Review: 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand

After 50 Cent was given his own video game, most gamers mourned the future. Really? 50 Cent? What, was there no pool of gaming mascots to make a kart racer out of? 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand is (of course) Fiddy’s return to the gaming world in a brand new, Gangsta (TM) adventure. However, you should keep your reservations at the door for this one. What is basically a derivative, repetitive, exercise in uttering the F-bomb every five minutes is also one of the most enjoyable gaming experiences I’ve had in quite a while. Perhaps one of the reasons I found so much to love about this game was that it proves you don’t need an artsy, critically-acclaimed title simply to have some fun. Besides, isn’t that what gaming is all about?

Where 50 Cent: Bulletproof told the story of a 50 Cent who had never gone into music (can we have him instead?), Blood on the Sand’s story follows the true story just a bit more closely. Usage of the phrase “true story” is used loosely here, as this yarn is so farfetched it should be parading around carrying a leek. Fiddy and G-Unit have just completed a gig. Expecting to make bank after the arrangement, the concert promoter decides to shirk his monetary responsibilities. To make amends, he offers up a jewel-encrusted skull to appease the bunch of irate rappers. The resulting camaraderie is shattered to pieces when the skull is lifted by some ne’er-do-wells.

From then on, 50 Cent and G-Unit proceed to mercilessly gun down anything that moves. Traversing a decidedly Middle Eastern landscape, the group encounters a criminal syndicate along the way, abuses several units of C4, and demolishes more than a few choppers. It’s safe to say the storyline won’t win any awards. In fact, it’s so inane that it’s even harder to try to piece together such a disjointed tale after playing through it once. It will serve as little more than a reminder that what you’re playing actually has a purpose to it, so it isn’t completely useless.

Blood on the Sand is a third-person shooter similar to that of, well, every other third-person shooter out there. There’s nothing here you haven’t seen before, at least once. There’s cover to get behind, the ability to shoot from cover, rolls, and even bullet time, er, “Gangsta Fire.” Thankfully, there’s no obnoxious roadie running. It does sport a co-op dynamic that pits Lloyd Banks, Tony Yayo, and DJ Whoo Kid alongside our daring protagonist, but even then it feels like a watered-down Army of Two.

Your eyes will be on Fiddy’s ridiculously muscular form the entire time, as he tosses out racial slurs and insults every time a breeze blows through one of the holes in his bullet-riddled body. Equipped with a multitude of firearms and the ammunition to match, the basic premise behind playing Fiddy is to shoot. Keep a lead finger on the right trigger of the controller. When you’ve done that, shoot some more. This is no exaggeration. Often, areas will require that each and every enemy is cleared out before Fiddy and the member of G-Unit you’ve chosen as your partner can proceed.

Shooting from behind cover works well, even when you don't want it to.

Shooting from behind cover usually works well, and is an integral part of the game.

Luckily, both aiming and firing are simple and fluid. Machine guns are satisfying,
and shotguns make you feel like the Gangsta (TM) you are. There is a good variety of weapons available in the event that you tire of making swiss cheese out of enemies with an Uzi. Run out of ammo? No problem. There are various pickups and even extra weapons scattered about the landscape, reinforcing the fact that this is, indeed, a very arcade-y shooter. Fiddy’s fluent in grenade-ese, and can hold up to four at a time for an explosive time. If you find yourself overwhelmed by the enemies onscreen at any time, and it’s likely you will, you can employ Gangsta Fire by pressing the Y button. This is essentially bullet time. No complaints here, as it works just as expected. Is it the norm for every game these days to include this mechanic?

The cover system works well, but still manages to be a bit cumbersome. If you’re planning to roll down a hallway or tumble out of the way of enemy fire, your progress may be impeded as 50 jumps behind a column or some wreckage. The system works well when it’s needed, but as far as exploring the levels go, 50’s tendency to stick to cover like glue can become a bit obnoxious at times.

As you rack up the kills, an on-screen score climbs and you’re rewarded with bonus points for variables that affect your kill. For instance, if you were out of cover while gunning an enemy down, you receive a 10% increase in the points doled out. The scoring system, for me, truly made this game. There’s something so primal and enjoyable about amassing a good, old-fashioned high score while headshotting some foo’s in the dome.

And if you’re not good with guns? No problem. Since he is a True Gangsta (TM) who’s had nothing but trouble and a hard life, he’s well-versed in the art of fist-to-face combat. Pressing the B button will initiate a short QTE, where pressing the B button is key to an easy kill. Timing is important, because if you happen to miss one quick press of the button, the enemy will pull himself out of 50’s grasp and proceed to empty their entire clip into his body. These are the easiest kills you can garner in the game, as completing a counter kill takes absolutely no effort. It’s time-consuming, but 50 takes no damage while performing one, so if you really can’t aim, consider trying one of these instead.

Points are gained from every kill, but there are also miniature missions known as “scenarios” to conquer. As you make your way through each chapter of the game, occasionally an indicator to the left of the screen will announce a certain challenge that must be completed. You are allotted a specific amount of time to say, take out two shotgunners, slaughter those who may be manning at turret, or defeat X amount of enemies. Finishing scenarios in the amount of time given will award point bonuses. This kept me rushing to complete scenarios and polishing my gunplay. Failing a scenario doesn’t cost you anything, but you won’t receive any extra points.

Points are spent at various phone booths around the levels. From there, you can purchase new taunts, counter kills, and weapons. Didn’t earn enough for that sexy 100,000 point SMG? No worries. Crates are found throughout every level and are bursting at the seams with that cash money.

Now, although the actual control and gameplay mechanics work well for the game, level design and content do not. For instance, after the first few missions every new location seems to blur together in a mix of gunfire and rust-colored areas. Just for a bit, it seems as if you’re playing one extended level throughout the game’s nine missions. The game is devoid of proper boss fights, as well, instead pitting you against choppers with an RPG that takes way too long to compensate for. Coupled with uninspired co-op “puzzles” that require your partner only to help open a door or boost you over a high ledge, it’s apparent that you can most definitely find a better third-person shooter. However, this game exudes such raw fun and cheese that it’s hard to put down the controller. Case in point: got the game on Friday and completed it on Sunday, but only because real-life obligations got in the way. You may not immediately enjoy what’s presented, but you can at least appreciate the fact that it’s legitimately fun.

This is a real scene from one of 50 Cent’s concerts – not from the actual game. Relax, I’m kidding.

The game looks great, if you’re wanting to ogle Fiddy’s body the entire time. It would be much less distressing to the eyes if it included a bit of level variation from time to time. Even the enemies look 100% similar throughout the entire course of the game. None of them have any distinguishable characteristics from the other hordes of baddies out to stop Fiddy from reclaiming his blinged-out skull. With that said, levels are bland, Middle-Eastern fare that you’ve seen before simply by turning on the news any given time within the past couple years. I have no real complaint with the overall look of the game otherwise; just know that all of the information onscreen that comprises the HUD may make you feel just a tad crowded. In an age of minimalist screens, the cluttered HUD is a bit unwarranted, but with Fiddy’s over-the-top style, it fits. Just don’t buy this game expecting to see fantastic, awe-inspiring graphics. Fiddy still resembles a buff gorilla. Sorry.

Do you like Fiddy’s extensive catalogue of music? You will after playing Blood on the Sand. If you’re not ready for a constant loop of the same tracks over and over, then pop in some earbuds and prepare to tune everything out. Fiddy’s also bursting at the seams with some extremely friendly things to say. If you want an example, just have a look at some of his lyrics. Perhaps the most laughable part in all this is the fact that 50 Cent is playing himself, yet still manages to sound as if he is reading his lines.

Explosions and gunfire are fair, except the sound of fire from gunships resembles crackling in your speakers. This seemed like a very lazy move, especially since choppers and gunships will likely be the bane of your existence after completing the game. Overall, not too shabby, except perhaps the fact that 50 has issues voicing himself in a video game reveals that he may not be as gangsta as we previously thought. Something to think about.

Got a friend? Then you have hot multiplayer action to find in 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand. Hooking up over Xbox Live is, simply put, a blast. There’s nothing quite as fun as blasting through levels with a good buddy, working together to complete scenarios and trash-talking nameless corpses. Multiplayer is surprisingly solid, and perhaps one of the biggest draws for me – I would have never considered purchasing the game prior to experiencing how entertaining the co-op missions actually were. It’s one thing to play with an AI-controlled member of G-Unit, and a completely different experience when a sentient friend is working the controls. There’s plenty of fun to be had, even if it’s just a wild dash to see how many points the two of you can rack up.

If you breeze through the single-player’s 6-hour campaign, never fret. At the end of each mission you’re awarded a point bonus and bronze, silver, or gold badge marking how well you did. Completionists will, no doubt, want to return to each level in order to get the highest score for a place on the leaderboards or perhaps even for achievements. Collectables abound in the game as well, with targets and posters in each level to collect and earn points for. This is a game you’ll want to return to, as it’s fast-paced, raw fun, and great for dropping in, killing some baddies, then powering the 360 off.

If you’re tired of the garbage that has received offensive amounts of hype the past few months, then Blood on the Sand should be right up your alley. Sure, it has its flaws, and can only be described as lackluster by conventional scoring methods, but I’ll be damned if it isn’t sheer fun. It’s quite worthy of a rent, or even a purchase should the price go down soon. For a game backed and inspired by a rapper, it’s inspired me. Not every title has to be a masterpiece to be enjoyed. This is nowhere near a masterpiece, but what’s presented is an enjoyable, rowdy, and quite vulgar ride through 50 Cent’s personality. Honestly, if Fiddy wants to keep pumping out games like these, then more power to him.

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