50 Cent: Blood On The Sand Review: In Da Club Of Da Crystal Skull

Rapper 50 Cent and his G-Unit sidekicks have returned, ready to shoot scores of generic Middle Easterners in 50 Cent: Blood On The Sand. The ultimate goal? Get Fiddy's paycheck, a diamond-encrusted skull.

Obviously, the real motivation behind the game is to give 50 Cent an opportunity to make amends for the generally miserable last-generation effort 50 Cent: Bulletproof, making some real world dollars with publisher THQ and developer Swordfish Studios along the way. But the fictional account of Fiddy's Middle East adventures sees the rapper gunning down soldiers, mercenaries and warlords who get between him and the guaranteed $10 million payment he was promised. No masked man nor garage door shutter on this Earth can stop 50 Cent and the G-Unit partner of your choice.

Will we try to stop you from getting your hands on 50 Cent: Blood On The Sand? Read our review to find out if you should get the game or die tryin'.

Loved
Easy On Its Audience: Swordfish Studios must be lauded for many of its design decisions. The game is not particularly difficult, nor is it unforgiving in its checkpoints and supply of ammunition. This is not a game aimed at the ultra-hardcore action game aficionado, but one aimed at the hardcore 50 Cent fan. Blood On The Sand is extremely kind in its regular feedback of what the player should be doing, where he should be going and how he is performing. The game's HUD is a bit of a mess, making it sometimes difficult to keep track of one's score and objectives amid the chaos.

Surprisingly Capable And Playable: Sure, Blood On The Sand may be forgiving, but it's not lacking in its challenge. The game regularly provides the player with tasks layered upon the constant shooting. There are hidden items to collect, targets to shoot and a combo-scoring system that's borrowed wholesale from Bizarre Creations' The Club. The rest of the game is a capable Gears of War clone, one that, despite a handful of control quirks, plays surprisingly well.

WTF: Arguably the best thing about 50 Cent's Middle East shoot 'em up is the game's total sense of "What the hell did I just see/hear/have explode directly under 50 Cent?" It's hard to believe that all of the humor to be found in this seemingly humorless title is unintentional. Blood On The Sand is endearingly over-the-top, full of ironic fun and laugh out loud moments for the kind of people who take delight in finding things ironic.

Objectives And Pay-Offs: The game liberally tosses objectives at the player, tasking them with blowing up tanks or killing X number of anonymous mercenaries under a time limit. These are fun. Better, however, are the rewards for successfully pulling them off: incendiary rounds and explosive bullets that cause Fiddy's handgun to set people on fire.

Borrows Wisely: As already mentioned, Swordfish Studios has looked to titles like Gears of War and The Club, but softens the edges of the mechanics of each title, making the gameplay familiar—and in the case of The Club—easier to swallow. The health regeneration system is essentially Halo's (or Uncharted's), the "Gangsta Fire" mode a simple bullet-time bonus.

Hated
Repetitive, Repetitive, Repetitive: While finding hidden posters and shooting carefully disguised targets adds some variety, there's not much to mix up the action here. Blood On The Sand peppers in some bland driving levels and on-rails mini-gun firing massacres, but the game's enemies behave the same throughout. The game drags on near the end, with a few extra acts following an explosive shoot out that feel like padding.

Lazy Soundtrack: If you're a 50 Cent fan, you'll likely love the dump of 40-plus music tracks from the man and his G-Unit. As a non-fan, having the constant shuffle of tracks droning on in the background didn't add much. Voice over work from 50 Cent himself is pretty solid, but hearing his G-Unit cohorts ramble on throughout the game gets annoying.

Wonky Cover System: Finding cover behind walls and battlefield detritus is typically straightforward, thanks to Gears-style contextual pop-ups. Often enough to frustrate, you'll likely find yourself diving and rolling when you wanted to duck, then finding it curiously demanding to drop out of cover.

50 Cent: Blood On The Sand is disarming in its simple pleasures, impressively above average—and not just due to the ludicrous situation in which the player finds 50 Cent. The game's storyline becomes less entertaining than the premise during the course of about seven hours, but the drive to revisit the game, which is dripping with Achievements, items to unlock, weapons, taunts and "counter-kills" to purchase, is surprisingly strong. That some of those Achievements are directly tied to playing as a co-op sidekick in a two-player game will likely demand a replay.

While it may be hard to recommend Blood On The Sand to gamers who are itching for a more tepid Gears Of War-The Club hybrid—especially since both can be had for less than the price (combined) of the game under review—it's difficult to recommend against playing the game. It's bizarre and capable enough to make the ride fun.

50 Cent: Blood On The Sand was developed by Swordfish Studios, published by THQ for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, released on February 24th. Retails for $59.99 USD. Played single-player game to completion on Xbox 360, tested co-op modes.

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