The protagonist of this game is a conceited rap star who can’t act to save his life... or his dignity. The friendly artificial intelligence characters this game are so bad you’ll actually contemplate flying down to the United States just to track down and slap each member of the rap star’s crew. But, if you look past this, 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand (BoTS) is mindless entertainment at its best.
What’s the plot?
BoTS begins with Fiddy and his crew, the G-unit that comprises Lloyd Banks, Tony Yayo and DJ Whoo Kid performing at a rap concert in the Middle East. Unfortunately their organiser has been robbed and can’t give them their paycheck. What he can give them is a diamond-encrusted skull that is sacred to the people of the land. Fiddy can’t resist this sort of extravagant bling so he accepts his remuneration and is about to head back to the US when his convoy gets ambushed and the skull is stolen by a group of mercenaries. His journey to recover his precious possession leads to his getting double- and even triple- crossed.
Voice acting is not one of the game’s stronger points. And the other Middle Eastern denizens are horribly clichéd one-dimensional characters. The plot is painfully predictable, so when people start betraying Fiddy, it comes as no surprise. But here’s where you begin to have fun with the game.
Are you kidding?
Actually no. And I don’t just mean the sort of fun where things are so bad that they’re good, like some of the dialogues. Sure, you’re forced to select one of the AI, who prove themselves utterly useless for most part, as your partner through the nine missions of the game. It’s sad that the the game includes no option where you can play without a partner.
But the gameplay is truly entertaining. For starters, Fiddy controls like a protagonist from a third person action game. He can take cover behind objects, indulge in some blind fire, and pop out from time to time to squeeze off some juicy headshots. What keeps the gameplay totally addictive is the fact that it borrows some of the best aspects of Sega’s shooter, The Club, to encourage multiple playthroughs.
Every time you kill someone in the game, you trigger a combo meter of sorts. Kill more people before the timer runs out and you stand to earn more points. Wait until the meter runs out and you’ll have to start from scratch all over again. Think of it as chaining kills to earn the most amount of points.
Helping you prolong that combo meter are taunts and abuses that Fiddy screams at his downed foes. Too many people too handle? Fire up some Gangster Fire, a slow motion mechanic a la Max Payne to clean up the entire room. And finally, ripped off straight from The Club once again are round targets strewn all over the map that earn you more points and increase your combo meter effectively.
If an enemy gets too close for comfort Fiddy can stab, maim or kick the living daylight out of him brutally by pressing the B button whenever prompted on-screen. You’ll start off with a basic set of counter attacks and just like his humiliating taunts, these counter kills can be upgraded via the black market trader you’ll meet earlier on in the game.
Show me the money
Since this is the Middle East, money litters every level in the form of cardboard crates that can be bashed open to earn money (if only it was this simple in real life). You can use all this money to buy better weapons from the black market trader. Most of these — like the Rambo-esque machine gun, the grenade launcher, rocket launcher, dual desert eagles etc — are immensely satisfying to use.
Various challenges crop up while you’re mowing down enemies. These range from killing a heavy gunner to mowing down three rocket launcher- wielding bad guys during a stipulated time period. Fail this challenge and you won’t be penalised but complete it successfully and you’ll receive upgrades like exploding rounds or incendiary rounds.
The game hits a minor road block by the time you are three quarters through it and it just doesn’t seem like all that much fun anymore. Enemies get tougher, and the friendly AI’s shortcomings are glaring. Further, for some reason, every boss battle in this game is against a helicopter; it’s like no one likes tanks or planes anymore.
Then there are the driving segments that aren’t as much fun as the on-foot ones. Of course these segments play a lot better in co-op where even if you’re driving, your partner significantly reduces the amount of bullet fire coming your way.
Hearing the music
Visually, the game looks pretty good running on the Unreal 3 engine. Frame rates stay rock solid throughout the game, dipping just a bit amidst all the intense action. Weapons and explosions sound great. If you’re a fan of Fiddy’s music, you’re in for a real treat since his tunes constantly keep playing throughout the game via a Music Player.
Every level you complete unlocks newer songs and there are five posters strewn across every map that grant you more Fiddy-related media including songs or music videos. The game can be played entirely in co-op with a friend and even though it was tough to find servers on XBL, once I joined one, I had a complete blast. The game has no dedicated multiplayer component so you’re restricted to playing the game multiple times in various difficulty levels.
What the game really offers is no-holds-barred mindless action that is addictive thanks to its scoring system. If that’s your cup of tea, you’d like multiple playthroughs alone or with a friend.