In 50 Cent: Blood in the Sand, rapper Curtis Jackson (aka ‘50 Cent’) was to be paid for an African concert with a diamond encrusted skull. The skull was stolen. 50 Cent and his G-unit side-kick become a two man army, rampaging through Africa killing anyone that stands between them and their skull.
This game can be aptly described as a shooter with training wheels meets Lego star wars. If there was any game worthy of a zero punctuation lampoon, this one is it!
I knew going in that this was going to be a poor game. I tried it, nonetheless, because someone on the Listen Up podcast mentioned that the game was a lot better than it was given credit for. While I agree that it was better than expected (I expected a 1.5 out of 5) I certainly cannot recommend it beyond a $5 rental.
After playing through on ‘normal’ I was set to give this game a 2 out of 5. However, my score was bumped up to 2.5 after playing it through on hard and playing online co-op.
The game is ridiculously easy on both normal and hard. It does get a bit (and I mean just a ‘bit’) more challenging towards the end of the game but only on hard mode. Having leveled-up all my weapons, taunts and counter kills (lame melee attacks) before playing co-op, I admit that I had some fun running and gunning through the game, co-operatively with strangers over Xbox-live, with super-pimped out weapons and characters cussing up a storm.
While the cons far outweigh the pros, I have a few good things to say about the game:
Nicely Detailed Environments: The game by no-means taxes the Unreal Engine 3. However, the environments are more richly detailed than some games. That said, the graphics/textures weren’t much nicer than a last-gen title
Guns: The guns felt good and shot well. The gun sounds and force feedback on the controller were solid
Mini Challenges: To make up for extremely easy game play, the user is continually provided with mini-challenges along the way. Rewards (ie: temporarily powered up weapons, points, grenades etc.) are doled out for successful completion. These added something to the game. Indeed, since the game was so ridiculously easy, the mini-challenges were sometimes the only challenge.
Grenade Throwing: The grenade throwing animation was poor. But the accuracy and quickness of the grenade throwing was, arguably, the best I’ve experienced. I am constantly frustrated by poor grenade throwing mechanics in other games. Developers can learn something form this game.
Enjoyable Flying Level: Reminiscent of the overhead bombing campaign in Call of Duty 4, the game provides one short level where you use a helicopter gun to kill everything that moved below you. I enjoyed it.
Mindless Fun: As mentioned in the intro, I did have some mindless fun playing co-op online, with strangers – something of a rarity in my experience of online play I might add (Update: I also had a lot of fun playing Left 4 Dead online with strangers).
Ridiculously Easy and One Sided: Through all of normal and much of the hard levels, the game was crazy-easy and wholly one sided. The slightest tap with a minor bullet took down most enemies. Yet 50 cent could withstand bullet onslaughts and rocket propelled grenade attacks with virtually no damage (on normal mode). I will add, however, that on hard mode, towards the end there were times when 50 cent could be taken down with one-shot from a sniper or a perfectly placed grenade. This was rare. I shudder to think what the game was like on ‘easy’ mode.
Sound and Fury Signifying Nothing: I mentioned in the ‘pros’ section that the game has decent special effects, sound, lighting, smoke and explosions. But all of it is for not. Simulated danger, when there really was none, got old really fast. For most of the game I could walk 50 Cent straight through gun battles, with bullets showering around, all while searching for collectables, with little worry of persona injury. To the extent he took damage, he self-healed almost instantly.
Driving Levels Were Joke: So long as you kept moving and could steer, you could get through the two, short, driving levels in one pass. No skill of any kind was needed.
Outlandish Profanity: I don’t mind profanity in a military game, for example, where it makes sense contextually. Perhaps I don’t have the gangster rapper mentality to enjoy profanity in every sentence. Dialogue was ridiculously profane and juvenile. You can even increase the profanity by purchasing taunts and pressing the left stick. I must admit, though, that I did have some fun on co-op hurling insults as my counter part spared no opportunity to click the profanity (err, taunt) stick! ;).
Side Note on Profanity: The game is wall-to-wall profanity. As you play you can unlock pictures, music videos etc. I had to laugh because some doe brain executive decided that swear words in unlocked music videos needed to be bleeped out! What’s up with that?
Cover System: First, the game is so easy that there is no need for a cover system (except towards the end on hard). Be that as it may, the cover system was generally fine when I wanted to use it. Unfortunately, the button to go into cover (the green ‘A’ button on the 360) is the same button you press to role/jump out of the way and to dodge incoming fire. About half the time when I meant to dodge, the cover system grabbed my character and glued it to a cover spot – usually on the wrong side where the bullets I was trying to avoid were coming from. Grrr!
AI Enemies & Combat a Joke: There was no effort put into creating challenging AI. If there was a gas can (and there were lots of gas cans), the stupid AI would be standing right beside it. The AI pretty much stood in place waiting to be killed.
Melee Ridiculous: Melee (called ‘CounterKills’ in the game) involved nothing more than pressing ‘B’, quick-time style, whenever indicated. You can purchase new CounterKills but little changes when using the new ones. The system for selecting the CounterKills for use is stupidly opaque.
No Save Option: The game saves at pre-determined checkpoints. You have no choice where to save the game. That said, it was so easy on normal that I had to work at getting killed. So, while the lack of user-selectable save points is normally a big pet-peeve of mine, the lack of them here made almost no difference.
Limited Maneuverability: 50C cannot run, jump/walk over the tiniest of obstacles – even a foot high – let alone climb over edges or drop down 3 foot ledges. I often got tangled up in doorways and other narrow spaces with the G-Unit side-kick guy following me around – and always at the worst times.
Rewards Run & Gunning: The game rewards running and constant gunning over patient, thoughtful or stealthy play. If you kill someone they drop money. You can pick it up, but only it only stays there for a few seconds after death. You need to be close to pick up the cash. Distant kills miss out on the cash. Chained killing (ie: multiple kills in a row) yields extra bonus points. Slower, patient, stealthy killing does not. While there is an enormous amount of amo scattered around, there’s a lot more short range weapons amo than for long range weapons. You are even rewarded with bonus points for picking up amo – even if you don’t need it or use it. This rewards emptying guns into the air to pick up amo for points. Daft!
Odd Weapon Equipping System: The game allows you to carry 4 weapons (mapped to the D pad) at a time. You can purchase more weapons for your inventory. To swap weapons from your inventory you need to find and use a pay phone! Huh? Alternatively, when you find weapons from fallen enemies, you can stand over them to swap weapons in and out from your existing inventory. Note here, that I’m not saying that you can pick up the fallen enemy’s weapon. You cannot. That would make too much sense. Rather, enemy weapons are used as a trigger point where you can swap out weapons of the type dropped by the fallen enemy from your inventory. It made no logical real-world sense. I’ve never seen this silly mechanic in any other shooter – and I’ve played a LOT of shooters.
Tired Animations: Every time 50C and one of his G Units did any of the following moves (which was constantly), the same tired animation played: opening doorways, boosting one another to another level, jumping down to a lower level; bashing boards, lifting metal doors. You’d think they’d at least include a few variations given that these animations play over and over through the game.
Excessive Hand Holding: The game holds your hand throughout. You are provided with: (i) arrows continually pointing out where to go; (ii) big, gaudy orange circle indicators (see picture above) where you must stand to perform an action; (iii) a big yellow G (which is confusingly similar to the yellow targets you are looking for on the maps) hovering over your ever-present G-unit ‘buddy’; (iv) bright red outlines around your enemies in the mini challenges; (v) red dots and arrows pointing out where the next offensive is coming from; (vi) indicators where the ever-present helicopter is; and (vii) subtitles. You can’t turn any of this off. And if you still don’t know where to go, the G-Unit will always be conveniently standing next to the door you are to go through next.
No Crouch or Prone: While not really needed given how easy the game is, you cannot crouch or lay prone. This is especially annoying because the G-Unit guy is constantly shouting at you to get down or lay low. Yet, the game provides no method to comply.
Lack of Map Depth: Players either retrace steps or fight repeatedly around the same map – often using a different level on the same map.
Annoying Music: I like some 50 Cent music. I’m not a rapper hater. But to save my sanity, I had to shut off the non-stop, vapid, gangsta – ho, rap ‘music’.
Plot & Lame Ending: Plot, what plot? The premise was ridiculous. As endings goes, the final act has to be about as lame as they come. And why must almost every level end with the shooting down of a helicopter? Good grief!
Easy Cash / Leveling Up: Surprisingly, this is not a defect in the game. When loading a level, the game brags that, if 50 dies, he doesn’t loose his cash. This can be used as an easy cheat. To get cash fast, find a lucrative stash of cash boxes that appear right after a check point. For example, after the first checkpoint on "Mission 7 – Destroy the AA Gun’. Collect the cash, allow yourself to die, respawn and collect the cash again – over and over. At this particular spot, you can pick up cash in $35,000 increments for each 60 seconds round. Makes all the cash-related achievements (purchasing of weapons, taunts and counterkills) easy. Good grief!
Blow Through Weapon Change Animation: It took me awhile to realize that there is no need to wait for the animation to complete when changing weapons. As soon as you push the button to change, you can start shooting with the new weapon – before the animation is finished.
One wonders who this game is targeted towards? Gangster wannabes, who enjoy 50 Cent’s ‘music’, that are so incompetent when it comes to shooters that they need everything to be spoon fed to them? Gamers that want to feel like a bad-@ss without actually having to do anything difficult? Hard core gamers will hate it.
If you’ve played every other shooter, and are really bored, rent it. But do not under any circumstances purchase it!
With its excessive profanity, this game is definitely NOT for the kiddies!