of entertainment, and driving around the city is more of a hassle than anything else. Cars oversteer constantly, specifically into immovable objects most times. In fact, the driving is the only part of the game that's even remotely challenging. Too often you'll be seconds away from getting to that last part shop, only to hit some weird piece of the scenery you could hardly see was there. It doesn't help that the entrances to most shops are barely visible, and the pointer arrow that's supposed to tell you which way to go is borderline broken. The pointer arrow exists on a flat plane, and it's nearly impossible to see which way it's pointing in most cases. Making Pimp My Ride any form of a driving game seems like kind of a weird idea, and when you factor in how bad the driving mechanics are, that decision seems even more ill-advised.
Pimp My Ride does at least do a halfway decent job with its presentation, if nothing else. Pimp City is a reasonably nice-looking city, and the frame rate holds up as you drive around it at ridiculous speeds. However, the car physics often leave something to be desired because you get hung up on smallish set pieces far too often. There isn't even any damage modeling in the game, despite the total lack of real licensed vehicles. But then, the cars themselves are designed to be the star of the show, and when you finish up the pimp work, some of the cars do look pretty cool. Again though, the trouble is that beyond the paint job, you never get to see most of the luxuries you've included on the car outside of the one cutscene where Xzibit shows it off to the customer. Speaking of X, he does a good job with the less-than-stellar dialogue that has been written for him. This is less true of other voice actors, but at least X has a bit of fun with what is obviously a pretty silly concept. You can almost hear him snicker as he explains the rules of Pimp City. There's also a decent roster of songs on the soundtrack, many of which are from Xzibit's new album. The soundtrack could have used a bit more variety, but what's there is mostly quality stuff.
Believe it or not, the notion of a Pimp My Ride game isn't an altogether horrible one. If it were purely some kind of car-customization-business sim or even a better collection of minigames, it could have enjoyably translated the show into something playable. But what's here doesn't work in the slightest. Its repetitive nature turns from merely repetitive into completely mind-numbing after just a few rounds of customers, and the way the game makes ghost riding the whip into a completely uninteresting experience borders on offensive. It might nail a few of the presentational elements of the show, but this is a lousy game, and regardless of your affinity for the show, you shouldn't bother with it.