Billed as the spiritual successor to Black, which was released on the Xbox and PlayStation 2 in 2006, Bodycount is a first-person shooter that has much to live up to. Comparisons with Black aside, being released in the same year as heavy hitters such as Battlefield 3 and Modern Warfare 3, it has to distinguish itself from the crowd to catch the interest of gamers. With that in mind, does the Bodycount capture the spirit of Black and build upon it, or is it just another run of the mill first-person shooter? Read on to find out.
Developer: Codemasters Guildford Studio
Not the strongest part of Bodycount, the story revolves around an agent working for an organisation known as “The Network” that resolves conflicts in countries when all other avenues have been exhausted. As you blast your way through fictional locations in Asia and Africa, you come to the realisation that a mysterious party referred to as “The Target” has a rather massive hand in these conflicts, and all is not what it initially seems to be.
Interesting characters are something of a rarity, and most of the exposition comes courtesy of your handler from The Network. However, the story just about does enough to hold your interest until it abruptly ends, and in a game which is mainly about shooting bad guys and causing mayhem, that’s all you can ask for really.
Bodycount isn’t going to win any awards for the best looking game ever, but that’s not to say it doesn’t have any eye catching moments. The weapon models look great, especially when you zoom in to take out an enemy. Whilst the environments aren’t incredibly varied, they look decent enough, and are mostly destructible. Wooden boards, glass and certain walls can all be taken down if you have enough fire power. It’s an excellent graphical feature, which also has a slight effect on the gameplay.
Destruction aside, blowing things up is also a big part of Bodycount, and it’s not surprising as the game excels at making the explosions look great. They’re so good, that light emanating from the blasts actually hinders your vision in a startlingly realistic way. Sure, it’s a small graphical touch in the grand scheme of things, but worth mentioning nonetheless.
With Bodycount being a game that prides itself on its gunplay and explosions, you’d expect the sound to be good, and it certainly delivers. If you have a surround sound set-up, you’ll be (literally) blown away at times. Whether it be the sweet sound of bullets hitting enemy flesh or the loud boom of an explosion, your ears are in for one glorious treat.
Only the uninspired, cliched voice acting lets Bodycount down in the sound department, but seeing as you don’t interact with many characters throughout the duration of the game, it’s not something your ears will be subjected to that much.
Gunplay in Bodycount is great, there’s no other way to put it. It straddles the line between a realistic and arcade first-person shooter quite brilliantly. You’ll literally grin like a Cheshire cat as you mow down a group of enemies with a machine gun, it’s just that much fun. The majority of the weapons in the game are based on ones you wouldn’t usually come across in a first-person shooter, but that doesn’t matter one bit. Rather than restricting themselves to the standard M16 or AK47, the development team has gone down the more creative route and it compliments the gameplay style in Bodycount extremely well.
The lean and peek system that supports the gunplay, only helps the overall fun factor and adds a surprising level of depth to proceedings. Unlike most first-person shooters, pressing the aim button doesn’t give you an iron sight view. Instead, your view zooms in a certain amount and whilst you have the button held down, you can move the left analog stick to the right or left to peek around corners and shoot. This mechanic also come in use when you’re crouched behind cover, trying the avoid the barrage of bullets flying towards you. Simply crouch behind cover, hold the aim button and push the left analog stick up to peek over and fire off a few bullets at unsuspecting enemies.
Much like the recent Bulletstorm from People Can Fly and Epic Games, Bodycount features a skillshot system that rewards you with different coloured orbs depending on how well you do. It’s all about chaining together kills via various different methods. However, unlike Bulletstorm, the skillshot system in Bodycount seems more like a sideshow rather than the main event. Even though you get graded on you performance at the end of each mission, you never feel compelled to go back and improve on your previous effort. A system like this lives and dies by its addictive factor and that’s something that is just not present here.
However, all is not lost though, as the orbs that form part of the skillshot system do have one specific use. The orbs you gain for kills in Bodycount power up four abilities which you eventually gain access to and upgrade as you progress through the game. Adrenaline shot, explosive bullets, enemy targeting and airstrike are the four abilities that the game eventually hands to you. As mentioned earlier, these abilities upgrade automatically as you progress to a certain point in the game. For example, the first level of the enemy targeting ability points out enemies in the environment for you by highlighting them red, whereas the second level not only shows you where they are, it takes them out too. The addition of these abilities is certainly a welcome one, especially during some of the tougher sections of the game. It’s also worth mentioning that a couple of the more powerful abilities, such as the airstrike, require quite a few orbs before you are able to use them. This ushers in a very basic risk-reward mechanic, that makes you think twice before you press that d-pad to activate one of the “lesser” abilities.
As good as the gunplay and surrounding mechanics are, for a first-person shooter to truly excel it needs to have good AI. Unfortunately, this is exactly the area where Bodycount falls short. During shootouts in close quarters, enemies will more often than not run up to you and stand still whilst you pummel them with bullets. In more open spaces, this flaw is covered up by groups of enemies attacking you, therefore you are given the illusion of challenge rather than it actually being realistic. As mentioned previously, the gunplay is a whole lot of fun, but if it was complimented by AI that provided a realistic challenge, it would have been even better.
On the normal difficulty setting, Bodycount’s campaign will take you around 8-10 hours to complete. If you decide to play it on a harder setting, you can probably add an extra couple of hours to that completion figure. You’ll unlock around 60% of the trophies or achievements in the game during your first playthrough, so unless you want grab them all or improve your mission grades, there’s really no other reason to go back for another play of the campaign.
Bodycount also features both online co-operative and competitive multiplayer modes. In the games co-operative mode, you and a buddy must survive waves of increasingly difficult enemies for as long as possible, whereas the competitive multiplayer modes consist of deathmatch and team deathmatch for up to 12 players. Both the co-operative and competitive multiplayer modes are solid enough and fun if you’re playing with a few friends, but it’s hard to see anyone playing beyond a handful of matches before they move onto something else.
Despite glaring AI issues, Bodycount remains a fun first-person shooter, there’s no doubt about that. The explosive, Hollywood blockbuster style gunplay is a real joy to experience. However, unless you really take to the multiplayer modes or get hooked on improving your mission grades, it’s a game that is nothing more than a solid, enjoyable one time playthrough.