Gone are the days when, if you were looking for Curtis Jackson, you’d find him in da nearest club.
Nowadays Fiddy is more likely to be charging around some Middle Eastern country busting caps in all and sundry. Why? Because they stole his bling, that’s why.
After the disaster, and I mean di-sa-ster that was 50 Cent: Bulletproof (it sold well, but purely due to Fiddy’s name on the cover), the world cringed at the thought of another 50 Cent game. But Blood on the Sand is not Bulletproof 2, far from it. In fact if I had to compare Blood on the Sand to anything it would be Gears of War, but with lots more swearing. LOTS more swearing.
The similarities to Gears are numerous. From the camera view and graphics to the cover system and control method – and I don’t blame them either. Emulating one of the most successful games of all time is a sure-fire way to bring at least some critical redemption to a franchise that got off to a dismally bad start.
The plot, not that it’s of any importance to the game, goes as such: 50 Cent and G-Unit get ripped off by a dodgy concert promoter, who offers them an expensive jewel encrusted skull in lieu of payment. Everything is cool until they are ambushed and the skull gets stolen. As you would expect, anyone who steals from G-Unit isn’t going to get a stern letter from their lawyers with a few terse colloquialisms, hell no, they’re going to get their mothershagging heads blown off, that’s what. So the stage is set for 50 Cent and an AI controlled (or human controlled as the game is fully co-op) member of G-Unit to go on a killing rampage in a generic urban Middle Eastern landscape, chasing criminal kingpins and the myriads of goons in between.
This run and gun action gets a tad repetitive before too long but there are a few vehicle diversions to break up the hum drum.
The gameplay is tight and the control method even tighter but it’s a couple of innovations that keep Blood on the Sand from being just another 3rd person shooter destined for the bargain bin. Firstly is the scoring system which, if you’re the kind of gamer who strives for high scores, will give this game some decent longevity in terms of trying to better yourself. Dispatching enemies earns you points, dispatching more enemies in quick succession earns you multipliers so your score escalates. The way in which you go about your killing spree also earns you points. Slaying them in style is always a good idea.
The other innovation isn’t so much of an innovation, rather a nice example of how it should be executed. Every second game seems to include a “bullet-time” feature these days and a lot of the time it feels like a tacky add-on. But Blood on the Sand utilises it well. Think Stranglehold and Army of Two’s use of bullet-time and you have an insight into how to use it appropriately.
When you’re surrounded by enemies, “Gangsta-fire mode” lets you carve them up without too much hassle. The game also includes ‘counterkills’ which are quick-time melee events that, with timed button presses, allow you to smash the living daylights out of your enemy. Again, not the first time we’ve seen this, but the game executes it well.
The drawback is, the game also includes a good cover system, it’s a little sticky, but good nonetheless. The fact that your characters are extremely resilient and can take a heap of punishment along with the ability to slow down time and clean up an area makes the cover system somewhat redundant. The nature of the game is to charge in, spray everything that moves with hot lead, dish out a few profanities and cutting one-liners and move on to the next area. It’s a very rare occasion where you’ll actually need to take cover and think about your next move. This is compounded in co-op as you can both strut around virtually indestructible.
Timed scenarios occasionally appear on the HUD and will have you completing mini-missions like killing a certain target or a number of people within the allocated time limit. Success in these scenarios earns you grenades and exploding rounds for your pistol which stick to a target and explode after a few seconds, sending them flying. These are great to have and are a good incentive for completing the diversion. There are also the obligatory crates to smash which harbour money which can then be used to buy or upgrade weapons.
The in-game graphics look really nice, despite the drab setting. The textures and detail are on a par with the best in the genre. But the cut-scenes are another story. I can only assume it was a deliberate decision to make them low-res and grainy like a YouTube video uploaded from a mobile phone. A strange decision, and I feel the game deserved much better. It’s pretty much the reverse of many games where much of the effort goes into making the cut-scenes look pretty for the promo scenes and screenshots.
There are collectables throughout the game and plenty of unlockables like music videos (which have been strangely censored – when nothing else in the game has) and 50 Cent/G-Unit music tracks which play throughout the game and can be arranged in a playlist type of feature. They compliment the game perfectly and make a welcome change from the traditional wailing Middle Eastern fare that usually accompanies this setting.
Overall, 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand is a decent game and well worth a look especially for the co-op gameplay. What it does, it does well, which surprised me and probably everyone else in the industry too.