When a mega-star such as 50 Cent explores a different avenue, it tends to be something related to his career or lifestyle. With this new venture, 50 Cent creates a satisfying, yet short, game that keeps up to two players engrossed from start to finish, with bullets, explosions, and over the top violence that only serves to entertain.
The premise of the story is outlandish, but simple enough to be followed. After a gig in some war-torn eastern country, 50 Cent demands payment from the promoter, who is unable to come up with the money that was promised the rap star. Instead, he hands over a skull that has been covered in diamonds, indicating that the object is “priceless”. 50 accepts, and then is ambushed while traversing the road, which leads to his new prized possession becoming stolen. Getting the skull back is the main focus of the entire game, as you’ll be hunting it down across nine missions. The various cut scenes only provide enough to progress the story along, and allow the players to connect how each level begins and ends.
The gameplay is straightforward: kill people who are shooting at you. However, there is a scoring system that will let you rack up multipliers for multiple kills, type of kill, use of environment, and whether or not you decide to sling verbal insults at your newly defeated foes. It functions as a basic third person shooter, with you (as 50 Cent) and a partner (one of the three members of G-Unit) going through level by level. Cooperation is necessary at times: there are a few jumps that require one of the players to boost the other upward, as well as garage doors that can only be opened with the strength of both players. In addition to the standard ‘plug bad guy with bullets’ gameplay, there is also something called ‘counter-kills’, which function as the game’s form of melee combat. It only requires hitting one button at the right time, and will make the character do anything from tae-kwon-do style moves, to inserting a knife multiple times into the victim’s stomach. It is tough to get close enough to an enemy sometimes, but it looks extremely cool, and satisfying.
Throughout the entire game, there are random ‘scenarios’ that usually involve tasking the player with killing a certain amount of enemies in a certain time. These enemies are highlighted in red, which aids in the targeting and ease. All throughout the on-foot levels, are payphones scattered and allow for the player to phone an arms dealer, which will allow them to purchase better weapons, counter-kills, and taunts. The last aspect of the game is what is called “gangster fire”, which is the game’s bullet-time mechanic. It has it’s uses, and allows a player to chain up combo-kills, as well as shoot down rocket/grenade fire, or provide that necessary split second that is needed to quickly clip an enemy when they pop out from behind cover. It is restored through acquiring points, but runs out so quickly, that players will save it for those necessary moments when things are desperate.
A few things seem stolen from other games, such as the cover system and weapon selection from Gears of War, but are significantly different enough and tailored for the gameplay. The cover system has a few flaws, as half of the time popping out from cover is more of a hindrance than benefit. On one particular level, I noticed that I was being shot through the cover, and died within moments.
There are two levels that involve driving a military Hummer across open road (or dirt terrain), and are enjoyable from start to finish. The second player (or computer AI) serves as the gunner for these missions, and will have a difficult time running out of targets to shoot. The one mission that is entirely different from the others is the gunning mission, in which both players are gunners of some troop-transport helicopter, and are tasked with destroying everything that lights up red in their crosshairs. While this particular level is short, it’s extremely enjoyable, and serves a plate of action directly to you.
The graphics are good, and while each level looks like a war-torn landscape, it gives the feel of being in some middle-eastern country. Characters are highly detailed, with practically no slowdown despite the constant barrage of gunfire and explosions.
However, where Blood on the Sand really shines, is the audio. The entire cast, including 50 Cent, G-Unit, and even standard enemies, all have perfected how voice-acting should be done. Not a single word seems out of place, and the commentary between 50 Cent and his co-op partner are direct, and realistic. Guns fire loudly and explosions sound like explosions. What really stands out, is the musical score. A customizable playlist that plays a bevy of 50 Cent songs, including ‘In Da Club’ and ‘Piggy Bank’, provide a soundtrack that sets the mood and tone of the entire game, and urge you to press onward. This playlist grows as the game progression happens, with the ability to change out songs on the fly in the pause menu. Sixteen songs were custom made for this game, and each of them are well-placed in the setting of the game.
There are some flaws that prevent this game from achieving something greater than it is. The cover system that was mentioned earlier seems to have little effect on stopping injury, especially on the greater difficulty levels. It’s easier to stand behind a pillar without the cover system, and not get shot. The fourth mission seems convoluted, which seems entirely out of place based on the plot’s premise of getting a jewel-encrusted skull back. The final mission is a bit of a letdown, merely because of the lack of resistance that is offered throughout it. The biggest gripe that I found was that if during co-op play with another player, if one of the two gets injured enough, the other can revive them, but this feature is missing altogether in single player. The A.I. could have easily been coded to come over and revive 50 Cent should he be shot up enough. The game itself is short, and can be completed in four hours maximum on the normal difficulty. The harder difficulty tacks on a bit more time hiding behind walls, and the occasional restart from being flushed out with grenades, but otherwise it’s still the same game.
If you’re a fan of 50 Cent, action games, or general mayhem without a need for a complex story, this game is worth your time. The worst aspect about this is the length of the game. The best is that the game is enjoyable from start to finish, even if it is a bit too easy to complete. It’s worth renting, but a full-fledged purchase would have to have at least double the amount of levels that are in this game. Unless of course, you are a die-hard fan of 50 Cent. Which this game could make you.