50 Cent: Bulletproof might have gone down like a lead balloon with critics, but it sold in excess of a million copies in the US and the UK. And that was kerching big enough to warrant a sequel, with Sierra unveiling 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand at the end of March.
It's in development at UK outfit Swordfish Studios, which we headed over to a couple of moons back for a first look at Blood on the Sand. Naturally we couldn't pass up the opportunity to quiz game director Julian Widdows while we were there...
Could you clear up where it's actually set?
Julian Widdows: It's fictional, it's an 'everyman's war zone', is the way we describe it. It's an arcade game, so it needs to be implacable in many senses. There's no geo-political context to this game.
It's clearly a crime story. The arch bad guy - we can't tell you who it is but it's a pretty high profile American actor - will be instantly recognisable. But he's an American. The first key bad guy that you encounter, who you're actually working for at this point, is an American. The guards you shoot in the third act are all Russian. And so it's an international crime syndicate which is operating in this everyman's war zone. It's the hood beyond the hood. It's a crime story, a gangland story.
It really is a larger than life adventure. It's so obviously a fiction anyway that we thought the environment had to really support that fiction, that adventure into the heart of darkness if you want to describe it in that way.
Has it been odd going from working on non-controversial games to something that's bound to have a lot of press about it?
Widdows: Yeah. I mean, speaking candidly, when we were first asked to make a 50 Cent game we weren't really expecting that, it came from the left field. One of the things that was really important to me, taking that concept back to the team, was finding a way to really exploit it in a way that we could learn to love - and that's where the whole arcade thing came from.
It's an arcade game, it suits what this world's about, it suits what the hip-hop world's about. It's about bling, it's about points. The hip-hop world in and of itself is something of a fašade. It's a very visual, OTT consumer-focussed experience, and that's what we wanted to go for.
In terms of the transition, we massaged it to make it quite easy, to move away from what people found hugely controversial about the first game and actually take it to this fictional place and make it very arcadey so that everyone who experiences it goes, "Well this is an arcade game".
In a very traditional way it's an arcade game, and I think for that, that's what we love about it - it's an over-the-top traditional experience and yet with a very contemporary next-gen look.
Has Fiddy had any creative input?
Widdows: He did actually, but not with us... We were very much given control of the core experience, what we wanted to create with a 50 Cent game. He took a look at it and he was like, 'You know, it looks really cool, I'd like something a little bit more' The guy's a gamer, which in and of itself is actually an advantage because he came in with a very honest, very open opinion - 'As a gamer, I want more than just a core experience'.
And that's what drove the driving and flying. The driving and flying are collaborative, it's not just a vanilla driving and flying experience. Just to give you a little hint on it, if you play as 50 Cent, you're the driver, but if you come in as a join-in player you're the gunner (you can never choose which one you are) - and there are separate achievements for each.