50 Cent: Blood on the SandESRB:
Category: First Person Shooter
Developer: Swordfish Studios
2 player Online (cooperative)
1.65 GB HD space required
Supported HDTV output: 720p
It's rare for a sequel to outshine the original, but that's the case with THQ's recent release 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand, an interesting follow-up to 2006's less than spectacular, yet commercially successful, 50 Cent: Bulletproof. Available on both the Xbox 360 and Sony PlayStation 3 this over-the-top adventure lets you play as the buff "Fiddy," who battles enemies in a fictitious war-torn Middle-Eastern country along with members of his G-Unit crew. I had the chance to take the PS3 version of this title through is paces, and I have to say that although the game is not a classic, I was pleasantly surprised with the final results.
Overall I think most gamers would agree that Blood on the Sand presents itself very well, aesthetically speaking. The game uses the robust Unreal Engine III engine and the PS3 has some formidable processing power behind it. That being said, considering the game's title, the blood effects are weak as I sure did not see much blood on the sand in this game. To be honest the blood does flow but never does it permanently stains the sand. I found it kind of ironic.
Blood on the Sand looks very good with plenty of detailed environments. The level designs are well implemented with very little in the way of repeated areas. It looks as if the development crew took some time in creating the environments of the game. The framerate keeps up most of the time, with slowdown only occurring when there is a lot of action and you're trying to use a scoped weapon or when when there are vast explosions and lots of action going on the screen at once. It is a minor issue and does not hamper the gameplay experience.
In terms of the in game characters, Fiddy looks and animates like his real life counterpart. Let’s face it, the guy is buffed up to the max, and the game reproduces the effect in startling accuracy. The enemies on the other hand don't change in appearance much from beginning to end and they all tend to look the same as they often blend into one another. The use of slow motion "Gangsta Time" helps to mix things up a little, but it's not like we haven't seen that game mechanic a dozen times already. The effect is felt and seen numerous times throughout the game.
The biggest problem with the visuals, and it's more of an aesthetic design choice rather than a technical issue, is the on-screen HUD clutter. Games like Gears boast a clean HUD; however Blood in the Sand does not. There are far too many gauges, icons and numbers displayed. Sometimes in the heat of battle it does get a bit confusing. My other problem with the visuals is the very wonky camera; it's too fidgety and moves around way too much, which can cause some people, myself included, to feel motion sickness. This problem is in only a few levels, and is not a big deal if you can get used to the effect.
The game's soundtrack comes primarily from 50 Cent's back catalogue, with over 40 tracks in all, some as up to date as his most recent solo release, Curtis, with others like Wanksta and In Da Club dating back to his initial splash. The game's packaging touts "18 exclusive new tracks," but none of the exclusives really jumped out at me at all. Plus some of the songs that are not already album cuts have been released online as random disc tracks or other mix tape fodder. The music just sort of plays at all times. While the freedom to manipulate the song list is not an awful idea, there are enough iconic gangster tracks in this game that saving one or two of them specifically for boss fights is a pretty good idea. The music player, which can be accessed at any time during the game from the pause menu, allows you to change and organize the music content to suit your taste. Having the ability to choose which ones you want to listen to during the game is a great feature and I actually found myself enjoying the tunes and browsing the player on more than one occasion. 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 and they are just as good as those found in other triple A titles. 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.
Blood on the Sand’s premise is somewhat hard to believe, but hey this is a videogame right? After a sold-out show, and the last stop on the tour, 50 Cent discovers his $10 million cash payment has gone missing. The promoter offers him something in lieu of the money, a diamond-encrusted skull worth millions. Unfortunately Fiddy’s luck is not too good as this item also gets stolen when his armored vehicle gets ambushed on the way to the airport by thugs working for a local crime lord who also sidelines as a ruthless organ harvester no less. Your job, as the role of Fiddy, is to shoot down hundreds of gun-toting bad guys, collect your payday, and teach this ruthless thief a lesson. If you can get past the silly storyline, fans of the genre should be in for a gratifying action-packed ride.
The gameplay is a competent but repetitive Gears of War type clone. You can take cover behind walls, blind fire around or above your cover, and dive quickly to get out of the way if/when required. The most rewarding aspect though is the shooting. The action is reasonably satisfying, although it is a little too easy to rack up head shots without using a scoped weapon. The pistols for some reason are incredibly accurate, which makes the other weapons in the game seem a bit inadequate. On the other hand, this provides an outlet for ultimate carnage, and mindless violence mongers will love the easy targeting. The game also has a combo-system that rewards you for killing in quick succession. The multiplier ramps up as you execute (editor’s note: pun not intended) such moves as headshots, kills while not behind cover, kills while you are injured, or taunting someone while you kill them. The game has pretty much any kind of kill bonus, and at the end of each section, your score is tallied and medals are given out accordingly, leading to the unlocking of concept art and music videos.
For me the best part of Blood on the Sand is when playing with a friend in the online cooperative mode. While the game has no online adversarial multiplayer that we have all become accustomed to, it does have the ability to play online cooperatively. The game always has you playing as 50 Cent with any one member of the G-Unit serving as your sidekick. So when online your online buddy can join up and take control of that sidekick. They can choose one of the four members to play as in this mode. The cooperative mode manages to break up the monotony of the single player experience and can help to progress the story. Unfortunately the game has no trophies to unlock. I’m not sure why this is, but the lack of such does cut the replay value of the game in the long run.
Blood on the Sand is not too difficult having a life span of about nine hours or so. In theory you could polish off the title in less than a day. I found the some of vehicle sequences among the toughest, but not overly antagonizing to make you want to hurl your controller. The PS3’s controller does take a bit of getting used to at first. I thought the DualShock felt a bit light in my hands as I am more used to the Xbox 360 controller. It also rumbles a bit differently, but after some gameplay it shouldn’t be a hindrance. The buttons use is quite intuitive which I think also helps in the easy targeting of the guns and rocket launchers. There are five choppers in the game to takedown with your rocket launcher, which overall is pretty easy to accomplish. As you progresses you have the choice to buy and upgrade your weapons. More expensive weapons do make a difference. For instance the most expensive rocket launcher can be had for a mere $175,000, and to compare it to the cheap one is night and day. The better the weapon, the better they will perform.
On the downside, Blood on the Sand does feature far too much backtracking, and considering the length of the game this results in a lot of repeated scenery. Often I would pass through an area, reach a point and have to work my way back through an region 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 such short order the backtracking is annoying. On the plus side I quite like the option to be able to buy swear words. It is a guilty pleasure so to speak. Here you can your cash to buy words and phrases to use in the game. I am not sure if I have ever seen such an option, but I’m sure that this one will get used heavily.
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