50 Cent: Blood on the Sand, Xbox 360 - Review

50 Cent: Blood on the Sand - PS3: £25, Xbox 360: £26.75

Review by Will Templeton

This is a 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand review, and so you're probably expecting to hear all about how, oh, it's quite a good game actually. That it's sort of a mix of Gears of War and The Club, and it's very aware of its audience and what it is, and doesn't take itself too seriously.

All of those things hold weight.

But that summary also points out everything that's wrong with Blood on the Sand. It's derivative of other experiences. Yes, it's surprising when you boot it up that it's quite solid, playable, and quite a departure from the abhorrent Bulletproof. But the same thing could be said about the Fantastic Four movie. "Oh, this isn't as bad as I thought it was going to be." And you enjoy it for what it is, but that doesn't make it good. It makes it competent.

At its worst, that's Blood on the Sand. Competent. Swordfish have taken the solid cover shooter mechanics that Unreal Engine 3 provides and built a solid game, that while better than everyone expected, is still nowhere near other similar experiences.

If you are expecting something close to either Gears of War or The Club, you'll probably be disappointed. The cover mechanics of Gears are present, but less elegant. You'll often find yourself popping out of cover the wrong way, or being hit when you feel you should be covered. You'll also miss the ease of Gears, as in BotS you're tethered to specific portions of a piece of cover and will find yourself ineffectively rolling at a wall just a little too often.

While The Club is a close comparison to the scoring system that many have drawn, it's really a little misleading. At a base level, you get points for kills, which is multiplied by more kills in quick succession. As you progress closer to five-in-a-row the timer speed up dramatically, necessitating the fifth kill to be almost instantaneous. However, that's where the similarities end. Where Blood on the Sand really comes into its own, though, is the Scenario system.

Without the Scenario system, Blood on the Sand would be just another shooter. A boring 50 Cent game. Scenarios, however, add pressure. At set moments in the game a pop-up will appear: take out two grenadiers in eight seconds. Collect $30,000 in one minute. Kill all the enemies that have just arrived in a van within twenty seconds. The game's full of these, and if you do them, you get points. You also get an in-game reward, such as more grenades, or explosive and incendiary rounds for your pistol. If you're good enough, you could go through the entire game only completing scenarios and using these bullets. And the payoff from using them is so rewarding, you'll want to go for them. And so, you'll take risks.

Without these risks, the underlying game shows some serious holes. There's no run option, the cover mechanic occasionally has to be fought to work properly, and the AI leaves a lot to be desired. With them, though, the game just works. Each of them is a mini crescendo event that gives you just enough reward to want more without making the game too easy. It's an extremely-well balanced mechanic.

The irritating thing, though, is that as an enthusiast, this mechanic only worked on the hardest difficulty. Even without being the most skilled gamer, I had to step it up to get any sort of challenge, as it's obvious that Blood on the Sand is very aware of that portion of its audience that just want to pick it up and kill people over and over.

And yes, that's what this game excels at - giving you an opportunity to cap some fools without being super serious about it. But there's a deeper level in there that can be really rewarding if you're looking for it.

Just don't look too hard.

50 Cent: Blood on the Sand - PS3: £25, Xbox 360: £26.75