How do you break a bad game? Ask the developers of Pimp My Ride for the PSP, as they have achieved this dubiously wondrous feat. Based on the hit MTV car-customization show starring the self-proclaimed Mr. Black Bruce Willis himself, Xzibit, Pimp My Ride was originally released late last year on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 2. Mixing a lousy driving game with completely pointless minigames that barely tied everything together into something that vaguely resembled the concept of the show, it was a poor piece of work. Now the game has come to the PSP, and it is with no amount of exaggeration that we state that Pimp My Ride is, hands down, the worst console-to-PSP port to date. Think of every single issue that's ever plagued a console game translated to the PSP, combine them all with a game that was already no fun to begin with, and you'll have a pretty good idea of where this game stands. Toss in the fact that Activision is charging $40 for this busted piece of junk, and Pimp My Ride goes from merely awful to outrageously abysmal in a split second.
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.
Odds are, the wrecked frame rate and abysmal driving controls will cause you to give up long before you get anywhere near the end of this thing. Pimp My Ride has the worst frame rate of any game in the PSP library. It stays somewhere in the teens at its best moments and drops into single-digit territory every chance it gets. It's so bad that at times the game actually becomes nauseating, even if you're not the type to get that sensation from games. As if that weren't enough to ruin the driving aspects of the game, the steering controls make matters significantly worse. They were already loose enough on consoles, but the PSP version is 10 times as squirrelly. There's nothing even remotely resembling actual physics here. When you wreck into an object, your car will start doing the electric slide for several feet before spinning around for no reason whatsoever, or it will just dead stop with no reaction or movement. And that's with the same object. Simply trying to steer around turns is equally unpredictable. Sometimes you'll start sliding around like crazy, and sometimes your tires will play like they're glued to the street. There's no rhyme or reason to any of it. Making Pimp My Ride any form of a driving game seems like a bad idea to begin with, and when you consider how bad the driving mechanics are, that decision seems even more ill-advised. And if for some reason these problems aren't enough to completely sink the game for you, how about having the game crash on you on a semi-regular basis while loading or autosaving, thus corrupting and killing your save file? That ought to do it.
Even apart from this port's specific and mind-blowing flaws, nothing about the game's progression makes any sense, nor is it 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 used to think were hilarious but stopped caring about back when it was still 2006. 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, except that it's so hysterically stupid. 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.
The single, solitary thing that Pimp My Ride had going for it on consoles was its presentation, and in the PSP version, that one feather in its cap has been removed, tossed to the ground, and stomped upon with golf cleats until it's shredded, tattered, and unrecognizable. The problems go well beyond the broken frame rate. As you might expect, the graphics have been scaled back considerably from the console versions of Pimp My Ride, and that might not be such a terrible thing except that because of the frame rate, you're often getting what equates to still-frame looks at every ugly texture. The pimped rides still have a bit of aesthetic appeal, but that isn't nearly enough to make up for every other sin this game commits visually.
The game's audio has remained mostly unmolested from the console versions of Pimp My Ride, save for some skipping problems that pop up when the UMD loads in the background. Those issues aside, the audio isn't bad. Xzibit 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 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.
Oh, did we mention the 45- to 60-second load times that crop up every time you need to load a minigame, a cutscene, or any other aspect of the game, even if you're replaying something you just played? Considering all of the other horrible problems Pimp My Ride has, crummy load times almost seem moot by comparison. While you might not expect a whole lot from a quick-and-dirty port of a lame console game, there is a reasonable expectation that the port not be completely apathetic and half-baked to the point of being unplayable. There is no version of Pimp My Ride worth recommending to anyone, but the PSP version is definitely the one that should be most actively avoided.