This week Zero Punctuation reviews a rapper shooting up the Middle East to find his prized jeweled skull in 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand.
Readers of my online journal (I refuse to use word 'blog', because it sounds like something that lives on the riverbed and communicates through farts) will know that my continual disappointment in my preferred genres of entertainment have made me more open-minded to things I wouldn't usually consider. So I gave 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand a chance. Rap after all is no less worthy than regular poetry as a cultural medium. More so, perhaps. If you want to bone someone I've never understood why you can't just come out with it, rather than dance around the issue for fifty stanzas. At least hip-hop tends to be direct with its subject matter. It's just unfortunate that the subject matter is almost always guns, whores, and whores getting shot with guns.
Let's just make a nice little disclaimer to hang over the rest of the review: No, I'm not racist, you knee-jerk lemon-scented pussy-wipes! Believe me, anyone who pulls their pants down around their knees, blows all their money on jamming diamonds into their teeth while living in a slum, and treats women like dogs you can put your knob in – they are just as much a ridiculous, poisonous fuckhead whether they're black or white. It's very depressing when you can't make honest cultural commentary without having to disavow the assumption that your feelings are motivated by an irrational hate-trigger response to different levels of melanin. You know what? A society where anyone can make jokes about anyone else and everyone laughs is a truly tolerant society. Political correctness-charged censorship only serves to engender resentment and distance between social groups. Besides, gangster rappers don't need defending – they've got guns for that!
Hip-hop hasn't been an exclusively black thing for a while now, anyway, not since whitey started co-opting it. 50 Cent himself was discovered by Eminem, which must have been pretty fucking embarrassing. [A picture of Yahtzee and a dark-skinned friend flashes onscreen briefly, and continues to do so every so often for the rest of the review] His first game, 50 Cent: Bulletproof, was about as well received as a flesh wound, so here comes Blood on the Sand to rub a nice handful of healing salt into it. You play 50 Cent, obviously, fresh from having performed a concert in the Middle East where the hecklers must be pretty fucking brutal because he wears full combat gear on stage. A shady concert promoter is persuaded to pay him with an ancient diamond-encrusted skull – a priceless piece of boneyard bling that is almost immediately stolen by the local warlord. No one forms attachments to gaudy trinkets faster than 50 Cent, however, so he vows to end as many human lives as it takes to win back the priceless historical treasure he doesn't really have any claim to anyway. Hey, I think we found another potential husband for Lara Croft!
Gameplay is blog-standard linear third-person action with scripted vehicle sections, this being a sort of default form for games this days, that you can stamp any license branding onto and call it a day. But the way I see it, no one's expecting this game to light the world on fire. Everyone who plays this will be doing so for one of two reasons: either because you genuinely like the idea of watching 50 Cent jerk off through several hours of asinine action hero fantasies, or because you just want something mindless and shooty to kill another pointless nugget of time between cradle to grave.
People in the latter category will find an unchallenging but at least functional experience. You shoot the guns and the peoples fall down, the prerequisite quick-time events sequences are thankfully not mandatory, and there's a scavenger-hunt element that adds an extra exploratory factor to the gameplay, which is more than a lot of mindless shooters do. But it quickly starts repeating itself. In lieu of boss fights, for example, you shoot down the same helicopter about four times. I don't know what 50 Cent's got against helicopters. Maybe a helicopter stole his high school sweetheart and this is his chance for revenge. Every single major villain when cornered hops into a hitherto unnoticed gunship and flies around taunting you. It's like they're being issued by the government.
Sometimes I get the impression that the game is covertly taking the piss out of 50 Cent, which I can understand, because if the game itself is to be believed, his usual strategy when doing business with people is to kick the door down, pin them to walls and bark demands like a fucking five year old. All the other characters talk and act like they're in a rejected Indiana Jones plot, eloquently soliloquizing their motivations, while 50 Cent swaggers about slurring thick urban dialect, sticking out like a sausage roll in a soufflé.
But if this were deliberate it would imply some level of sophistication on the part of the writer, which I can't accept. If it were an Indiana Jones plot, it would be one dictated by a Phantom Menace-era George Lucas to a secretary who doesn't speak English. If the baddies want the skull so bad, why didn't they just take it from the concert promoter guy before he gave it away? Why is the main villain killed off halfway through and replaced with another one we don't know? Why does 50 Cent rough up and insult all his allies, then act surprised when every single one of them betrays him? This is not so much writing as it is making a big mess with a pen.
As functional as the gameplay is, after a while the nagging sense that we're willingly playing 50 Cent's own personal masturbation material will alienate non-fans. Remove your presumptions and we find ourself playing a game about an extremely rich man - who wears two hats for no adequate reason - destabilizing a developing nation in order to steal what little wealth it has for himself. Presumably to spend on fur coats made of diamonds to wear on stage while singing about how great he is.
Maybe this is the sort of thing you need to have baggy trousers on to understand but is this really a life to aspire to? Writing a million songs about mistreating women so that one day you can live out the wealth fantasies of the shallow, materialistic, thirteen year old? Taking a lot of pictures of yourself holding large wads of money really close to the camera with an angry look on your face, like the cameraman just broke wind? Destined to one day fall victim to the overhanging Glock of Damocles or live long enough to be chewed up and spat out by the exploitative music industry?
Maybe if the world was a little less prejudiced and a little more accepting then people might have see that we all have the potential to be so much more, and then we could all work together to build a better world for everyone! Not that they'd know anything about work, the lazy nig--
- Couldn't get any whiter without employing Tipp-Ex: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
- I found it entertaining to pretend that the unnamed middle eastern country was the same one from Call of Duty 4 and that BotS is the prequel establishing how it was destabilised by the West
- Barack Obama probably likes 50 Cent because he's always going on about 'change'