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50 Cent: Blood on the Sand

"Let's not mention the first game"

"Let's not mention the first game," says surprisingly un-gangster game director Julian Widdows, who's been landed the job of handling 50 Cent's controversial second videogame, Blood on the Sand.

"We've listened really, really carefully to the feedback [on Bulletproof] and responded to that," he says. "We don't want to give people the same experience, we don't want to give them the same response. This is a new developer, it's a new team," he promises.

Right then, having distanced itself from the critically panned first game, Birmingham-based Swordfish Studios sets the scene for the new, not-taking-itself-as-seriously 50 Cent experience, which admittedly is looking a lot more focussed than the rather shaky 50 Cent: Bulletproof.

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Blood on the Sand starts with Fiddy performing at a concert in a fictitious country when the promoter pays up not with cash, but with a priceless diamond skull instead. Happy with their new bling, Fiddy and the G Unit crew head back to the airport, only to be ambushed by a mysterious gang which runs off with the goods. Guns in hand, G Unit's out for revenge - and it's as simple as that.

G-G-G-Arcade Unit
It's clear from the story - and our first vieiwing - that Blood on the Sand isn't taking itself as seriously as the first game; taking on five bad guys at once won't leave more than a scratch and - oh yes - the terrorist foes love to hang out by explosive barrels.

But unlike the first game, this kind of laid back shooting experience is purposefully employed for 50 Cent's next game.

"It's an arcade game," says Widdows, playing through an early level in the game. "It suits what this world's about, it suits what hip hop's about; it's about bling, it's about points. Really the hip hop in and of itself is something of a fašade; it's a very visual, very OTT, consumer-based experience, and that's what we wanted to go for."

He's not telling porkies either. From our brief viewing the new 50 Cent game is definitely geared as an arcade experience. Head shots are two-a-second and The Club-style point markers bop and shake around the screen liberally as you shoot up the streets.

Enemies are even indicated on screen at all times with massive HUD markers so that you don't have to put in much effort looking for them - they even flash gold.

So what's left is a very point-focused shooter where juggling baddies and taunting for score modifiers is your main concern. Every now and then you're even set challenges against the clock, such as to take out three snipers in sixty seconds, or defend against all incoming baddies.

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Points are dished out for normal gun kills, grenade kills, flinging enemies into the air and more. It's obviously designed as an extremely comfortable shooter experience - and also to appeal to the mainstream audience that comes with G Unit's music.

Even 50's hard-hitting melee moves, which come in the form of familiar 'QTE' button-pressing sequences, have been simplified to just one button. Instead they focus on pressing 'b' at the right moments, so rookies aren't going to get lost staring at their joypad.

"I think we massaged [the game] to make it very easy, to sort of move away from what people found hugely controversial about the first game, take it to this fictional place and make it very arcade-y. In a very traditional way it's an arcade game and that's what we love about it."

Behind these simple, The Club-like mechanics though, we did glimpse a few subtle displays of depth. 'Bling' dropped by dispatched enemies can be used to purchase weapons from pre-determined telephone points, and the odd 50 Cent poster is hidden in the scenery for unlockables.

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