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One element of gaming that has really come back to the forefront in recent years, on consoles and PCs, is co-op gaming. The notion of team work, lost in the video game world over the years as Internet multiplayer took over, was originally a very oft-used concept in the mid to late 90s. Now it's back though, with titles like Gears of War one and two, Army of 2, Red Alert 3, Warhammer 40,000 Dawn of War 2, Castle Crashers; the list goes on.
With that in mind, my review today is a 3rd person shooter with a heavy co-operative element, 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand. This sequel to 50 Cent: Bulletproof, sees 'Fidy' finishing a tour in the Middle East, only to be paid not in cash like he wanted, but in a diamond encrusted skull. This item is promptly stolen from him in a hectic car chase FMV, and so the setting for the game is made. From then on, you team up with either a human player, or AI controlling a member of G-Unit (chosen from a selection of 3) and your run and gun adventure through dusty cities and military installations begins.
While playing through the levels, both you and your partner in crime get a variety of weapons, taunts, one hit kill hand to hand attacks, Gangster Mode (a version of bullet time) and the ability to bring each other back from the brink of death, ala most other 3rd person Coop titles. The game also incorporates doors, and ledges that can only be opened, or traversed by both players working together. Either using the combined strength of two people to lift a door – like Army of 2 – or reaching a high ledge - again, like Army of 2.
The co-op element does feel a little, 'inserted' by which I mean that it appears like it was added after the game was made. None of the cut scenes – apart from the first and last – show any members of G Unit, despite the Cooperative play being one of the most touted features of the title. The doors that both of you need to open, appear a little too often in some levels, and not enough in others creating a bit of inconsistency, but I suppose that makes sense given the settings in certain stages. Apart from being able to revive your downed team mate, having a 2nd player with you could seem a little redundant, if teaming up with a real-life buddy didn't immediately make any shooter title 100% better. You don't have to deal with awful AI handling or poor weapon choice – which you do get when using an AI character as a team mate – and a human player won't stand in a doorway, blocking you from firing at your enemy.
You can only play online, which means if you want to team up with someone, you need 2 TVs, 2 360s and 2 copies of the game.
Some of the coolest levels in the game are hugely enhanced with a human player on your side, helicopter gun battles, and high speed Humvee chases with the 2nd player using the mounted gun on the roof to gun down enemy trucks, are simply fantastic. The rest of the game's levels are you usual linear run and gun affair, and while the environments are nicely expansive, they usually only offer one avenue to attack from. Blood on the Sand does offer up some variation though, with the ability to upgrade weapons – like Army of 2, again, though not as deep – you and your partner can use different means of attacks, be it bullet spraying duel Uzis, or single shot missile launchers, there's a nice bit variety. You also get the ability to carry 4 different weapon types, and are able to switch which weapons you have equipped at certain telephone check points, so the guns you use are always changing and being upgraded.
One major gripe I have with this title though, is the inability to play local co-op. You can only play online, which means if you want to team up with someone, you need 2 TVs, 2 360s and 2 copies of the game. Other titles with far more advanced graphics engines have handled split-screen no problem, so there really is no excuse for this.
All in all, 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand is a pretty solid 3rd person shooter, which even on your own with an AI team mate, is an enjoyable way to spend a few hours. However, with a human player on your side it's vastly improved and can be a great blast over a weekend.
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