I've got a lot of living, to do before I die
Is there really anything too self-serving about 50 Cent making an action game starring himself, in the role of himself? Is this any different than any given game designer fulfilling his own macho fantasies through the likes of their bodybuilder protagonist? Marcus Fenix, Kratos, Master Chief and especially Riddick, these are all some scrawny programmer or programmers’ living vicariously through their main character single-handedly gunning down armies of aliens with their phallic weapons of choice. Sigmund Freud would have a field day analyzing the action games of today. But at least 50 has the modesty (or lack of) to include his own name, face, music, bravado, attitude and best friends in his gaming fantasy.
…okay, so maybe Blood On the Sand is a bit egotistical. But perhaps, that can be part of the fun. 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand is merely an extension of the man’s own cocky persona, just played for laughs in the same way everything else 50 does is. Most people nowadays will tell you that 50 Cent’s hardened gangsta persona has stagnated over the years. And I don’t know if he’s hip to the act or not, but it does seem like Fity (aka Ferrari F50) has become something of a self-parody.
Case in point: 2005’s 50 Cent: Bulletproof. I remember playing this game and thinking that the premise is nothing short of mind-boggling and humorous. The intro features 50 Cent and his label-mates fighting off a group of invading terrorists and doing so as the terrorists yelled out loud “Damn you G-Unit!” The potential for ensuing comedic was off the charts… if only the controls, gameplay engine and all things related weren’t so horribly broken that they kept me from playing beyond the first level. So it’s fortunate for my love of all things campy that the developers at Swordfish Studios have refined the gameplay of Blood on the Sand to a point of competence. Now players can appreciate the video game equivalent of 50 Cent waving his Magic Stick to the world.
50 Cent and his G-Unit Soldiers have just finished playing a major concert in a war-torn nation in the . You can tell this is a war-torn nation because 50 played the show wearing body armour, sporting firearms and grenades. The promoter skimps out on pay and instead gives 50 a diamond-encrusted skull as compensation. During a Hummer ride where 50 and the promoter argue over whether Middle Eastern-terrorists or thugs from the Bronx are tougher (seriously), insurgents make the mistake of ambushing their ride and swiping the precious skull that 50 has developed such an emotional connection with. The end result; 50 Cent has beef with the entire , and we all know how 50 handles his beefs.
So if you’re an odd-thinking aficionado of cheese then this game should already sound right up your alley. I feel as if I shouldn’t have to write another sentence in this review beyond “50 Cent is in fighting terrorists”. But the game’s story sequences manage to find even more ways to sneak in laughs, with or without Curtis Jackson cluing in to the inside joke. Between a number of characters that seem to be waiting with baited breath for your current mission to end so they can get their cutscene chance to betray you, and one particularly spectacular Satuday-morning supervillain that repeatedly shouts “I’m going to destroy you, 50 Cent!”, this game is either very unintentionally funny or excels at pretending to be unintentionally funny.
Now, there’s a lot less to be said about the gameplay of Blood On the Sand, aside from it being a competent Gears of War clone. You view the world from a camera angle floating above 50’s giant, exaggerated shoulders. You go from Point A to Point B in a linear path, and along the way, a lot of things die trying to get rich. You could try to take cover to avoid damage, but as 50 Cent tries to live off of his own reputation, you can absorb a lot more than nine bullets and keep on fighting. Maybe 50’s the real life embodiment of the regenerating health bar, who knows. Guns are imbalanced in that you can easily pick off snipers from a distance using just your unscoped automatic. And despite years of training, these enemy terrorists can’t quite tell if an unpinned grenade is sitting next to them. Not even 50 yelling “Eat this, bitch!” is enough to warn these guys that a disco inferno of shrapnel is about to go off. If firing weapons isn’t your cup of tea, then you can walk up to every single enemy and trigger a quick-time-event “counterkill”. But I feel like “counterkill” is the wrong word since it’s really “50 quite aggressively killing someone without provocation” and the enemies can’t counter with, say, punching back or their friends coming to the rescue. So 50 Cent himself is definitely an overpowered character, and I can’t quite tell if it’s intentional or not. It does kind of add to the comedy of it all though.
And you can play co-operatively, too. Before you start a game, you can choose which G-Unit solder accompanies you into battle. A soldier that could be played by a human player, in the event that someone out there always dreamed of playing a game as Tony Yayo. Speaking of which, Tony’s voicework suggests that he has no idea that there’s a warzone surrounding him instead of a basement and a group of friends passing the bong around. Lloyd Banks seems to be the ultra-serious, anything but Fly, Robin-like sidekick, and DJ Whoo Kid acts like the last 50 Cent fanboy left on the planet. Which he could be. They all share the single quality in that they all kiss up considerably to Master Fifty. Perhaps a reflection of reality.
Money is definitely a major part of the Blood on the Sand experience, in case hearing the song “I Got Money” over and over again wasn’t enough of a clue. You can break boxes and watch as cash, jewelry and general pieces of bling gravitate towards 50 like the bolts in Ratchet and Clank (what wonderful hilarity and symbolism.) In addition, you can shoot random targets that are floating on the walls for no reason, and steal paintings off walls in your continued efforts to raid this third world country of its little wealth. One of the most interesting aspects of the game is the scoring system, which rewards points (and subsequently more money) based on consecutive kills and how thuggish you were in getting those kills. With great frequency, the game will toss mini-objectives at the player, along 10-50 seconds to accomplish them. They usually involve a new group of enemies that need dispatching...how many enemies exactly is hard to tell if you don’t have an HD set. (As you can see, 50 only affords the best for himself) but it does help in consistently providing some source of stimulation.
Because after awhile, the game does get as stale Fifty’s beef with Rick Ross. There’s little in the way of strategic depth, and wasting waves of generic terrorists and customizing the music player of all Fifty songs does lose its luster after awhile. The game has only one boss; a helicopter, and you’ll have to shove rockets up its ass in four different battles. Some levels just seem to go on and on with no attempts at genuine gameplay variety. I constantly found myself exiting the game, to look at the Mission Select Screen to see if my current mission had finally ended. The game is only about 5 hours long, and I found myself feeling bored and exhausted by the end of those 5 hours.
Blood on the Sand makes for a fun rental if you’re an admirer of camp value or, Lord knows, a 50 Cent fan. So Blood on the Sand comes recommended to DJ Whoo Kid. But The game is rich in unintended humor and is arguably the most fun one will have making fun of a game. But if you’re the kind of person that enjoys laughing with the game and not at it, then Blood on the Sand is just a short, boring, tired action game. Ultimately, the game is not worth $70.