50 Cent: Bulletproof

aka: 50 Meifen: Fangdan
Moby ID: 20457

PlayStation 2 version

A standard shooter, special only because of the 50 Cent license

The Good
Love him or hate him, 50 Cent has bec--- wait, scrap that. If you don't like 50 Cent, forget about it. You won't like this game.

If you like 50 Cent, this game may or may not be for you. It does offer the continuation of everything 50 stands for in his music and his recent movie: He once again manages to sell himself as a hardcore thug from the streets of New York City, riding with his crew and plugging caps up people's asses who had it coming.

Unless you haven't played any shooters recently, this game doesn't offer you many surprises: You control the muscular protagonist in a 3rd-person view through dark, gritty streets, shooting hundreds of goons that appear from behind corners and doors.

You have a wide array of guns at your disposal, from the standard "gat" to the assault rifle. Some of them can be used akimbo (although the interface for that is awkward). Most of the weapons handle okay, but some of them - like the shotgun - simply feel much too weak.

Consistent with both his own name as well as the name of his first major album, money plays a big role here. Not only can you use it to purchase better weapons and health kits in-between missions when you're back in your hood, you can also buy music tracks and videos that you can play back in the menu and optionally use as the background track during gameplay. Additionally, you can buy more counter-kills, which are graphic ways to kill at close range in stylish slow-motion.

Apart from 50 Cent, whose virtual counterpart looks quite impressive, many missions include members of the G-Unit, namely Lloyd Banks, Tony Yayo, and Young Buck, each one of them having his own skills. They'll assist you in the missions, taking out enemies and performing tasks like blowing stuff up or picking locks.

The Bad
First of all, the story. The ad blurb makes a big deal out of the script having been written by executive producer of the Sopranos. Big deal, he's the EP, not the writer, and the script is a mess. Even though it is simple in its structure, I still had problems following this retarded conspiracy story which ended in some childish nonsense that involved the DEA and Afghan terrorists.

Of course, a big deal is made out of 50 Cent being shot nine times towards the end of the first level, because, hey, 50 Cent has been shot nine times in real life, so he's hardcore, yo. The problem is, this just doesn't work in a video game. Before I got to that point, 50 had already been shot several dozen times, and he shrugged it off and instantly healed himself by proceeding to the next checkpoint. Making a big deal out of getting shot seems overly convoluted after that.

I pointed out the detailed models of the protagonist and his sidekicks earlier. They rock. Unlike the rest of the graphics. Most of the settings try so hard to be dark and gray that it gets to a point where it's annoying. Neither the geometry nor the textures are particularly good. The environment simply looks boring and dull.

What's even worse is that the dark graphics often obscure the enemies. The later levels introduce some "masked assailants" who wear black, and they are standing in front of a black ship at night, 100 feet away. If that isn't bad enough for, check this out:

Shooting enemies (arguably the main element of the game) can be clumsy at times. Aiming can be a pain, especially when enemies get too close. You'll spend a lot time turning while the enemies run past you and shooting at you while you still have your muzzle nowhere close to them. There is no locking feature whatsoever, and this is pretty much what breaks the entire game. Think of the masked assailants mentioned above who represent just a few pixels on an already near-black screen. To shoot them, you have to ge-e-e-e-ntly aim at them with your right analog stick. If they move, you have to re-aim. Of course, they have no problems firing at you.

Seriously, the aiming system always finds new ways to mess with you. Hitting people who are somewhat far away can be next to impossible, especially when they move. Hitting people who are close is also impossible, because these people are more likely to run or strafe, forcing you to precisely match their movements with the analog stick.

The action button has been ridiculously overused. You use the square button to kill people up close, use buttons, reload, lean against a wall, and pick up a weapon. It happens often that you do something you didn't intend on doing, so instead of reloading your weapon, you pick up a weak weapon lying on the ground. Also, leaning against the wall looks cool and could have been useful, but it often turns out to be your downfall: If you lean too far, you get shot at. Because of the blind spot, you often don't see people coming. You can't shoot people who are out of your line of sight. Now if somebody snuck past you (or just spawned near you), you need to get away from the wall to get them. This, however, is done by moving away from the wall for one second, during which you will come under heavy fire. Then you have to move the camera until you find the person shooting at you. Usually, once you're being shot at while in wall mode, you're doomed.

The AI is a mixed bag. The enemies sometimes seem reasonably smart, hiding behind objects and running for cover. At other times, they simply stand around and do nothing. Sometimes I saw something in the background and wondered whether it was an enemy or not, since that thing was standing perfectly still for a prolonged time.

Your friends' AI is similar. Sometimes, they seem capable, but then again, they get stuck in pretty dumb places. However, they are apparently invincible, so sometimes you can sit back and relax and wait for the AI to clear out the area (hoping that they don't get stuck first). In fact, I found it amusingly ironic that the only G-Unit member who was not bullet-proof turned out to be 50 Cent himself.

The developers licensed the havok physics engine for this game, and as weird as it sounds, it seems like a mistake. There is simply no point in having a physics engine here, given that there are no complex physics going on. The entire scenery is very static, you can't even shoot windows. There are a few mobile objects that can be used as cover (like dumpsters on wheels), and those objects can be pushed, but this is usually so awkward that you'll barely ever use it. However, your AI can be trapped by those mobile objects. One time, I heard some noise to my right and turned to see a crew member walking next to me, pushing three large potted plants and two trashcans in front of him. Another time, a cut-scene played where an object was blasted away by an explosion. However, Lloyd Banks happened to be in its (straight) trajectory, so the object just stopped as it touched him. Havok sure was money well spent.

And the sound? It will probably not surprise you that the soundtrack features "4 CDs worth" of 50 Cent music. However, the implementation wasn't done very well. The game tries to be smart and has a dynamic music system that switches the background track depending on the mood, so when enemies appear, a more hectic track plays. However, the mood seems to change several times per minute, so the music switches back and forth. To make things worse, whenever a track switches, it rewinds back to the beginning, so even when you set up a playlist of your favorite tracks, you'll only hear the first 30 seconds of each song.

Pressing SELECT shows you the currently playing song. This would have been a useful feature to help you decide which of the songs to buy (for an exorbitant lump of money). However, the SELECT button only works for songs you already bought, which is pointless. So you'll end up buying lots of songs (there are over 20 songs just called "Ambient" and 30 called "Action") for nothing.

Speaking of the ambient tracks: You can buy pretty much the entire 50 Cent/G-Unit repertoire and all the ambient tracks made specifically for the game. If you don't buy them, the game will choose from them automatically, but it usually picks lousy songs - about 90% of the time you hear the ambient tracks which are generic and awful. It's feels kind of dumb to have a game with a big selection of music that you most probably enjoy but end up hearing some pathetic muzak.

The sound effects are standard fare, but they work. The voice-overs are surprisingly good, and man, are they ever profanity-laden. If you like hip-hop, you won't be disappointed. Some of the standard voice-overs get boring quickly (like the enemies dissing the G-Unit), but some other little phrases are still funny even after hearing them many times.

The Bottom Line
It's not a bad game. It's simply not a particularly great game. There is nothing that's really standing out, except for the 50 Cent license. If it wasn't for that, this game would probably be forgotten somewhere amidst a pool of other mediocre titles. In fact, the aiming system probably pushes it towards the bottom end of mediocrity.

So if you're a fan of 50 Cent and look for yet another shooter with solid M-rated content, you could check this out. Don't think about it if 50 Cent is not your thang.

by EboMike (3094) on December 31, 2005

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