50 Cent: Blood on the SandESRB:
Platform: Xbox 360
Category: Action Games
Developer: Swordfish Studios
Online Multiplayer: 2 (cooperative)
60KB to Save Game
Just when you think you have seen it all, a video game with rapper 50 Cent as the main character comes along. On top of that, not only does Fiddy already have one game under his belt with the 2005 release of ‘50 Cent: Bulletproof’, but now he is officially a video game franchise with the recent arrival of ‘50 Cent: Blood on the Sand’ for the Xbox 360 and PS3. I had the opportunity to review the Xbox 360 version of the game and needless to say my expectations were about as low as they could possibly get. Out of all honesty, when our Editor in Chief handed the game over, I was thinking of ways I could re-assign to the game to one of our other writers. Eventually I sucked it up and gave Blood on the Sand a spin. Well you cannot judge a book by its cover. Much to my surprise I actually enjoyed the game and was really blown away with how much fun I had ‘bustin caps’. Blood on the Sand is by no means a perfect game, but considering I expected a dog of a game Fiddy’s latest instalment is not too shabby at all.
Overall, the visuals in Blood on the Sand caught me by surprise and I was very impressed with how good everything looked. It was certainly much better than I expected. I went in looking for flaws such as clipping issues, jittery framerates and broken visuals, instead I got a solid looking game that surely 50 Cent himself is very proud of. Sure, it may not be on par with other great next generation shooters already on the market, but on its own Blood on the Sand is a decent looking game and has made significant leaps since Bulletproof.
50 Cent, along with his G Unit posse, look great as the character detail is impressive. From his signature bullet proof vest, his array of tattoos on his ripped arms, to his black ball cap; overall Fiddy looks solid in high definition. The enemy AI also looks solid and the game features a good amount of variety of different villains. The level design is also strong featuring a good mix of indoor and outdoor environments where the never ending stream of shootouts and firefights take place. The levels at times can seem linear but there is a good deal of exploration as Blood on the Sand features targets and collectable posters to locate throughout the many levels. During your adventure the game's lighting, explosions, and smoke effects are also bang on. They can be a tad over the top now and then but they do the job and create that perfect 50 Cent shooter atmosphere.
As this is a first person shooter weapons are the key here, and all those found in the game look first-rate. Blood on the Sand features a plethora of weaponry, including many fictional weapons I have never heard of. Handguns, machine guns, sniper rifles, and rocket launchers are at your disposal and all have their own unique look. Much more time and effort went into the weapon design than I had anticipated and it shows.
On the downside, Blood on the Sand does feature far too much backtracking considering the length of the game which has you seeing a lot of the same. Often I would pass an area, reach a point and have to work my way back through an area I had already passed through which did take a bit from the visual enjoyment. It is not a major issue but considering many will be able to complete the game in less than 6 hours or so the backtracking is annoying. Also, considering the game's title, the blood effects are weak as I sure did not see much blood on the sand in this game. Additionally, the game does suffer from the occasional slow down now and then too. This mainly occurs when there are vast explosions and lots of action going on the screen at once. Again it is not a major issue but more of a small deficiency in my view.
Being that this is a 50 Cent game it comes as no surprise that Blood on the Sand features a lot of Fiddy and G Unit tunes. In fact the game includes over 40-tracks including some older hits and some songs that were previously unreleased. The music player, which can be accessed at any time during the game from within the pause menu, allows you to change and organize the music content to suit your taste. Simply by scrolling through the list of Fiddy tunes, you can select which ones you want to listen to during the game. This was a great feature and I actually found myself enjoying the tunes and browsing the player on many occasions. There were some omissions from Fiddy's library of hits, however for the most part the selection of songs is pretty good. Bottomline, all the included tracks sound great and any 50 Cent fan will surely be pleased with the selection.
The in-game sound effects are a compliment to the whole audio package as they are just as good as those found in other triple A titles. Such sounds as explosions, gunfire, and enemies yelling all sound great and contribute to an immensely chaotic atmosphere. I really had no complaints with the games sound effects. In terms of the voice-over work, it is nothing spectacular but it does the job. Fiddy adds his voice to the game which certainly adds an authentic feel to the title. He has a lengthy list of mature rated adjectives at his disposal but some of his one-liners do get old in a hurry and some of the dialogue is cheesy at best. Entertaining it is, but not very believable. Overall I have no major concerns with the games total sound package and I am left with the opinion not much could have been done to significantly improve it.
In terms of the storyline, the game starts out with Fiddy wrapping up a sold out concert in the Middle East. He was guaranteed 10 million dollars for the show but when he goes to collect, surprise, the money has been stolen. The promoter offers 50 Cent and G-Unit something more valuable than money: a diamond-encrusted skull. However on their way back to the airport their convoy is ambushed and the skull is stolen from Fiddy and his crew. As a result, Fiddy and his posse embark a journey to recover the skull. Playing as Fiddy himself, you must make your way past murderous villains including a sleazy concert promoter, a vengeful strip club owner, a shadowy arms dealer, a ruthless drug lord, a cruel henchwoman and a dark, death dealing organ harvester. Now that is a colorful cast of characters indeed.
Overall the story is not bad but it won’t draw you in by any stretch. I am not sure what Fiddy's fan base is in the Middle East but the story did lose me a little bit right from the get go. Fiddy playing a sold out concert in the Middle East seems a tad far fetched. There is nothing incredibly original about the story and it only serves as a backdrop to 'poppin caps' and 'bustin chops'. This is where the real enjoyment of Blood on the Sand kicks in as the game never lets up action wise. The thrill of playing the game comes with the many gun battles, explosions, collecting money and locating targets and posters. The game has a relentless and addictive pace as I never wanted to put my controller down.
In some ways Blood in the Sand comes across as a poor mans Gears of War as it features a similar cover system and similar controls. The controls are easy to pick up and do not take you long to learn at all. All the basic functions of any shooter are present in the game and I really had no concerns with the controls. The cover system on the other hand does not work as well as it should. Popping out from cover can be problematic; however there were only a few times during the game where I really needed to get behind cover. Blood in the Sand is not a strategic game whatsoever and I think that it could have done without the cover system all together. The enemy AI is quite easy to kill and only offers up some resistance on a few occasions. I found that during the majority of battles I could run amok, charge towards enemies, and blast them away at will.
As you blast enemies the game has unique and somewhat slick scoring system which is dependent on a number of different things. Points are based upon the type of enemy being killed and how you kill them. Headshots, blowing up barrels, and even taunting the enemy will all earn you top points. Points are also based on the difficulty setting you play on as well (easy, normal or hard). You can compare your scores with your friends via the online leaderboards. It is a scoring system that works well and adds a lot of fun to the gameplay. At the end of the level you are awarded a gold, silver or bronze medal depending on your score. The only issue I had with the scoring system is much of your score depends on your ability to find the hidden targets and posters. I think that less weight should have been given to your searching abilities and more focused on your skill and creativity when killing enemies.
To mix things up a bit Blood in the Sand does include some vehicle segments as well as a level where you man a turret in a gunship. These segments are highly enjoyable but far too short. The vehicle battles do not last long as they should and actually leave you wanting more. Just like the vehicle segments, manning a turret and essentially taking down small Middle Eastern villages is also highly enjoyable. The only problem with both is that you don't get enough of these types of action sequences. The developers did a great job with both the vehicle and turret segments and I would have liked to have seen much more in this regard.
As I played through the game I found that I had some concerns with the weak and repetitive boss fights. Blood in the Sand features some level ending boss battles which basically amount to Fiddy trying to take down a Gunship Helicopter. The first battle was pretty good, albeit it can be extremely difficult to actually hit the chopper with your rockets (that is until you purchase the $175,000 rocket). I found it annoying that each boss battle was just me trying to take down a helicopter on a repeated basis. The ending of the game is also a big letdown. Now I am not going to spoil it for you, but I think it is my duty to let you know to keep your expectations low. When I saw the game's ending I was like "WTF!" I do wonder why the ending went this way, and once you experience it yourself you will most likely wonder this too.
Blood in the Sand does not have a adversarial multiplayer component to the game. Clearly the developers understood and recognized the limitations of the game. There is just no way that this game could have competed with other great online shooters currently being enjoyed by Xbox LIVE gamers, so it is certainly a wise choice on behalf of the development team to not include an online versus mode. The game however does include a terrific cooperative mode. The ‘drop in and drop out at any time’ cooperative option works very well with zero lag. Your online buddy can play as one of the G Unit characters as you progress through the games missions. Bottomline, the co-op mode is a lot of fun as you will share lots of laughs blasting your way through the games many enemies.
In wrapping up the gameplay section I should also mention the single player mode was very short. I completed the game somewhere between 5 and 6-hours, which for me is very fast as I tend to be slow poke going through levels. The collectables and Xbox 360 achievements give the game a bit of replay value, however after one go around with the single player campaign many will likely be done with their 50 Cent experience. So in that sense, the game looks more and more like a rental than a purchase; however some may want to play through again just to collect all there is to collect, and earn as many achievements as possible, so it really does come down to personal preference.
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