Review – Bodycount
I know your momma’s grieving… fuck her! Cos tonight we get even.
Bodycount is a strange game. It was intended to be the spiritual sequal to the cult classic first-person shooter Black, which was released on the Xbox and PS2. Bodycount even had the same creative director behind it, well until he quit mid-way though the game’s production that is. So Codemasters and the remaining team were left to pick up the pieces. This isn’t so much of a Gearbox and Duke Nukem Forever scenario but the final product ends up being poorly executed but with flashes of brilliance thanks to some excellent set pieces, a very definition of a ‘lemon’ in my book.
You play as a silent protagonist mercenary who is working for The Network, an organisation that basically acts like peacekeepers for hire and travels the world sorting out the worst flashpoints that other mercenary groups can’t handle. You travel throughout Africa and Asia shooting anyone that stand between you and the truth behind the shadowy organisation called Target who are using militia groups around the world to create civil unrest for their own interests. It’s a fairly stock story with no major revaluations or twists throughout and is purely there to keep the player moving from one location to the next while shooting a whole bunch of bad guys along the way.
The actual gameplay of Bodycount is rather solid if a little plain and uninspired which is a bit of a problem for me. Much like games that came before it like The Club, 50 Cent: BotS and Bulletstorm, this game has the player racking up combos with ‘skill kills’ for high scores that get posted to an online leaderboard. Bodycount does add something a little unique to the mixture though and that is that the multiplier which gets built up from skill kills does not go down over time, it only gets reset if the player dies or performs a standard non-skillful kill which means shooting the enemies in the chest and not in the head, through cover or using some kind of explosive to kill them.
The weapons are fairly stock but have a nice heft to them that most shooters tend to lack these days but that is to be expected from the creator of Black as that game was essentially gun porn in a video game format. One thing that took me a while to get used to, but ended up liking a lot, was the ironsights lean. Every time you bring up your iron sights you would stand in place and the left stick would make your character lean or duck in the direction you pressed which is great because it means there is no magnetic cover mechanic like in most tactical shooters on the console these days. The lean mechanic coupled with the multiplier that does not time-out means that this game can be taken in a much more methodical approach and for a high score kind of first person shooter, I actually found that to be a refreshing change.
The game also has four special powers that you can activate by pressing any direction of the d-pad. The power you will be using the most however is the one that makes you invincible to bullets for a short while which can get you out of some tight jams let me tell you.
The levels themselves I have a love/hate relationship with. The battlefields you are placed in are rather nice looking, with some nice environmental touches and a lot of destructable scenery. This is not as fully-fledged as the Battlefield: Bad Company destruction but it does make for frantic action as it means that the player can not stand in one place too long as their cover will literally get shredded to pieces, often reminding me of the lobby scene from the Matrix or a crazy John Woo film.
With that said the level layouts are not all sugar and spice. I found myself doing a lot of searching around trying to get to the next waypoint. This is because finding where you are supposed to go can be a little unclear, especially when the levels are filled with multiple routes and a lot of tight corridors. One especially annoying moment came when I could not find the way to the next area despite trying everything including shooting and attempting to explode the wall appearing to block my route. It turns out that you could just walk though like some kind of bad Duke Nukem 3D map with the wall clipping turned off. There was not even a cool sound or visual effect to go with it either which was odd considering this game has a ton of great presentation effects so this just came off as sloppy and poor game design. Also the enemy design is fairly generic, even the cybernetic Target troops look a little bland compared to a lot games out there on the market today but at least you don’t have to fight a helicopter as a boss that would be the cherry in a generic bad-guy filled first-person shooter sundae.
As I just mentioned in the paragraph above the sound and graphics are actually pretty great. The explosions and guns sound like they have a lot of impact and while there are some minor graphical glitches, like scenery pop-in for example, this is actually a really striking game to look at. What is not great is the ultra generic action movie music, it gets really repetitive, so bad in fact that my brother Dean (a forumer on this site) had to turn the music off in the menu. The voice acting is passable but nothing spectacular.
Then there is the amount of content of the game. Now the campaign took me roughly six hours to beat. You can argue that the game is meant to be played for high scores but it does not hide the fact that this game has less content that games like The Club. Also while there is a co-operative mode, it can only be played with two people. The adversarial multiplayer component is pretty dead already and it’s really hard to get any kind of game going. This is mainly because the matchmaking and lobby system are broken at the moment.
When all is said and done, Bodycount is a very average game. With everything that it does right, the game does another thing wrong. But that’s not to say there is nothing to like about this game. I actually had a lot of fun with some of the set pieces and enjoyed the great near-futuristic vibe with some great stage layouts and decent presentation. But the lack of content, generic enemies, broken multiplayer lobbies and frustrating stage way-pointing mean that the average person will probably not want to pick this game up until it goes sub-£20 and, judging from the reviews and sales figures, I can see that happening rather soon.