50 Cent: Blood on the Sand Review
I never there would come a day when I sit down and write about a good 50 Cent game. Generally, hip-hop games have never turned out that great, with the exception of Def Jam, and Wu-Tang Clan: Shaolin Style. But those were fighting games, which are completely different than the run-and-gun flavor that is 50's latest outing, Blood on the Sand. And I must be honest, after experiencing this bit of fun, I have to say that Activision was foolish to auction this one off to THQ after merging with Vivendi last year.
Say what you want about 50 Cent, but you can't deny that he's here to stay. While not the first rap artist to be featured in a game, he may be the first to actually get some noteworthy sales from it. While 50 Cent: Bulletproof was nothing short of mediocrity, his adventure in a fictitious Middle Eastern country is actually quite solid.
The game opens up with a cutscene, the setting is the modern day world, and 50 and co. just played a gig in a war-torn country. Despite a sold-out show and an elated crowd, the promoter who scheduled G-Unit to play refuses to pay 50 and his boys. The promoter claims that a drug lord, named Kamal, stole the ten million dollars with 50's name on it, and he has no way to pay them. The gang threatens the promoter, and in exchange he offers them a skull encrusted with diamonds. When attempting to journey back home, G-Unit are ambushed and the skull is taken from them. Livid, 50 Cent and the rest of G-Unit vow revenge...
There's something I immediately noticed about 50 Cent, something that's beyond the obvious Gear of War-esque gameplay. Blood on the Sand also feels a lot like Sega's 2008 shooter The Club. In fact, it has a points system and kill-momentum system that is nearly identical to it (right down to the medals), on top of even featuring hanging targets up on the walls. So the best way to describe Blood on the Sand is as a fusion of Gears of War and The Club. The result is a good one, boasting fun gameplay and co-op action.
The basic gameplay elements are an over-the-shoulder camera, cover mechanic, quick-weapon selection via D-pad, complete with the option to aim, all the while being able to keep on moving. The run-and-gun gameplay of BotS should really appease fans of Gears of War, as well as help tame the cravings of PlayStation owners looking for a GoW-esque game. And because it takes the arcade elements of The Club, there's that additional factor of wanting to score the highest score, and achieve the best possible succession of kills.
You are given over 20 powerful weapons to toy around with, such as heavy machine guns, advanced guided rocket launchers, various handguns, shotguns, grenades, and other things that make a lot of noise and damage. There is also the counter-kill system that gives you the ability to finish off an enemy with your own hands, as opposed to a weapon, using a mini-game mechanic where you have to timely hit a prompted button for the execution.
It's not often that you'll put your fists to use, though, as running and gunning will continue to be the name of this game. Additionally, you'll employ a feature called "Gangsta Fire", which is just another term for a 'bullet-time' mode that slows down gameplay, allowing 50 to stack some bodies. There are over 20 missions to play through, some featuring driving and flying segments as 50 and co. will be able to pilot a military Humvee and helicopter, both of which will feature functioning mounted weapons. These vehicular segments are quite a lot of fun, allowing one person to steer, while another fires. Co-op allows a second player to choose either Lloyd Banks, Tony Yayo, or DJ Whoo Kid as 50's partner - Young Buck is not a playable character due to his departure from G-unit. If you don't have a buddy nearby to play co-op with you, feel free to take the adventure online and have an online buddy aid you throughout your journey. You can also play your campaign allowing any online user to jump in and out of your campaign.
Now, with the good stuff out of the way, there are some problems. The A.I. isn't that smart, and the game's total lack of online multiplayer really hurts. As nice as online co-op is, a game like this is deserving of the full online package. Additionally, the main adventure will not last you any longer than 5-6 hours, and the hidden content in the game isn't worth replaying BotS for. You will also experience some redundancy, and the general lack of innovation (considering this is a blatant rip-off of Gears and The Club) doesn't help either. Still, 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand is a pretty solid game that gamers should find themselves enjoying.
Blood on the Sand presents itself very well, aesthetically. Boasting Epic's Unreal Engine III, Swordfish has pieced together a good looking game that's capable of running well and looking smooth. Character detail is largely true to form, as 50, Banks, Whoo Kid, and Yayo look very close to their real life counterparts. While environmental detail, such as textures, aren't spectacular, it's still good enough to earn a pass from me. The framerate is also smooth, for the most part, and it's rare that you'll experience anything that noticeably dampers it. I must address my biggest problem with the visuals, and it's more of an aesthetic design choice, rather than a technical issue: the on-screen HUD clutter. Where as games like Gears boast a clean HUD, BotS does not; there are far too many gauges, icons and numbers displayed. My other problem with the visuals is the camera, it's too fidgety and moves around way too much, which can cause some to feel motion sickness.
Lastly, as you'd expect, Blood on the Sand is driven by the sounds of 50 Cent and G-Unit, as a total of over 40 songs have found their way into the mix, many of which have been remixed specifically for the game. You can still expect to hear 50's classic hits, in addition to 18 all new and exclusive tracks by 50 and G-Unit, made exclusively for the game. There's no denying that the soundtrack is great, and the voice acting is actually pretty decent, as well. Heck, even the miscellaneous sound effects sound good. Curiously enough, even though this is supposed to take place in a Middle Eastern country, you do hear people yelling in Russian...which is odd, albeit funny. Just figured I'd point that out.
While few would have expected a solid entry out of this followup title, the truth is that 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand is a good shooter, especially for those looking for a Gears of War-like action title. Swordfish did a pretty good job with 50's first next-gen title, and I think they've put together a great stepping stone for a potential solid franchise for THQ. For the sequel, I'd like to see a proper multiplayer mode in addition to a longer campaign and a bit more originality. But all in all, you can't deny that Blood on the Sand is a fun game with a great soundtrack.
2/25/2009 Arnold Katayev