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50 Cent: Blood on the Sand

Gears of War for gangstas, innit

You've looked at the score, haven't you? You've see it, and now you're reading to find out how on EARTH a 50 Cent game can get an 7/10 (sorry, typo) after the farce that was 50 Cent: Bulletproof.

Basically, this isn't just some dirty cash-in. Far from it. We told you when we first saw the game running that it looked surprisingly good, and now we've played it we stand by it. As soon as you start playing you can tell see and feel that there's Gears of War DNA at its core - it has the same camera view, the same cover system, similar controls and it looks very much like it too. But it doesn't try to be Gears. Not even slightly.

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It takes the Gears formula, scrapes off a few layers of seriousness and slaps on a hefty coat of insanity. It's like taking a classy Aston Martin, spraying it bright orange and sticking huge chrome wheels and an enormous sound system on it; it won't handle as well but it'll be louder and just a bit mental.

Blood in the Sand doesn't say "frag out", it says "fire in the motherf***ing hole, b***hes". When a bunch of enemies blast into the room, you don't take cover and choose a strategic route of approach. You lob a couple of motherf***ing grenades and sprint in rattling off bullets from your giant machine gun at your soon-to-be-utterly-ruined enemies.

Gas-filled barrels explode, bullets fly everywhere, people get blown through the air and 50 Cent swears his face off. And the whole time 50's tunes beat away in the background. Mum would have a fit, but it'll make you smile.

50 throws a mean punch, too. Approach an enemy and you can unleash a series of blows, tapping the B button in time with an on-screen prompt as 50 beats and stabs his foe in a cinematic slaughter scene. Mmm, nice.

Grab cash and 'Bling' as you work through the game and you can spend it on new melee moves, bigger guns and new taunts (clicking in the left stick launches 50 into an ego-charged swear off. Quite funny).

As you kill fools, a gauge charges up and tapping the Y button activates the brilliantly-named 'Gangster Fire Mode' - a temporary spout of slow motion that makes it possible to waste even more dudes without being killed.

What's the plot behind all the carnage? 50 wants his skull back. It's a diamond encrusted skull - worth a few bob - and some dude steals it. So 50 goes to a middle-eastern-like setting in pursuit of the thief and wastes a load of not-so-middle eastern-looking blokes (dodging any potential 'racism' allegations, possibly).

Whatever else happens is irrelevant - and even if you usually like to know the plot behind a game it doesn't help that the cutscenes are done in poorly-encoded video that looks worse and sounds quieter than the in-game action. Wasn't there enough space on the disc for high-quality video?

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Anyway, the mostly nonsensical violence is beefed up with a brilliant bonus mechanic that throws mini objectives at you on the fly. A text alert appears on screen every minute or two telling you to kill a certain enemy, blow up a particular target or collect a certain amount of cash within a time limit, and those targets are outlined in red to make them easier to spot.

Cause the carnage asked of you and you'll get bonus points, along with a few explosive rounds for your pistol. They're brilliant too - one shot and the round sticks to your enemy, followed a few seconds later by an explosion than sends them soaring.

There's a kill combo system in there too - similar to Sega's The Club, you chain up kills by fragging enemies before a timer gauge runs down, which tallies up more points for your efforts.

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