50 Cent: Blood on the Sand (BotS) is the sort of game you know won't win any game of the year awards and won't be lauded for its gameplay or graphics but regardless, you find yourself playing it and for some weird reason enjoying it. It all comes down to the fact that BotS at no point takes itself seriously. The story is ludicrous, the characters are paper thin and the gameplay is repetitive but all the while, there just seems to be a sense of fun that keeps drawing you back to see if Fiddy gets his diamond skull back.
I suppose a quick breakdown of the story is in order, but don't worry, it should only take a sentence or two to lay it out. 50 Cent is performing in an unnamed Middle Eastern country but after his concert the promoter refuses to pay him as he has no money. After some persuasion by Mr 50 the promoter begrudgingly hands over a diamond encrusted skull which is promptly stolen by a group of mercenaries and Fiddy decides to get back what's rightfully his. Certainly not Pulitzer prize winning material but if you've seen any B grade action movie then you'll be more than comfortable with the game's story (or lack thereof). Joining you in your fight to get Fiddy's skull back is one of three members of Fiddy's G-Unit: Tony Yayo, Lloyd Banks, or DJ Whoo Kid, each of whom are supposed to specialise in different combat techniques but at the end of the day the only difference is really their character model and the dialogue they shout out at Fiddy during the game. Speaking of dialogue, BotS is rich with some hilariously cheesy lines that will have you in stitches as you here them shouting British phrases such as “Safe as houses Fiddy!” or random lines taken straight from the movie Scarface.
The gameplay is almost copied straight from Gears of War, with you and your G-Unit partner taking on hordes of enemies while ducking and hiding behind cover. The cover system isn't as well done as in Gears though and frequently you'll be hiding behind a pillar swearing as Fiddy struggles to aim to the right side of your cover all the while being peppered in the head with bullets. Luckily Fiddy seems capable of taking several rockets to the head with almost no ill effect. Playing through on normal difficulty I died only a few times through the game and only really towards the end of the game where the difficulty level ramps up. Otherwise, there is not much challenge with your only struggle being to get to grips with the cover system. Fiddy has a large selection of weapons to use, with four slots being available to be equipped at any one point in time, namely assault, close range, pistols and special weapons, each of which is mapped to one of the directions on the D-pad so to switch between them on the fly. The same system applies to the enemies with there being three different types, each of which uses a different sort of weapon. Handily enough they also colour coordinate their outfits to match the class of weapon they use, so assault soldiers wear yellow, close range specialists wear blue and rocket launchers and grenadiers wear red. Those are the only types of enemies you'll meet in the game with there being no other variety than the odd gun emplacement. Let us not forget the boss fight though, where 50 cent faces off against his mortal enemy, the helicopter. Not once, but several times he faces off against an enemy that flies around in a helicopter all the while peppering him with rockets and machine gun fire with Fiddy only able to blast rockets at him. Luckily enough for Fiddy it seems as though the helicopter pilots in the game are incapable of straying from their set paths so its simply a matter of waiting till they hover in place and then firing several rockets till the helicopter explodes.
There are several sections in the game where you take a break from the on foot action and hit the road in a Humvee to chase down a mission objective all the while blasting enemies and avoiding obstacles. One player controls the Humvee while the other uses the machine gun. One thing that stands out here is that you'll get the chance to hit ramps. Which explode. For no reason. If that doesn't show you how over the top BotS is then nothing will. Complimenting the driving sections is one mission in the game where you man the guns on a helicopter and are tasked with destroying enemies, buildings, radar dishes and almost everything else on the level before taking on another helicopter and then destroying an oil refinery. What it had to do with the story I still have no idea but it was darn fun all the same and makes a nice break from the rest of the game.
While shooting your way through the game you'll be rewarded points for kills, pickups, checkpoints and almost everything else you can do in the game and you can chain several kills together to make use of score multipliers to rack up huge points totals. You can use the points to unlock a wide variety of 50 Cent material such as videos and additional music tracks with several of the tracks being exclusives for all you 50 Cent fans out there. At the end of each level your points will also be totaled up to earn badges which can unlock additional achievements if you do exceptionally well. You also can grab cash from dead enemies and bust open crates containing more cash which are sprinkled liberally throughout the game. The cash you earn can be spent at certain points in the game to buy new weapons, taunts or counterkills. The counterkills are quick time events that you can initiate when you get close enough to an enemy and consist of you just hitting the B button at specific points to kill an enemy with a variety of melee attacks. The taunts are another throwaway part of the game and serve no real purpose other than hear Fiddy shouting different swear words at his enemies when he kills them.
One part of BotS that stood out for me was the good use of the Unreal engine in the game. Sure, it might not match up to its peers such as Gears 2 and the like, but the lighting and environments are all well done and the main character models aren't too bad looking. One annoying aspect is the fact that Fiddy never bothers to move his lips in-game while talking but then again he might just be too gangsta to even bother talking like us mere mortals. Obviously with this being a 50 Cent game you'll be hearing his repertoire of music with an in-game music player enabling you to choose which tracks to listen to. If you're not a 50 Cent fan you'll be pleased to hear that you also have the option of turning off his tracks and resorting to an instrumental soundtrack although it too consists of his music but with the vocals merely removed.
Overall 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand isn't the greatest game out there right now, but at the same time it never takes itself too seriously and can give you a good few hours of fun with its Gears-lite gameplay and co-op. You'll certainly get more fun out of this game if you're a fan of camp and cheesy action films starring the likes of Steven Seagal and Chuck Norris. I wouldn't say you should pick this game up immediately though as it is a much more appealing prospect at a lower price, so you might be better off waiting for it to hit the bargain bin before splashing cash on it.
- Good use of the Unreal engine
- Easy to pick up and play
- Co-op is great fun
- If you don't like Fiddy then avoid
- Easy and short to complete
- Soundtrack may begin to grate after a while