I want to start this off by saying I am not a fan of 50 (Fiddy) cent. I don’t like his music; I think all of his raps sound alike. It is important for you to know this so you know that this is not a biased review. I am however a fan of third person shooters, which is the real reason why I wanted to check out 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand.
50 Cent: Blood on the Sand is the latest third person shooter from rapper, mogul, vitamin water endorser and G-Unit front man Curtis (50-Cent) Jackson. You might be wondering how this even saw the light of day, since it was one of those games that was dropped after the Activision debacle. Well your friends over at THQ apparently saw some potential in Mr. Cent (Which is what they call him in the game- Only God knows why) and picked up the rights. Blood on the Sand is the sequel to the sub par 2005 game 50 Cent: Bulletproof. I did play that game briefly but it was very dreadful and I couldn’t find myself getting past the first level. However, I can say for those that are waiting with baited breath that Blood on the Sand is a lot better than its predecessor.
One of the new additions to this game is co-op. you have the option of playing co-op over Xbox Live, or on the same couch as your buddy. When you start the game one of you will of course be Fiddy, and the other can choose to play as one of the three G-Unit members Tony Yayo, Lloyd Banks and DJ Whoo Kidd. Don’t ask me who any of these people are-as I have no clue. BotS is more of an arcade shooter than the normal run and gun. You get points for killing with rapid succession, or big explosions. The points don’t really have a purpose other than to help you unlock some exclusive Fiddy tracks.
As I said before the game is played in the third person, which means you see the back of Mr. Cent (I promise that’s the last time I say his name like that) for most of the game. The game uses the Unreal Engine 3 and has that usual graphical goodness that we have seen from games using the engine. Of course just like all the other games, it has texture pop-in, but the plus side is that it only appears when a level loads. If you are looking for the extra bells and whistles that some UE3 games have offered in the past, there are a few nice things like bullet shells that litter the ground after shoot-outs, bullet holes in the wall and blood puddles that don’t disappear. Sadly the dead bodies only hang around for about 10 seconds after they hit the ground so don’t expect to be able to see a pile of them strewn about the battlefield.
As with other games that use the Unreal Engine the character models in BotS are top notch. Rarely did I see two thugs, or in this case bad guys (because I think Fiddy is the thug in this game) look the same which is in my opinion wonderful. You can even see extra items on most of them, be it their extra clips, or hand grenades. Special care was put into Fiddy, and his crew G-Unit after all I doubt he would put his name on the game and not make sure it looked exactly like him. My only complaint when it comes to him is he has the “Max Payne” syndrome. That is to say that his face doesn’t move; you walk around the whole game with a wide eyed, dopey expression, which in this generation is unacceptable especially since his crew has facial animation, as do the bad guys. That doesn’t break the game by any means, it is just annoying when you get into cover and these big ole eyes are staring back at you. As I said the game looks great, just not Gears of War 2 great.
Speaking of Gears of War 2, guess what the camera angle is in BotS? That’s right; the camera is tightly zoomed right on the back of ole Fiddy. This is one of my complaints about the game, while you do have a good view on the action it is sometimes nice to be able to pan around and take in the environments. Of course the camera is not the only thing that THQ has taken from Cliffy B’s opus; they have also taken the cover system. As you approach a wall, or car all you have to do is hit a single button and Fiddy will roll into cover. As you move left or right if there is another wall on the other side you can shimmy over and hit that button again and he will spin to the next wall. But I guess as they say “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”.
The other thing that the game employs which isn’t really taken from GoW2 is vehicle missions. That’s right kids; while you run and gun in this fictional Middle Eastern country you will occasionally get to drive a hummer, or a helicopter. When on the vehicle missions you don’t control the gunner spot as your partner does that. But these missions are a nice break from the running and gunning, and offer different side objectives as you complete them.
As you progress through the game you should keep an eye out for the gigantic orange “G-Unit” logo. Not only will this direct you as to what you need to do next, it highlights breakable walls that hide boxes of loot or ammo. Now as you collect the loot and treasure you earn money, which after you meet up with an arms dealer you can use to by better weapons, taunts or takedowns. Takedowns are another new addition to this game, for the most part they are nice but it is really just an eye candy quick kill. Even though there are many variations that you can purchase, there isn’t any way to pick which one you want to use at any given time. You just walk up to an enemy and tap a button and Fiddy busts out a move. However, to complete the kill you must time your button presses to when the screen flashes orange (is orange his favorite color or something?) and you will get a nice scripted death scene. Personally I would have like it better if they just gave him a hand to hand element to the game play, rather than the button presses that are becoming more and more popular.
Of course no game is complete without hidden collectables, and BotS doesn’t disappoint. Scattered throughout levels you will find yellow targets that you can shoot, as well as posters of Fiddy and his crew that you can grab. They don’t really serve any purpose other than to again, help you unlock 50-Cent music tracks. Which in case you didn’t know this, if you are not a fan of rap at all I don’t care how much you like third person shooters you should not play this game. It does have the option to turn the rap off and just listen to a musical score though, but the music is just plain awful. The developers said that this is supposed to be the ultimate 50-Cent experience, hence all the exclusive music. The good thing about the music is that not all of it is Fiddy. You can hear some Ice Cube, T-Pain, and many others in the game.
You might be wondering why I haven’t mentioned the story yet. Well that’s because it is laughable, I mean the game starts off at the end of 50-Cents Middle Eastern tour. After the last song he leaves the stage (in a bulletproof vest, and ammo clips on during his performance) to collect his money. After breaking in a door and talking to some middle man he finds out that his money is in the hands of some gangster, chaos ensues from there. I guess this was one of the fantasies that Fiddy had as a child, when the rest of us dreamt of being an astronaut or a doctor he was dreaming of rapping, and then going on a killing spree after the show to get his money. I guess that’s cool, I mean I guess everyone needs something to dream about.
In closing I am going to say that this is game does a lot of things right. The co-op is fun, the action is intense and in fact the only negative things about this game are the camera, story, and pop in graphics. If you can get past all of those things underneath you might not find the ultimate 50-Cent experience but you will at the very least find a pretty good action arcade shooter. For those hardcore Fiddy fans though, you will love everything about this one and will spend all your time making sure to unlock every single song the disc holds.