Developer: Swordfish Studios
Release Date: Q4 2008
I laughed. I couldn't help it.
One of the horrible secrets of the video game industry is that 50 Cent: Bulletproof — despite being, by any standard, an utterly ridiculous idea that should have been a cataclysmic misfire on the level of a Shaq Fu — wasn't actually that bad. It was really bizarre, granted, since it was essentially a dungeon crawler that happened to be set inside the bizarre violent urban universe that the fictional 50 Cent inhabits, complete with kicking dead people to make more money fly out of them, but it wasn't bad.
50 Cent: Blood on the Sand, though, is … well, it doesn't look bad, exactly. Far from it; it's a pretty decent-looking shooter, influenced by Resident Evil 4 and Gears of War as with many other shooters, with a hearty dose of terrible violence and arcade-style action.
It does, however, happen to star a rapper who has chosen to depict himself as an invincible badass, and that's where I start to get amused.
50 Cent and G-Unit, the game's story says, are putting on a concert in the Middle East when the promoter stiffs them. In lieu of their money, they're given a crystal skull with gems set in it, which is promptly stolen following an ambush by gangsters. As 50 Cent happens to be a near-immortal force of nature who can no more be stopped than the tides themselves, violence ensues.
Right now, Blood on the Sand is in what Sierra describes as a pre-pre-alpha. They showed off a couple of different levels in San Francisco recently, which were set in a shopping mall and in the backstreets of some Middle Eastern city. You can play cooperatively, both offline and with drop-in, drop-out online play, with one player as 50 and the other as G-Unit.
As either character, the emphasis is firmly on keeping the action going, rather than tactics, realism, or any version of real-world physics. You can carry up to four weapons at a time — twin pistols, automatic weapons, rifles, and "heavy"; the latter category includes Soviet-style rocket launchers — and move from hard cover to hard cover, obliterating people with ridiculous amounts of firepower. The faster and meaner you kill, the higher your point multiplier goes, and the more points you get.
As with many shooters these days, Blood on the Sand features a regenerative health meter in addition to a gradually filling meter that provokes "gangsta fire" mode. While "gangsta firing," you enter a slow-motion state, and can juggle enemies in the air with your bullets for high-point-value aerial combos.
As you gather up cash from the bodies of the dead or by completing certain optional objectives (such as by eliminating all of the participants in an encounter within 30 seconds), you can trade them in for new musical tracks or various short-range counter-kills; the latter events provoke a quick-time event, which, if successfully completed, will result in a surprisingly violent close-up murder scene as 50 does something horrible to a guy.
Really, the more I look at the game and think about it, Blood on the Sand is a highly polished, hip-hop-themed take on the same sort of shooter as THQ's underrated The Punisher from a couple of years ago. It shares many of the same gameplay goals, such as rapid and stylish kills for high point values, as well as the same unflinching approach toward violence; 50 Cent isn't quite as casually sadistic as the Punisher was, but he did just eviscerate someone with a combat knife, so he's in the same ballpark.
It's easy to just write the 50 Cent series off as a celebrity vanity project, and I kind of want to, but he's managed a fair run so far. I'm looking forward to the final version of 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand, if only to see just how over-the-top it can get.
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