There have been numerous game concepts over the years that have left us scratching our heads, with none guiltier than the dismal 50 Cent: Bulletproof back in 2005. The game revolved around the rap superstar and his posse G-Unit, and it was universally panned by critics and consumers alike. After the poor performance, Fiddy returns for an encore in Blood on the Sand. Does this run-and-gun shooter drop it like it's hot, or is it just another buster? After performing at the final stop on their tour, 50 Cent and the G-Unit are hit with some devastating news. The show's promoter can't deliver on the promised $10 million, sending Fiddy into a tizzy. With the situation looking bleak, the promoter pulls out a rare diamond-covered skull and offers it as compensation. Unfortunately for Fiddy, everyone else in town wants the skull, and he's quickly ambushed and loses the prized item. What follows is a rampage across an unnamed Middle Eastern country, with betrayals and gratuitous violence at every turn.
Blood on the Sand's narrative won't be winning any awards, but it's so incredibly bad it's almost good. You'll laugh at, and not with, many of the game's overly dramatic cutscenes and dialogue. Thankfully, the story bits are kept to a minimum.
Blood on the Sand is a textbook third-person shooter that takes bits from just about every vaguely successful game, allowing wannabe gangstas to plow down hordes of terrorists and other villains across nine chapters. You'll take on the role of 50 Cent, and one of three different G-Unit members will accompany you across your rampage. The AI for your partner isn't the sharpest as you'll find them getting in your way, but there's a co-op option that allows a friend to jump into the role to lessen the headache. They'll also offer up clues as to where to go next, as well as give a heads-up when enemies are about to strike.
Aside from simply trying to make it to the end of each level, there's a heavy emphasis on collecting tons of cash and racking up high scores. Cash is accumulated by capping enemies and breaking crates, and you can spend your Benjamins on unlocking new weapons to increase your firepower. Fiddy has four classes of weapons at his disposal, and players can carry one of each at any given time. Some weapons have infinite ammo whiles other require refills now and then, but ammo is definitely plentiful. There are also new taunts and melee attacks, though if you're smart, you'll find yourself splurging more on new artillery.
Your score is paramount to earning one of three different medals on each level to unlock hidden extras. Simply blazing through each level isn't enough to earn higher than a bronze. You'll need to kill as many enemies in a small space of time to trigger a combo, multiplying your points. There are also several small challenges that pop-up that reward the player with a hefty bonus if completed. Hidden wanted posters and targets are scattered around each level, and you'll really have to dig in and explore to collect them all and reap their point bonuses.
Blood on the Sand is a repetitive grind, but it can be satisfying in short amounts. You can easily tear through the game in a few hours, but there's incentive to come back for seconds thanks to the coop options.
The nonstop, run-and-gun action in Blood in the Sand isn't all that original, and it begins with the cover system lifted straight from Gears of War. It works almost as well, but sometimes you'll find yourself accidentally running for cover when you meant to roll dodge as both actions are performed with the same button. It's the same problem the first Gears has. The lack of a run option or quick turn move can leave you vulnerable when attacked from multiple directions.
You have the option to take on opponents with close quarters melee attacks or with one of your various weapons. Counter kills appeared in the first 50 game, and they're back here. These quick time events can be cool the first few times, but unless you're in a tight hitch, you don't need them that often.
It's easy to get a handle on each of the weapons, but you're inexplicably forced to switching them out mid-level. You also have several secondary weapons like grenades that are easy to use and very effective.
The game's few vehicle sequences get the blood pumping, placing you behind the wheel of a hummer or in command of a turret. The aiming can be difficult, but you can build a meter to unleash gangsta gun mode to slow down time. It's a useful technique to get out of a bind as well as rack up coveted combo kills. Driving sequences are plagued by poor handling, and you'll fight the controls all the way.
Blood in the Sand's gameplay is a mix-and-match of some of the most popular elements in the genre, but it never finds its own personality. It's not necessarily a bad thing, as the nonstop action is enjoyable if you can turn your mind off and play it for what it is.
It's certainly not the most polished game, but Blood on the Sand has its moments. There are a few noticeable blemishes like erratic frame rates during cutscenes, though oddly enough, it never happens during actual gameplay. Locations are repetitive until very late in the game, and there's more than a few odd animation bugs. The soundtrack is hot, featuring all 50 Cent tracks plus an original default track. On the other hand, the voice acting is laughably bad, and whoever wrote some of the taunts and one-liners should have their writing license revoked. Sound effects are mostly passable, but some are flat-out horrible.
50 Cent: Blood on the Sand is surprisingly fun. It's easy to pick up and play and checks all the boxes for an action shooter. It's not very original, but it's miles better than the last game to bear the hip-hop star's name. You'll get several hours of enjoyment out of it, and it's great rental fodder for those who have long since laid the locust to rest.