The good news about 50 Cent: Bulletproof on the PSP is that it's superior to its PlayStation 2 and Xbox big brothers; the bad news is that it still barely qualifies as a game. To paraphrase that great rapper Coolio, this is definitely no gangsta's paradise.
Instead of porting a stripped down version of the original's third-person action (with all the frame rate and control issues that would undoubtedly bring), this special G Unit Edition wisely uses a top down perspective that is intrinsically suited to handheld play. This is an intelligent move and one that, initially at least, bodes well for a title that anyone who played its clunky forbearer would probably avoid like a week's vacation in the Bronx. Despite a lack of challenge, the game's training missions also tantalise with titbits about melee combos that 50 Cent can deploy. A few missions in, though, and it becomes abundantly clear that all that is needed to complete Bulletproof is a location to play that's dark enough so you can navigate the gloomy levels and an RSI-resistant firing thumb.
Even on the harder difficulty settings, where ammo has to be conserved and health packs (painkillers) are less abundant, 50 Cent's avatar can stroll brazenly into levels and blast away swathes of bad guys with nary a care in the world. The simple controls, including a targeting lock activated by holding down the right shoulder button, make the game a breeze to handle and from the first mission despatching enemies immediately feels like second nature. This would be a major plus point if your combat skills needed to be evolved to tackle tougher challenges or villains as the plot develops, but instead the same identekit bad guys - all suicidally bent on running straight at 50 Cent, regardless of how much firepower he is packing - assault you on every level, albeit in slightly different coloured clothing. The bosses are only differentiated by how many bullets it takes to kill them and they can easily be finished off by stockpiling grenades to hurl in their direction. Meanwhile, the depressing linearity of the levels, with only the most basic 'find the activation switch' puzzles to solve along the way, don't help matters and all to soon Bulletproof becomes a drudge rather than a delight.
It's a shame, because the basic mechanics often work really well. 50 Cent is easy to control, the guns all pack plenty of punch (along with booming sound effects) and bodies crumple to the ground with a gruesomely realistic thud. For the first couple of missions before tedium creeps in the game is relatively satisfying, but after extended play even the special executions (seen in gory cut away scenes) become repetitive. Matters are certainly not helped by the need to search the body of every fallen enemy for money, jewellery and other items after you slay them. Before each level begins, there is the opportunity to stroll around The Hood to spend any swiped cash on extra ammo, armour or even flashy G Unit brand clothing, but this ultimately feels like padding being used to compensate for the brevity of the main missions. It's rare for me to say this, but a few side missions would not have gone awry here and, after a few hours play, I began to yearn for a mini-game or something equally drastic to break up the monotony.
Ultimately though, 50 Cent: Bulletproof is not aimed at gamers like me who play for the experience. This is for the legions of fans the rap star has garnered over the years and they won't be left wanting by the stacks of extra content that is included to bolster the game's mass appeal. Loads of tracks (such as the indisputable classic In Da Club) can be bought and turned into a playlist to listen to in-game, while videos can be watched as well. For 50 Cent completists this is a great investment, but for everyone else it's just filler included to elevate this above a budget release. At least the cutscenes (taken from the original game) are suitably cinematic and the number of star cameos (G Unit and Eminem included) help keep the vendetta-fuelled storyline flowing.
Ultimately, as a game Bulletproof: G Unit Edition fails to manage the one thing it could reasonably be expected to do; entertain. The top-down perspective tries to make it seem like Gauntlet for the gangsta generation, but moronic gameplay, insipid level design and tacked on multiplayer work together to cripple the experience. If you're a die hard 50 Cent fanatic, who doesn't demand much from their games and can stomach lashings of blood and foul language, then this is the title for you; everyone else though should go back to listening to Straight Outta Compton and remember a time when rappers stuck to rapping.