Reviews, Video games

Video Game Review – 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand (PS3)

Box art for 50 Cent Blood on the Sand

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Awhile back I played and reviewed (somewhere else – I can’t find the precise review) 50 Cent: Bulletproof. The game was the first game featuring rapper 50 Cent. It wasn’t a good game, but it wasn’t absolute crap either. It was just incredibly mediocre. However, it sold incredibly well. So, I wasn’t surprised when the game got a sequel, but I wasn’t particularly expecting quality in any form, so I just ignored the game. However, then I started hearing murmurings from game journalists whose opinions I trust about action shooters. I was hearing things about how this also was not a bad game. To the contrary, the word was that it was actually kind of good. So, I added the game to my GameFly queue, and now I finally got it, and beat it – which means it’s time for me to give my opinion on it.

The game’s premise is rather silly. The idea behind the story is that 50 Cent and G Unit perform a rap concert in this unnamed war-torn Middle Eastern country (and by war-torn I mean it’s slightly less peaceful than Somalia). Once the concert is completed, Fifty learns that the promoter doesn’t actually have the money to pay the $10 Million dollar fee Fifty was supposed to be paid for the concert. The promoter manages to talk his way out of getting ventilated by 50 by offering him a priceless diamond encrusted skull instead. Fifty accepts the skull and he and G-Unit head for the airport to get out of the country as soon as possible. Unfortunately for them, the convoy is ambushed, and the skull is stolen. Fifty loads up on guns and he and G-Unit set out in pursuit of the skull.

The game is a modern Unreal Engine game – this means that the graphics are going to have a lot of brown. That said, the environments are also very internally consistent – which is good, because, to the game’s credit, the game has almost-but-not-quite the same degree of geographical progression a game like Half Life is lauded for. Let me clarify this a bit – every level connects together in a logical fashion, and were it not for the occasional prerendered cutscene, or the end of level rating of the score, the the entire path of the story could be mapped – in engine – as one continuous unbroken path. That’s actually a good thing, it gives the story a sense of continuity and a sense of place by making the game designers stay consistent.

The game itself is a standard cover-based 3rd person shooter, which is fine. However, it changes things up a little by borrowing some mechanics from Bizarre Creation’s shooter “The Club”. As you go through the levels and kill enemies, you earn points. If you kill a series of enemies in quick succession, you build up a combo multiplier. You get additional multipliers for your point total depending on whether you taunt after each kill, if you blow up your enemies, set them on fire, or other methods of killing them. This encourages a play style where you come out of cover, kill a series of enemies (maybe hitting a few with a grenade), before ducking into cover and letting your health recharge. Additionally, Fifty also has melee take down moves, activated by hitting circle near an enemy. This triggers a canned animation, during which Fifty is invulnerable, and the player can hit a timed series of presses of  the circle button. Once the animation completes, the target is killed and combat goes on.

As you go through the levels, you’re accompanied by one of the members of G-Unit: Tony Yayo, Lloyd Banks, or DJ Whoo Kid. If you choose, you can make your game open for online drop-in-drop-out co-operative play. If you choose not to, the AI for your chosen member of G-Unit is still fine, though not as good as a second player. That said, the game doesn’t give an option for split-screen co-op, and if your co-op partner drops out in the middle of the game (for various reasons), you’re bumped back to the last checkpoint you reached, which leads into my next problem.

Specifically, the checkpoints are just a bit too far apart. Two great examples of this are in the later levels of the game. First, in one part of the level, you face a room with two “wings”, one open area to the right, one narrow area to the left, with a pillared “corridor” in the middle, with a machine gun at the end. In order to beat the level, you have to swing to the right, kill the enemies there, take out the machine gunner in the middle, and then cross the center aisle to the left section. During this section, if you kill the machine gunner in the middle before you cross the center aisle, another enemy will pop out of the door behind the machine gun, man the gun and start firing. They’ll keep coming until you clear out the left side and reach the machine gun. After that point, another wave of enemies springs out of the doors to the left and right of the room, and you have to quickly work back and forth to take them down. The problem is that there’s no checkpoint between waves. If you know what you’re doing, and you’ve got a human partner, this is easier. However, otherwise, if you die, you have to start the entire sequence over again. In a similar vein, in the final boss fight of the game, against a helicopter, When you get two hits in on the helicopter, the helicopter will blast the floor your on with rockets, so you have to flee down to the balcony on the next floor down. While going to this balcony, you have to fight through a couple waves of enemies. After getting 2 more hits in on this balcony, you then have to go down one more floor before you can get the last two rocket hits in. Once again, during this trip, you have to fight through more enemies. However, this is all on one checkpoint, so if you die at any point you have to start the entire fight over again. This fight, on it’s own, took me about an hour to complete, with the final run being about 10, 15 minutes. This turned that boss fight into an exercise in frustration.

Finally, the game is short. Really short. I beat the game the day I got it from GameFly, in less than 10 hours. Once you’ve beaten the game, you could in theory play through the game repeatedly in an attempt to unlock more concept art, various cheats, and standard definition music videos, I really can’t see any reason to buy this game. Rent, sure, but I don’t see the replay value there – particularly without split-screen co-op. If split-screen co-op was there, I could see the game being enough fun with someone in the same room to make it worth playing a few times repeatedly. However, I can’t see anything more than that – particularly since the game apparently doesn’t have any Trophies on the PS3 version (from what I saw on my Cross Media Bar). That said, I do think the game’s a very good rental, one that could get you an evening’s amusement.