You gotta feel a little bit for 50 Cent; after all, the man's been through a lot - a brutal upbringing, getting shot 9 times, surviving some mean streets - to rise to the top of the rap game. Since hitting the big time, he's made some friends in high places, starred in a movie, and even produced a couple of videogames. His latest is a PSP exclusive, 50 Cent: Bulletproof G Unit Edition. This original title starring Fiddy, Eminem, Dr. Dre, and a host of other crazy characters takes place in a gritty, gory, and profane world few of us would hope exists anywhere except in a virtual 'hood.
Frankly, I wasn't expecting too much from Bulletproof, especially considering the rather dismal PS2/Xbox console game of the same name. Those low expectations were turned around pretty quickly though, as the game happens to be an interesting, fun to play, and surprisingly deep shoot-em-up that offers up something that both his legions of fans as well as handheld action gamers can sink their teeth into.
In reality, 50 Cent: Bulletproof G Unit Edition is a combination of modern urban violence and old-school gaming. Its story is uniquely Fiddy - meaning that there's more foul language, gunplay, and death than the roughest of Sopranos episodes (one of whose writers penned the game's narrative) while its gameplay takes place from a more traditional, top-down view. Within the first hour, the protagonist will find himself shot, framed by the feds for reasons unknown, and mourning the loss of his best friend K-Dog. Eminem makes his appearance as a crooked cop helping 50 out strictly for the cash, and Dre is the local firearms dealer with a past buried in the sands of Iraq.
Even though he often asks for people to "come give me a hug", 50 Cent is all about blowing the living hell out of just about everyone
Right off the bat, the action is fast, furious, and not terribly difficult - which is one reason I find it so appealing, as "mindless" button mashing in a portable shooter on the PSP is something in short supply these days. In the first few rounds, most enemies can be dispatched without too much trouble, and even the bosses are eminently beatable. However, as you murder your way through the first few levels and 50 starts to unravel the conspiracy, foes become more numerous, deadly, and just plain nasty. Smart conservation of resources becomes necessary for survival, as ammunition and health are not infinite by any stretch. Sometimes you'll find yourself deferring usage of a pistol or shotgun, simply because chances are you won't find more bullets lying around and the boss that awaits can't get taken down any other way. On more than one occasion, it will take several deaths at the hands of henchmen to determine just the right process to finally knock out a seemingly unbeatable enemy.
Shooting is managed one of two ways, either through a handy lock-on function with the right trigger button or free-form blasting. I found that the lock-on becomes almost completely necessary, since hordes of bearing down on you can't really get eliminated any other way. There are pistols, shotguns, and automatic machine guns available for your shooting pleasure, and each of these can carry both standard and hollow-tipped bullets – all for that extra flesh-ripping power. It's not always about the gunplay, though, as various grenades, knives, machetes, screwdrivers, and assorted other melee items can be used at any given time. The grenade-tossing mechanic is tough to work with, and winds up causing 50 to get blown to bits more often than not. Machetes are a personal favorite for up-close-and-personal combat, since they will take down a foe faster than just about any other weapon out there.
Blasting, beating, or hacking away at enemy minions produces visible hit points – something I wasn't expecting (and had never seen in a shooting-heavy title before). 50 has the same effect – while he's being slashed, shot, or otherwise violated by all those people who want him dead, his health depletions flash on the screen. Once you take down an opponent, stomping on their dead carcass will produce cash, jewelry, painkillers (the game's version of a health pack), or ammo. Sometimes, when you're feeling particularly randy, Fiddy can eschew a regular ol' kill and pull off one of many available (and quite bloody) execution moves. These serve two purposes – not only are they helpful in avoiding unwanted personal damage, they also look pretty damn cool.
When he's not traveling the subway to exotic locations like slums, mansions, and the waterfront, Fiddy kicks back in his 'hood. His home turf serves as a game hub, allowing procurement of all sorts of nefarious items. Most importantly, through his man Dr. Dre, 50 Cent has access to a hellacious arsenal of deadly weapons. There are also plenty of clothes that can be picked up (G-Unit brand, of course), as well as healing painkillers from an, um, unlicensed practicioner. There's even a "cheats" dealer, but they'll cost you quite a pretty penny. Lastly, a DJ will sell 50 his own songs and videos for his listening and viewing pleasure.
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the staggering amount of songs and videos available, too, almost as if storage space on the UMD is a non-issue. During the missions, 50 Cent music clips play in a loop, but fans can set up their own soundtrack with songs that have been purchased via blood money earned in the game. The videos have to be watched from the home base crib, and while the video quality is pretty good, the volume seemed to be lower than the rest of the game.
Even though he often asks for people to "come give me a hug", 50 Cent is all about blowing the living hell out of just about everyone. After a dozen missions or so, the levels and enemies will kind of blur together and become a bit stale. The well-crafted story combined with the get-in-there-and-shoot-em-up gameplay, though, will keep you going long after you'd quit similar titles. It may not win any awards for variety or originality, but, for an on-the-go action title, the game serves its purpose very well. 50 Cent: Bulletproof G-Unit Edition accomplishes its goal – shoot now, ask questions later, and make sure you're the last man standing.