Tuesday, February 2, 2010

X360 look - 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand

One of the biggest problems with this generation is the 59.99 pricetag on most retail games. Far too many games release at this price and then everyone is surprised when the game bombs and ends up at 19.99 or less in a few months. It doesn't help matters that this game in particular couldn't hope to achieve much if any success without word of mouth. Cause I mean no disrespect to 50 Cent or anything but his last game wasn't any good. Needless to say hearing the great impressions about this game was a bit of a shock to me.

50 Cent's inclusion in this game definitely feels like a last minute add-on. Granted he and his G-Unit chums provide voice-work, the starring characters, and the soundtrack but their backstory was tacked on after the game was practically finished. In fact the devs probably had the story all written out for some guy named Maxwell Festus and his buddy Pablo Hernandez.

The story is about what you'd expect out of a videogame. 50 Cent has just finished up a concert in some presumably middle-eastern country but the promoter doesn't have the money to pay him. Instead he gives 50 cent a diamond and platinum-encrusted skull. Thankfully this crystal skull doesn't summon aliens but it still leads 50 Cent and his buds through 9 chapters of city streets, dilapidated buildings, and the obligatory vehicle sections.

Since in a way this could be a sequel to Bulletproof 50 Cent and the gang are more than capable with handling the various guns that can be found or purchased. Up to four can be carried at any time and they're divided into different groups. There's the pistols which are good for most situations, shotguns & SMGs for close-range, assault rifles for mid-range, and rocket-launchers/sniper rifles for long-range and well..blowing stuff up. Throw in some grenades as well as molotov cocktails and it's a good enough arsenal for just about anything.

To help set 50 Cent apart from the average thug he and his partner have access to a special ability called "Gangsta Fire". Triggering this ability slows everything else down while leaving the good guys un-affected. The usefulness of this ability is obvious and the player can even do neat tricks like destroy missiles in mid-flight. As the player improves at the game they'll find that the gangsta fire is best used to help with scoring, which is the main focus of the game.

Further rounding out 50 Cent is a melee attack. Performing this triggers a very easy QTE that also makes him invincible. Mainly this invincibility is a safe-guard against getting shot up but still at least it provides an incentive and it can also be useful for score.

The game itself is comparable to the likes of Gears of War and the many other third-person shooter clones that have popped up this gen. If you can play those games you can certainly handle this one. The biggest addition that differentiates this game from most others is the scoring system. Since the game is only a few hours in length and offers no competitive multiplayer all of the long-term value is spent on beating highscores and getting those gold rankings. This is where the game really shines as there are a number of ways to kill an enemy to collect bonus points. Each of these bonuses are applied to every kill and using the right combination of gangsta fire and weapons can lead to better scores.

With a system like this it pays to play riskier. One thing that bugs me about a lot of third-person shooters is that they emphasize staying safe and avoiding bad situations. This game throws that out the window and offers bonus points to players who kill enemies while away from cover or better yet when they have little to no health remaining. Since it's impossible to be instantly-killed(even taking a rocket hit on the Hard setting will leave you standing) the best players will be the ones that are always near-death.

Like Gears and co. this game is also a co-op title. The drop-in/drop-out aspect is in full effect here and both players share the same score. This can be tricky to play for score since there's also a combo system so if the first player kills four enemies in a row and the second player kills the fifth well that's less points total. To balance this out somewhat there are bonuses applied for helping your partner, gunning down the same people at the same time, and there are plenty of opportunities for players to take on enemies from opposite ends. While a player can easily revive their partner if they lose all their health their partner will eventually revive automatically after about 30 seconds or so. If anything abusing this system will only hurt the score.

Another neat feature is the various missions that are doled out over the course of each stage. Every now and again the game will point out special goals that the player should accomplish for bonus points and other rewards like explosive ammo and gangsta fire. These usually involve shooting particular enemies(they have a red outline to make them easy to spot) and come up fairly often. It's a very simple addition but it works extremely well and actually makes the game more entertaining.

This game is also fantastic in the use of audio/visual indicators. 50 Cent's partner is constantly updating the situation with things that should be checked out like objects to destroy or enemies to kill. The game also points out spots that enemies are going to enter combat from which is very helpful.

One of the few annoyances I have with this game is many of the points involve finding hidden posters and targets. While these objects aren't exactly out of the way they can be easy to miss. It tends to break up the pacing when the room is clear of enemies and both players have to go exploring for these special objects. Some sort of audio indicator would be nice if the player is in a room where one of these objects is located. Then again I guess that would be giving too much information away.

Without a doubt this is one of the better games I've picked up so far this generation. It's easy to get into and is at the perfect length for those days when I just want to shoot some people for points and cash. Everything is executed solidly and even the vehicle sections are tolerable. There's also nothing in the way of stealth missions or something completely different that ruins what the game is all about. Overall this is an exceptional effort by all parties involve and I highly recommend picking it up.

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