Coming straight outta some neighborhood a safe distance from Compton, 187 Ride Or Die attempts to dirty up the Burnout series with Grand Theft Auto drive-bys, but it has all the gritty authenticity of a Backstreet Boy. Conceived as a marketing campaign first and as a creative venture a distant second, Ride Or Die lays a heavy amount of faux-gangsta posturing over what's really a simple, repetitive update of the Spy Hunter drive-and-shoot model. Which isn't to say that would be a bad idea, had the creators stuck to it: For the first few rounds, Ride Or Die offers the primitive thrills of drag racing with heavy ammunition, including the requisite Burnout slo-mo shots of totaled vehicles flipping into fiery oblivion. But rather than developing and expanding it into the sophisticated driving game it begs to be, the designers got greedy and packaged the whole thing in an awkward GTA-style story mode that exists purely for the badass cutscenes.
You play Buck, a loyal, hard-living underling to Los Angeles O.G. Dupree, who recently survived an ambush orchestrated by his Mexican Mafia nemesis Cortez. After getting shot nine times, just like 50 Cent, Dupree has lost control of his territory, and it's up to you to get it back, mainly by pitting your fleet of sports cars and Humvees against Cortez's gang in a series of street races. Bouncing from one slackly designed neighborhood and freeway to another, you face a handful of challenges: In some, you have to finish first; in others, you're blown up for finishing a lap last. Sometimes you have to escort a car safely; conversely, sometimes you have to break up an escort. With your busty sidekick Queen B behind the wheel, you're free to blast away at the competition with a range of weapons, from sawed-off shotguns to assault rifles to Molotov cocktails. Or "get crunk" with your "heater" "G'rider," whatever the hell that means.
Beyond the gameplay: In addition to operating in a wide-open gaming universe, the GTA series has a story mode that makes sense, because its plot developments keep coughing up new and exciting missions. But because the gameplay in 187 Ride Or Die is so limited, the cutscenes have no real connection to the action: Every situation calls for a drag race.
Worth playing for: Things blow up good. It usually takes multiple shots to take down an enemy vehicle, but should you be fortunate enough to acquire a rocket launcher—preferably a couple blocks before a large gas tanker—the carnage can be luscious.
Frustration sets in when: Beyond the grinding repetition, a few niggling flaws in the gameplay further diminish the fun. Things that seem minor, like the disorienting cutaways to a reverse camera angle when you round a curve, can easily cost you a race. And when you blast one of Cortez's cars into oblivion, they don't stay dead.
Final judgment: Gangbusters after one play, tedious after a dozen, 187 Ride Or Die has little depth and no staying power.