"My gangsta ass n@#%^ Buck. Listen here homie. Cortez's crew is lining up in the hood for a race. Finish first. Flip these fools wigs back. Don't let me down. Holla back."
This modern derivation of the English language is Ubisoft's attempt to come correct and offer a look at the streets by fusing racing and fighting. Sadly, once an idea is pushed past its freshness date and watered down by years of mainstream exposure, all that is left is the shell of something that once had both potential and power. Enter 187: Ride or Die.
Sure there is a real message to be learned from those who cut their teeth on the streets. And the best of them have broken through with very real stances on life. But you won't find that here. And my guess is that you weren't expecting to. This is only a videogame after all. A medium that is powerful enough to effect as much change as movies and books, but one that rarely does. This is not the first and definitely not the last to cash in on the Mature-rated gangster genre. The problem is, this is one is bottom-of-the-barrel. See, when you walk that fine line and attempt to cash in on a tired enterprise, with little to no ingenuity thrown in, you end up far worse of than trying something new and failing.
I would say that 187 fails mostly because it takes itself too seriously. It reduces the idea of street cred and thuggery to such a level of mockery that had it actually been a satire, it might have worked better. The premise is that Mexican Mafia kingpin Cortez wants to take over your boss' turf so you have to take care of things for him by racing in all sorts of matches, from standard races to deathmatches, to other gimmicks. There's online play and a Quick Hits mode for those taking a break from the story.
The formula for 187 is as follows: borrow the model for Nintendo's Mario Kart, mix in the worst ghetto slang possible (the kind of stuff Dave Chapelle or Aaron McGruder might parody in real life), cover it with slick visuals and booming audio, and you've got this effluvium. Let me say this, much like the videos pushing their way up TRL's ladder, this game is all gloss and effects, a slick, deceptive package. Both visuals and sound are as the archetype of the game Buck might exclaim, "bangin'." The framerate is smooth as you rip through various locals picking up weapons and dispatching the gangsters in front of you, (who magically come back to life just moments after you blow them up with a rocket launcher).
As you race various cars will be unlocked and in this point-to-point map, the racing segments are introduced by some nice little CGI scenes where the story unfolds. I did learn a bit by playing this game however. Know what a "Po-Po Chase" is? Well I didn't either, but now thanks to this wonderful title, I've learned that you do not want to mess with indestructible police cars. Hmmm...if this game is so street, how come you can't destroy the cop cars? A gangster game with a conscious, how nice!
If 187 had actually mirrored the mechanics from Mario Kart in its entirety, all would be fine. While there are some obvious influenced aspects such as the boost meter and power slide, the controls are too loose, ultimately making the racing experience nothing more than an awkward mess. The locales aren't particularly eye-catching due to the fact they're redundant and have a very static-like presentation. Further, the overall experience fails to offer any substantial degree of excitement, however the escort missions do offer some promise. Players are issued a one-time attempt to protect a specific car - fail, and they'll replay the level from square one. Ubisoft clearly cut corners in a key area -- offering a stagnant experience that fails to take the ganster genre to a new level.
Rent the game if you feel compelled to, but you'd be far better off playing Mario Kart or any of the excellent high-end racers like Burnout 3 or Project Gotham Racing 2. At the very least, you'll never have to worry about who is in the room when you play those titles.