50 Cent: Blood On The Sand (PS3, Xbox 360; Swordfish Studios; THQ)
You know when we have discussions about the bizarre ways in which the games industry went about trying to make money in the 00s? You literally cannot ignore either 50 Cent game then. Because yes, THQ made two 50 Cent games. The original game, 50 Cent: Bulletproof on PS2 and Xbox, must have sold enough for THQ to think “You guys know what we need to do to keep making profit? We need to go back to 50 Cent, famed rapper, and ask him if he wants in on another game” and then to actually go through with that logic. Which is incredible. It is wonderful to remember a time when the games industry was that irreverent a place that a 50 Cent game was considered a good tactic to get sales and make money, as opposed to now where its just ‘put zombies in it’ or ‘make sure it has multiplayer modes’.
Back to the actual game at hand, I just want you to picture in your head what kind of game you would expect when the title character and main hero is 50 Cent, and where 50 Cent has likely had some involvement with game design and development. Just take a moment to really imagine that and build some personal expectations and all that. Now, I’m going to actually tell you, in as straightforward a way as I can, the actual opening premise of Blood On The Sand. 50 Cent and the assorted members of G-Unit (who star as co-op characters for a buddy to play as!) are performing a concert in an unnamed location within the Middle East, and following the most raucous and rocking of rap shows, Fiddy and his homies go to the show organiser to collect their payment. The organiser is in the unenviable position where he has to tell a group of rappers that he does not have the money to pay them, leading to a hand around his neck and guns in his direction, but he does have a diamond-encrusted skull to pay them with; literally a person’s skull, covered in diary like a bad piece of gaudy furniture in a goth’s house. Now that the plot has taken this odd Indiana Jones-esque swing, we follow our daring hero in a truck where he repeatedly says that the streets of Brooklyn are more gangsta, badass and dangerous than the criminal underworld of a country where it is explicitly stated that they sell weapons of mass destruction casually on the black market, because Mr Cent is very defensive of his turf; anyway, in an interruption to this, the group get ambushed by some femme fatale assassin-type woman working for some other person, and during Fiddy’s intense survival of the scene, she steals the diamond skull. And Mr Cent, as the perfect epitome of capitalism, decides that he can no longer leave this country until he has the skull back and he has his revenge on those damn dirty thieving criminal scumbags.
And all this insanity has happened before you even get to play. And then you do get to play. And then it all becomes even more of a bizarre 50 Cent echo chamber. Because in true Xzibit style, not only do you play as 50 Cent when you’re going around shooting everyone in sight and hunting your diamond skull, but you get to play as 50 Cent while listening to 50 Cent tracks as the game’s soundtrack. Yep, this ain’t one of your namby pamby games where a celebrity picks the soundtrack and it’s a variety of musical pieces from a variety of artists that the celebrity finds interesting; no, Blood on the Sand is 100% 50, 100% of the time. If I remember the box bullet points correctly, there are even some tracks specifically made for the game, not that I cared because by the time I got the two 50 Cent songs I actually knew on the game’s soundtrack (P.I.M.P. and In Da Club, for you Fiddy fans out there), those were the only two I wanted to listen to, especially after hearing all the others so much. And yes, I am confirming here that the game rewards your progress by giving you more 50 Cent songs to add to your soundtrack. It’s almost like it wants you to stop so much that its going to throw 50 Cent rapping the kitchen sink at you in a moment’s notice.
The funny thing about the 50 Cent echo chamber effect though is that it all funnels itself perfectly into getting you into this weird gangsta flow state with regards to the gameplay. The game says that it’s a third person cover shooter, but the way I personally played it was more of a ‘run through areas with gun in hand blasting all the dudes in my way’. Because cover is boring. And the game promotes you playing like that anyway as there is a scoring system for all your kills and such, so you can show all your friends you are the best damn 50 Cent there ever was, and there are pretty constant challenges to do X thing in Y amount of time in order to get special pistol bullets with fire or explosions and stuff. The game is almost profusely being like “I know we have cover and regenerating health, but if you could play this like it was Devil May Cry with 50 Cent, that’d be for the best”, and I have to admit that it actually probably wouldn’t work if the game weren’t such a bizarre egotistical echo chamber of pure Fiddy. This game is to rap culture and mediocre games as Vanquish is to space marines and the Cold War and fantastic games; just this bizarre rush of action and scores and craziness and it never makes sense but it doesn’t have to because you’re just along for a rollercoaster ride. Though this might sound like I’m now recommending the game, don’t believe me on that; the game feels very long for a 6 hour game, and as weirdly novel as the whole thing is and as much as the gameplay gets you into a flow, you will also lose your sanity when embracing a pure hit of Fiddy and it isn’t worth a breakdown.
So yeah, Blood On The Sand exists as this bizarre experience where 50 Cent shoots rocket launchers one-handed at helicopters at various times while listening to his own recorded music and hoping to kill the helicopter fast enough to earn 5 or 6 pistol bullets that set people on fire. That sentence probably says a lot about this game. The gameplay is a bizarre addiction in a weird world of mediocrity fuelled by capitalism, a game made because there’s money to it and everything else piled in because hey, it might get more money. That sentence probably says about the rest about the game. So there you go, I’ve played 50 Cent Blood On The Sand and you don’t have to; go team!
Joe Trail is the editor-in-chief of Don’t Be A Pixel. Mostly because he says he is, not because he has other writers to edit over. But such is the life of a busy editor-in-chief, obviously. He’s also an avid writer for the site. Of course.