Microsoft Xbox 360Also available on Sony PlayStation 3
The FPS genre has fast become the heavyweight division on consoles in the last few years. Every year we see big FPS releases hitting the shelves bringing with them huge development resources, elaborate production values and massive marketing spends. It’s a very tough genre for a new IP to succeed in, and to stand out from the crowd the game has to be something special, something different.
And so in step Codemasters with the spiritual sequel to ‘Black’, Bodycount. Entering the already seriously overcrowded FPS market with a new IP boasting destructible environments, a full skillshot mechanic and a focus on pure gunplay. For Bodycount to succeed being a full price release it needed to step up to this crowded heavyweight arena smack the gamer in the face and demand to be played. Sadly, it just doesn’t and after playing for an hour it is painfully obvious that comparing Bodycount to something like Bulletstorm, released earlier in the year, is like comparing men and boys.
The story, of which there is painfully little, is fairly standard FPS fare. You play as an agent who works for the Network and is sent to resolve conflicts where every-one that has come before has failed. These conflicts are contained within Africa and Asia (obviously) and the single player campaign mainly consists of you gun toting your way through non-descript bad guys. As you progress it becomes apparent that there is a more powerful sinister force at work here, a hi tech one in the form of another agency called Target. There is sadly little or no chance you will care by the time the big reveal arrives. What little story there is here is relayed via a handful (literally) of pointless cut scenes, mission briefings (courtesy of text on a loading screen) and a lovely lady telling you where to go. There is no real sense of narrative throughout and very little to engage you within the single player campaign.
The premise could have been reasonable had it been fleshed out a little more. Detached mission info on the eye pleasing loading screen along with a disembodied female voice guide really isn’t enough to carry the game. The story effectively feels like a total afterthought and not a very big/good one at that. This ultimately leads to problems later in the game as you don’t really know why you are where you are, or what the whole point of it all is. FPS games have matured greatly in the last few years and gamers demand more; more narrative, more character development, more emotion. Bodycount fails on all these.
The much vaunted EGO game technology platform powers Bodycount and whilst never spectacular it does a reasonable job. Graphically the game is competent but the art direction is sometimes odd, moving the player quickly from the overly colourful poverty ridden shanty towns of middle Africa to a white, black and red sterile super base. It’s a tad jarring and frankly an odd design decision, but we can push past this minor flaw however as there are far bigger offences to focus upon.
It’s fair to say that the actual gun play is quite entertaining for a short period of time. The weapons pack a punch, even if they are a tad generic, making you feel like a bit of a bad ass and the special powers dished out throughout the game add to the feeling of being a super soldier. The controls are pretty much standard FPS going so anyone with any FPS experience at all will be able to pick up and play. There is one oddity to note and that is the use of the left trigger. Squeezing it slightly will result in you zooming your aim down the sights, as you would expect, but pulling down the left trigger fully plants your feet to the spot and the only movement allowed is tilting and pivoting. In the heat of battle this really does feel odd and you frequently find yourself trying to strafe when in fact you are just standing in the middle of the road leaning slightly to the left like a complete plank and getting shot to pieces.
On the subject of stupid, we have the enemy AI. The hordes of enemies thrown at you do go someway to make you feel like it’s you against the world and you are hard as nails but any level of immersion is destroyed by them all being really stupid. By the end of the game you will be calling them suicide squads as enemy soldiers will regularly just run straight at you, sometimes not even firing. Through our play-through on more than one occasion soldiers ran past our gun toting hero (often from behind?!) only to turn around seconds later and realise they should be shooting at him. This could be forgiven if our hero was using a stealth approach with a silenced weapon but this isn’t that type of game. Safe to say the AI throughout the entire campaign is very poor, and on harder difficulties this is unfortunately compensated for with some grenade spamming and a lot of cheap deaths.
The campaign would be a colossal slog if it were ten hours and it’s a bit of a blessing really that this boring, repetitive adventure only lasts for about four hours max....and that is not a typo. After 3-4hrs of Bodycount you will be pleased it’s over and will have very little interest in returning. Should you wish to, you may also want to play a little game with yourself and see if any element of the story has actually stuck in your mind. Don’t feel too bad if you struggle though, you will not be alone.
In an attempt to spice things up a little the campaign contains skillshots. This is basically a system that awards points and point multipliers for a variety of very simple killing methods. The actual list of skillshots is mundane in the extreme: headshots, kill through cover it is all lacking invention. It’s impossible to talk about this without mentioning Bulletstorm and the fact that it is infinitely better in every conceivable way. Bulletstorm took this system and made it a tad bonkers, in a good way. The combination of chaos and comedy made it instantly likeable and kept the gamer coming back to find out what other crazy nonsense they had packed into the kill system. Sadly Bodycount is stale, uninventive and always just feels like it’s going through the motions, ticking boxes as it goes. Ultimately though the entire idea is redundant due the fact the points accrued do absolutely nothing and can be used for nothing, past comparing to the handful of other poor schmucks who forked out for the game. They are stale and whilst satisfy their remit, are ultimately a pointless addition to the game.
The cover system touched upon earlier is worthy of a quick mention. Much was made of the destructible environments in the lead up to Bodycount’s launch and bless them whilst they have made an effort, Battlefield’s Frostbite engine was streets ahead years ago. Things just randomly break from a barrage of gun fire and the effects on the screen are, if we are being kind, old school.
The multi-player element of the game does nothing to redeem the title, including simply deathmatch and team deathmatch. Two teams go at it on a handful of maps and it’s simply the first team to 50 kills. If you can be bothered to take the fight online after the demoralising single player campaign there is little enjoyment to be had here. Online play does have a minor advantage over the campaign in that the ‘intel’ dropped by downed enemies can be used to increase your player power ups and are actually useful. The destructible cover also plays far more of an active role however crude, adding an extra level of visual carnage to proceedings. It’s unfortunate that we quickly found whilst playing online that the map sizes and layouts are ripe for camping and for the few people playing online it’s become a bit of a camper’s convention.
Achievement lovers (and trophy lovers, bless) may want to play this one as a rental given the speed at which it doles out points. Four hours of admittedly tedious gaming will net you two thirds of the awards on offer and if you can be bothered to find a game online and endure the multi-player elements then there is an easy 100% to be had here.
Aside from some minor plus points Bodycount is an ill conceived, poorly constructed, seemingly rushed mess which isn’t fun and in no way warrants its full price tag. It’s all been done before and a hell of a lot better, many times - keep your cash in your wallet (or purse).