50 Cent: Blood on the Sand Review
Written : Monday, February 23, 2009
By: Lee Abrahams (GT: jackanape)
Rappers seem to get everywhere these days, first it was their subtle infiltration of movies and now they seem to have moved onto games. I think the real surprise for many was that some rappers could actually act but, up until now, none of them have ever really been in a game of much note. Perhaps it is time to change that statistic and maybe, just maybe, Fiddy is the man to do it. He has the history, he has the songs, he has any number of bad ass one liners, I mean what could possibly go wrong?
To be honest this is a game that has very little hype around it and from which very little is expected. Developed by Swordfish Studios it looked like it might never see the light of day following the Activision merger. Finally getting picked up by THQ, the title seems to have been given a second chance. Whether or not it can match the big boys of the genre is not really a valid point as the game seems happy to set its stall out as a run and gun shooter, ideal for a few cheap thrills. A game that promises the ability to deliver ‘hip hop justice’ is never one that is going to take itself too seriously. While the first 50 Cent game, back on the original Xbox, did not exactly set the world alight, this game hopes to kick things up a notch (like an extra dose of spice weasal).
Fiddy can kill a man with a punch to the hip. FACT.
The main problem with this game is the ludicrous story and over the top stereotyping. Fiddy is performing the last leg of his tour in an unnamed Middle Eastern country (as you do) seemingly oblivious to the fact there may be one or two issues with that particular region of the world. His pay cheque is swiped by local evil doers so his only recourse is to kill the tour organiser (as you do). Luckily the poor chap just so happens to have a diamond encrusted skull lying around (as you do) and 50 takes that as his payment instead. It promptly gets swiped by a very manly looking woman and, rather than packing up and going home, Fiddy decides that an all out gun-fest through a city run by terrorists is the only answer. I really wish I was making this up, but the plot only gets worse as it goes on with a variety of double crossing mercenaries, weapons dealers and strip club owners getting thrown into the mix. It pretty much gets to the point where even a bunch of sarcastic ‘as you do’ comments fall way short of really summing it up.
Despite, or maybe because of, the ludicrous story, the game is actually still quite a bit of fun. Fiddy is suitably menacing as the illustrious anti-hero and his quest for vengeance follows him through the mean streets of a dilapidated city. Along for the ride is a member of the G-Unit, all of whom have different skills, and they provide a bit of support or, via the wonderful medium of Xbox Live, a full co-op buddy. Whether you have a friend along for the ride or not, the game still plays out the same. In some respects the game draws quite heavily from games like Army of Two and Gears of War, as there is a cover system in place and certain spots that can only be navigated with an assistant. However, it is far more of an arcade style offering as cover is only really useful when you have taken damage and really serves no tactical purpose. The game also has the obligatory driving and helicopter sections which break up the game nicely but are far too short to really get into.
The main crux of the game sees you scoring points for killing enemies in certain ways, picking up ammo and finding hidden posters and targets. The game rewards you for getting kills quickly and in a variety of grisly ways so while the cover system seems to suggest a slow and steady pace, the reality is that you will rush through each level peppering foes with indiscriminate fire. There are also various scenarios that pop up throughout that require you to meet an objective in a certain amount of time for big points; these can range from killing off snipers to downing a helicopter and encourage you to take risks in order to net big rewards. The points system means you approach the game in a different way each time and adds a fun element to the proceedings.
You can use cover, you don’t need to, but you CAN.
There is a nice variety of weapons on offer and you can carry one of each type at a time (pistols, close combat, machine guns and special) so you will always have a choice of how you dispense death. If you get close enough to your foes you can also start to pummel them up close with a variety of button pressing finishing moves. The only problem with this method of attack is that it is pretty tough to single out one foe AND get close enough to engage them. It is a nice option to have but not one that is really much use in a game like this. Collecting cash will also allow you to buy new weapons and finishing moves, along with taunts that you can use to mock your foes and increase your points.
Other than the main character the graphics often leave something to be desired. Fiddy himself looks spot on but everyone else looks like they were rushed out of the gate, especially some of the stereotypical villains. The backdrops seem to all be the same run down streets and buildings with very little that stands out. There is also some quite shocking pop up, especially after you start a level or hit a check point, when everything suddenly loses all texture only for it to suddenly reappear thirty seconds later. How this was not spotted in the testing phase is beyond me as it literally happened on every single level.
This would not be a 50 Cent game without a suitable soundtrack and any fan is sure to be delighted. Getting better ratings on each level, or section of a level, can unlock new material as you progress too and you can mess with the playlist as you see fit. If you are not a fan then there really is no kind of back up, so you will just have to suffer through it though the volume is never that loud that it becomes overly annoying. A notable highlight though is the voice work done by Fiddy and the rest of the cast, as it is positively hilarious all the way through, whether intentional or not. Some of the quips and stories are just laugh out loud funny and even Fiddy sounded amused when one of his posse started talking about Napoleonic architecture.
A pistol hardly seems enough right now. Nice watch though..
Looking down the achievement list is quite a disappointment really, as most of the points are for simply completing the game and then doing it again as a member of the G-Unit. Saving up your money will mean you can net achievements for having $1 million and buying all of the weapons and hand to hand moves too. The other achievements are mainly for killing people in certain ways, getting gold medals on every level and doing a number of in game scenarios. Nothing too taxing overall but you will still have to play the game at least twice and finding the hidden posters/targets is pretty much a requirement for gold rankings thus making you search every level which is somewhat of a chore.
This game surprised me to be honest as I went in with fairly low expectations that were exceeded on every level and the more I played the game the more fun I had. I think the important thing to realise is that this game was never designed to beat Gears of War or the like, so if you take it for the light hearted action that it is, then you will have plenty of fun. With the run and gun nature of the game and the fact it is pretty short this is ideal rental fodder and will be fun while it lasts. Just do not expect too much and do not expect to play it through again once you have finished it – other than that, have a blast.
If you like 50 Cent then you will love the soundtrack – simple as. For anyone else they may want to give it a miss. Extra points for some highly entertaining dialogue though, assuming you do not take things seriously.
Fiddy looks good but the rest of the cast seems to be little more than an afterthought and all of the enemies are pretty much the same but with a different colour t-shirt. There is also some shocking pop-up at times, particularly when starting a level.
Surprisingly enjoyable and the scoring system adds a novel twist to proceedings as you attempt to better your score. Team up with a buddy for double the fun but the A.I. is capable enough so that you will have a blast even when playing solo.
This game borrows heavily from a lot of other franchises but never quite manages to hit the heights; it is fun for what there is but what there is, is frankly not that much.
The achievements are pretty bog standard and you will rattle through most of them without realising it. Play the game again in co-op for some more and then go and gold star the levels to finish it off. Uninspiring.
I hated this game when I first played it but the more time I put into it, the more it grew on me. You do not have to be a fan of 50 Cent to enjoy this cheesy slice of shoot ‘em-up pie, and if you have a friend to play it with all the better. That being said, the game is pretty damn short and you will have zero inclination to play it again so it is probably better saved for a rent.