Wearing grenades to a music concert? Profanity-laden dialogue? G-Unit co-op? This is Late to the Party, and it can only be the paradoxical enigma that is 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand.
50 Cent: Blood on the Sand is one of those games that defies the logic of the universe. It started out as something completely different, had a rapper’s involvement thrust upon it and even survived being canned when Activision jettisoned it into production hell. And yet here it is: a game about a rapper blowing up half of the Middle East to get back the diamond-encrusted skull payment for his concert performance. And you know what? It’s great! I think I can feel reality unravelling as I write this.
Guilty mother-f**king pleasure
50 Cent: Blood on the Sand is one of those games that sneaks into the guilty pleasure lists of gamers and journalists alike, sitting there puffing a cigar while it sneers at your other favourite games. And, launching in 2009, it completely passed me by while I swooped about in Batman: Arkham Asylum or scaled Renaissance architecture in Assassin’s Creed II. 2009 was a big year for releases, so 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand was soon lost in a whirlwind of games with higher profiles.
Which is a shame, as Blood on the Sand does what it does really well. It doesn’t try to fool you with a faux-interesting storyline or deep character arcs either; you are, quite literally, a rapper who performs a concert with bullet belts and grenades strapped to him. You don’t get paid your quite reasonable ten million dollar fee, so it’s time to carve a path of explosive destruction through some sand-bleached streets.
It’s actually a pretty good shooter
Mechanically, the game is sounder than a lot of other third-person shooters out there. The usual roster of pistols, shotguns and assault rifles all feel meaty and suitably weighted. Enemies cartwheel with dramatic aplomb and the melee takedowns are violently satisfying (but with a single button required, can they really be classed as QTE?). It never tries to be anything more than a fun, pantomime-esque fantasy. Even the terrible voice-overs from Fiddy and co only serve to make the game more enjoyable.
Killing enemies scores you points, which total-up towards a final score for each level of the game. And these competitive scores, added to the amount of collectables you find in the game, add to the central mantra of Blood on the Sand: having a laugh.
Running around blowing up helicopters with a rocket launcher is pretty old hat for gaming, but with ol’ Fiddy screaming “Yeah, bitches!” while ‘In Da Club’ plays in the background, it feels charming and a little bit camp at the same time. It terms of creative kills, it’s no Bulletstorm, but the sheer amount of weapons and ammo available makes it a constant soundtrack of bullets and explosions.
Bang for your buck
Developer Swordfish Studios (now known as Codemasters Birmingham) managed to turn their hands to a new genre with Blood on the Sand (they previously made rugby and cricket games mainly) and created something that’s over-the-top and stupidly fun. It’s kind of like the anti-Spec Ops: The Line, a game with a similar setting that tried (and partly failed) to make a statement about the gun-heavy culture of games.
The mini-challenges throughout each level (kill two snipers before the clock runs out, collect a ton of cash in the allotted time, etc) just serve to add another splash of madness to the mix. Yes, this is technically a cover-based shooter, but unless you’re playing on hard, the game wants you to rush out and blow some suckers away with a bit of slo-mo Gangster (definitely not lifted straight from Max Payne) Time.
And, whichever part of the world you’re in, you’ll be able to pick up Blood on the Sand for next to nothing. Despite some pretty decent review scores and some respectable sales, Blood on the Sand is one of the those titles that’s been relegated to the bargain bin purely due to the over-saturation of titles available on home consoles. So for a few bucks/pounds/cursed-Mayan gold coins, you’re getting a satisfying third-person shooter that packs a competitive score system, a co-op facility and enough in-game challenges and collectables to shake a diamond-encrusted skull at.