Developer: Swordfish Studios
There has been a lot of talk here at Pixels and Grids about Mr. Cent’s latest foray into the video gaming world. Some of us have been patiently waiting; taking in each new, beautiful screenshot like a cool breeze carrying the scent of fresh baked pies. Others prepared for its coming like Y2K, buying out the hardware store’s supply of propane and saving water in the bathtub so that the toilet could still flush in a post-apocalyptic world. Either way, we were all pretty sure that if we were still alive, it would be an event we would remember forever. Where were you when the game came out? Were you stuck at work? Riding on the subway? Standing in line at an amusement park? Or were you like me, in da club?
Even more questions: Did 50 and Swordfish Studios take the game straight to the bank, or just put out another bad apple? Did Fif ever get his oh-so-precious skull back? And most importantly, did 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand live up to our own hype of 2009’s game of the year?
Guess you’ll have to venture the break to find out wangsta.
For those of you who haven’t been following the game or the numerous posts and podcasts from websites all over the net (especially this one), allow me to acquaint you. Rap star 50 Cent is making his sophomore attempt at a video game. After his first game, 50 Cent: Bulletproof, proved not to be, he came back with his hustler’s ambition and brought 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand back with him.
The first thing that needs to be mentioned is the story. The guys at Swordfish Studios wanted to create a solid story to lay as the game’s foundation; Mr. Cent would have nothing of it. While I’m not sure exactly how it actually happened, this is how I like to think it happened:
A group of 5-7 devs and writers are huddled around a single typewriter in a dimly lit room. The kerosene lamps are turned low to conserve the small amount of precious fuel they have left. The men and women are huddled together not just to see what is being slowly and methodically hammered out by the tiny metal arms of the typewriter, but also because the kerosene lamps are all they have to heat the office. The typewriter makes one final “ding” as it finishes its last line. The devs/writers collectively lean back and breath out a long-coming sigh. The room appears to be warmer. Just then the only door in the small office is kicked in and Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson and the entirety of the G-Unit rushes in. “It needs a skull. The game needs a skull! A skull made of money, NO… Diamonds! Make it happen…or else.” The room feels cold again before anyone realizes that the unit is already gone.
So that’s where the new story comes in. 50 and G-Unit finish a concert in an unnamed Middle-Eastern country, get screwed out of their $10M payoff, 50 proceeds to break out the heat, gets paid with a diamond encrusted skull, gunz come out, skull gets stolen, so they head back to the streets to retrieve their diamond covered prize…the ski mask way. That’s pretty much all you need to know. Actually, after the first cutscene, I’m not sure if there actually is a story anymore (and I’m not 100% positive that there’s one before that).
Given my fondness to RPGs and storytelling in general, you likely won’t hear this from me any time soon, but this game doesn’t need story to keep you playing. The game play is solid in part because of the well thought out (if not completely ripped from Gears of War) controls, Max Payne-esque bullet time gangster time, and the visceral, frantic shooting à la The Club. Speaking of The Club, 50 Cent:BotS borrows a little more from it, in the form of hidden targets and timer-ticking combo meters. Keeping your kills quick and interesting, in the form of explosions, headshots, and added taunts, is the only way to get your score high enough to unlock everything. Replayability is greatly increased with the addition of a storefront that sells enough weapons, taunts, and counterkills (for those who prefer their gang violence up close and personal…and with more timed button presses) to keep you like a kid in a candy shop. The fact that you can keep all your new purchases for your next play through is even more p.i.m.p.
But even with all the fire power, Fiddy can’t handle the mean streets and heavy door shutters alone, which is why you will be joined by a G-Unit member of your choice! That’s right, Lloyd Banks, Tony Yayo, or DJ Whoo Kid will be right there at your side to bust caps, help Fif with high ledges and heavy objects, and offer unique insights into Mid-Eastern history and architecture. If you’re not a fan of your computer controlled assistant (especially on levels that require them to be the only person who can shoot the gun of your humvee) and want to thug it up with a friend, you’re in luck as Blood on the Sand supports online co-op. If you didn’t catch that, your typical run and gun missions are occasionally interrupted with drive and gun missions. Actually, they’re mostly just drive missions, as all the shooting is done by your lack-luster companion, with you just trying to knock other vehicles out of control. Of all the parts in the game, this was the only time when I really missed having a friend playing or at least the ability to change seats with the gunner. Besides that, my biggest gripe would be the repetitive boss-in-a-helicopter battles, not to mention the awful sound of the helicopter minigun. It was the only time I’ve ever cursed having surround sound. I practically had to mute it so it wouldn’t drill out my ear drums.
Speaking of sound, the last point I’ll mention is the sound track. It’s 50 cent. All of it. Basically, his whole catalog. That means you’re either gonna hate it or love it (personally, i find it so amazing).
So while it might not stack up to be game of the year material (not even by PnG’s incredibly loose standards), it certainly is worth cracking the piggy bank open for, especially if you can grab it used or after it drops in price. That’s what’s up.
Oh, and if you were wondering if he ever gets his skull back, I’ll let Penny-Arcade answer that.