Though the premise is so ridiculous that it borders on disgusting, and the gameplay is an amalgamation of mechanical rip-offs, 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand does well enough in its arcadey execution that it's surprisingly not a chore to play. Marking the rapper's return to the gaming scene, following the critically panned Bulletproof, Blood on the Sand delivers in straight-forward shooter action—but that's about all you're going to get out of it, unless you're a pure 50 fan.
Designed as an over-the-top game, in both action and story, Blood on the Sand doesn't involve much of a story, but rather a context for killing people: 50's quest to get paid. The premise goes as such: On G-Unit's last stop on a tour somewhere in the Middle East, the promoter fails to pay the group their promised 10 million dollar fee. With shotgun in hand, 50 and G-Unit demand their payment, but all the promoter can offer is a skull encrusted in diamonds; a treasure that brings the group nothing but trouble as it's hijacked from them by the country's most ruthless tyrant.
Ultimately, the “story” is nonsensical and offers little more than a few reasons for 50 and his troop to spout obscene remarks every two seconds, while propagating the stereotypes of the Middle Eastern terrorist, white boss man, and gun-totting “gangsta.” Once you look past the absurd story, however, you soon find a shooter that does fairly well in delivering tight controls and lives up to its arcade nature.
If nothing else, Blood on the Sand allows for gratifying action through fairly close-quartered firefights, and by cherry-picking some of the more successful gameplay mechanics of other games: a sticky cover system similar to Gears of War; Bullet Time effects made popular by Max Payne; and a score-based rewards system with multipliers awarded based on successive kills, and other criteria, akin to The Club. While Bizarre Creations' game of bloodsport offers an arguably more unique mix of gameplay options and replayability, Blood on the Sand provides for more of a linear experience that's reminiscent of actual cabinet-based gameplay—it's easily accessible, and it's good in short bursts with friends.
Even playing through the game on its hardest difficulty, experienced shooters have a fairly easy time running and gunning as they upgrade their weaponry by purchasing more powerful handguns, shotguns, rifles and rocket launchers from an arms dealer via payphones scattered throughout the game, and with money earned by smashing loot boxes or by killing enemies.
More money and additional points are earned by accomplishing in-game tasks that pop up every once in a while, usually requiring you to kill certain highlighted opponents within a limited number of seconds. This illumination adds to the arcade feel, and although it only makes completing tasks easier, it never allows you to feel lost in the action.
Completing tasks and killing multiple enemies aren't the only things that add to your score however. With a simple click of an analog stick you're able to spit hot fire, verbally, at your adversaries with heart-wrenching lines like, “Die, bitch!” Of course, more off-color obscenities are available to purchase via the payphone method, if you have enough dough. Also, you can score more points by avoiding cover and staying in the open—though this is easy, since you're rarely forced to actually to use the sticky system.
Accompanying 50 in his loud-mouthed rampage is one of three members of G-Unit, whom you can pick from at the beginning of the game. Neither your friendly NPC counterpart nor enemy A.I. win any awards for being bright, but both get the job done, especially since the former helps you out when a buddy is needed to climb ledges or lift heavy doors.
What the friendly member does well, on the other hand, is act as a bench-warmer for the game's best quality: drop-in multiplayer. Before loading your checkpoint, you can allow for random or friendlist-only co-op play from a system that only requires you to stop your progress should another player exit your game, not when they enter. Also, with Blood on the Sand, co-op is literally cooperative since there isn't any competition between the two of you—each person shares in points awarded and money recovered, yet each can spend the allotment however they choose. Finally, having a real-life buddy around allows him to tag you on the shoulder should you go down in a firefight—something G-Unit NPCs are incapable of doing.
Scoring well in the game also leads to opening up additional content found in the form of game art, songs and music videos. While unlocking new content is usually just a way to eek out additional playtime from customers, the content here is either one of the biggest strengths or weaknesses of the game, since 50 Cent and G-Unit songs make the soundtrack. By making a playlist act as Blood on the Sand's score, there's a disconnect between the action on-screen and any emotion conceived by the player. On the other hand, as the game is, there really isn't any need for emotive qualities—just pure violence, complemented by the raps of “Mr. Cent.”
Though 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand can boast fluid controls and a well-designed co-op mulitplayer, there isn't much to push the game past it qualifying as either an expensive XBL/PSN arcade title, or interactive merchandise for the 50 Cent brand. When all is said and done, 50's latest game is really something for die-hard fans looking to live out their gangsta fantasies as any member of G-Unit. Visually, the game does well in delivering the bling, despite some graphical hiccups and latent texture loads, but as for the overall product, those looking for a universally compelling shooter may want to stick with Sega's The Club for multiplier-awarding, objective-based killing.