Coming off the back of the lovely miss Jessica Chobot's IGN Strategize section on Xbox Live I felt inclined to share my initial impressions of the wonderful 2009 title, "50 Cent: Blood on the Sand". My hat is well and truly off to Swordfish Studios, for they have crafted a genuinely fun experience that isn't ashamed to call itself a game. Unfortunately it's quite ludicrous, obnoxious and somewhat repulsive to most at first glance, which will put a lot of people off - this being down to the 50 Cent license. Fact - I'm about as 'hip' and 'with it' as John Major so there are no biased views here. So, if like me you can look passed the fact this is a 50 Cent vehicle you will find a competent Gears of War 'clone' with lashings of Bizarre Creations', 'The Club' and a hint of Midway's somewhat under appreciated, 'Stranglehold'.
It's an honest game. The plot is fully aware of it's ridiculous existence and comes across as nothing more than tongue in cheek, sometimes resulting in genuinely funny moments. Could a rap act fighting terrorists in the middle east ever be seen as serious? It's just an amusing and palatable method of stringing together set pieces without getting in the way of game play.It's not pretending to be deep or compelling - it's just some light hearted, foul-mouthed fun featuring Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson and the members of G-Unit (no, I don't know what G-Unit is, but I'm sure they're behind the viral outbreak in Raccoon City).
It's no walk in the park though, the combo system (see: The Club) relies on Curtis executing as many terrorists in as short a time as possible to combo their deaths, but not only that, pull off as many cool moves and environmental deaths as possible, taunting all the while. This is where the game's depth lies. Money is collected from the numerous kills, item pick ups, and loot crates - this can then be used at various payphones placed in the world to purchase new weapons, CQC moves and taunts. The weapons aren't too dissimilar to those found in Gears of War and the CQC moves are simply strings of "B" button presses which when timed correctly will play a (rather nice) melee takedown sequence to execute the enemy - the real fun is found with the taunts. The taunts are simply verbal barks from our boy Curtis which when used in conjunction with a kill offer a cash reward. After the first 5 or 6 kills it becomes second nature. Think Gears of War's active reload - I think it's that good and that natural. Blind firing your hand cannon over the crumbling middle eastern walls whilst shouting one of the many colourful phrases included in the game is refreshing as much as it is amusing - it adds that extra level of interactivity with the play space, and the cash bonus reward makes it an essential part of advanced play within the game. Here's a list of inspirational quotes from Curtis courtesy of several clicks of the left stick:
Oh you fucked up now bitch
Game over pussy
I'm gon' fuck you up
Game over bitch
You fuckin' with the best
It's over mother fucker
Wonderful. What's more is that the several unlockable 'phrase packs' are graded by their severity. It's juvenile but it's all in good fun.
Its not all rainbows and blow jobs though. As technically sound the game is and as beautiful it is to look at, there are some odd inconsistencies. The cash pick ups are cell shaded which looks a little odd in the otherwise photo realistic setting. The same goes for the rather strange Resident Evil esque pre rendered red blood cells in the backdrop of the 'You Died' screen, completely clashing with the tongue in cheek nature of it all. The animation is a little rough, popping regularly and missing details such as lip syncing - no, Curtis won't be mouthing bitch towards the screen when he is in cover. The co op man ladder and door sequences are also a little rough where the player must stand on (what I call) a G-Spot and hit "A" to perform an action. Whether this be the co op move or the door opening sequence it almost always results in the teleporting of Curtis - it just feels a little rough.
So the negatives are just me nitpicking because I don't want to come off sounding too positive (it's just not the done thing these days). If you like having fun, buy this game. If you can't look passed the presence of 50 Cent, then you don't deserve to have fun - go sit in the cellar and play with your fish head collection and may God have mercy on your soul.
On a lighter note, the Wheelman demo is now up on Xbox Live Marketplace and the Playstation Store. Please take the time to download it whether or not you currently intend to buy it - a lot of hard work went into it and many of my nights were spent at work finishing it off. Do it for the kids. It's completely new custom designed content for the demo; the first mission from Wheelman amalgamated with elements from later parts of the game and two new side missions (events).
Download the Xbox demo here.
...and for any stalkers out there some Midway Newcastle employees (including myself) will be demoing Wheelman in Game stores around Newcastle this weekend. Should be fun.
Keep it plastic.