Bodycount (XBOX 360)
A few years ago Criterion Games who are probably best known for their work on Burnout released Black, a high action FPS for PS2 and Xbox which was praised for the high levels of destruction within the game environment. Creative differences between Criterion and EA stopped the development of "Black 2" however as is often the case in the games industry some staff movement saw key staff from the Black development team end up at Codemasters Guildford studio and they have created Bodycount.
Whether it is a conscious decision by game developers or a result of their current staff now being those who grew up with classic shooters there have been an influx of old style games in recent times. One of the most notable was BulletStorm which was about as far away from the Battlefield and COD games as a FPS can get, focused purely on gore and kills rather than story, tactics and competitive multiplayer. More recently we have also had the opportunity to preview Hard Reset which blends several older games (and their gameplay) into a "classic" shooter with updated styling and Bodycount continues the trend of staying away from being a COD/BF clone.
In Bodycount we are an employee of The Network, a global organisation which answers to no-one, being above the law and looking to save the world by resolving conflicts across the globe. At the start of the game we are dropped into central Africa and tasked with finding out why a previously cold war has suddenly sparked into chaos between the two opposing sides of the conflict.
As we progress we are taken to various locations around the world in an attempt to work out who The Target is and what their end goal could be, creating as much carnage as possible as we go. This carnage is one of the key gameplay elements in Bodycount as we rip through a destructive environment which is partially used for some great visuals and often used as a gameplay device. The majority of the time a burst of fire from our gun, or a grenade explosion will set of a chain reaction of larger explosions which take out enemies or structures but there are sections where getting to our objective (always marked on our HUD) is easier if we blast through a wall. Then on other occasions where it might be advisable to blow a hole in the wall next to a door so we can aim through it and use the rest of the structure as a shield while we take out our enemy from a distance.
The game uses auto regeneration for its health system and the controls in Bodycount don't stray too far from the norm either with zoom on the left trigger, fire on the right. Jump is A, reload/activate X, shoulder buttons for grenades/explosive, Y to switch weapons and so on. This of course makes the game easy to pick up and play. Where things do get a little more unique is in the OSB (Operative Support Button) and Intel meter. Located in the bottom left of the screen we have a dial which fills as we kill enemies, they drop ammo and intel which we collect. The more important the enemy the more intel we gather and the more we can use powerups which are unlocked as we progress. These powerups consist of items such as adrenaline (short bursts of immunity and bullet time like effect), armoured rounds, tactical display of enemies and air strike. These are increased in power as we progress and once activated they reduce our intel to zero and we need to collect more before they can be used again. This isn't really an issue though as the game title suggests there are ample enemies around to shoot, and the OSD keeps track of our kill score as well as showing us any combo's we have achieved or specialised shots, all of which combine to give an end of level rank.
Speaking of levels, Bodycount has a rather different take on the design, splitting missions into much smaller chunks than is normal for a game of this type. In the Africa missions for example we can play through a mission in a few minutes with one or two objectives given (e.g. defuse explosive, find operative etc) before being taken to a completely different area via a mission outline/story screen but the whole "level" takes around 1.5hours to play through. In many ways it feels like online multiplayer where the time limit is set low and we get short bursts of action with a lobby between games.
When actually playing through a level the player is left to make their way to the objective and the levels are reasonably open with several ways to reach our destination. We can also choose to take as much time as we want, maximising kills or destruction along the way. Also placed around the locations are various devices which allow us to change our primary and secondary weapon, tailoring the guns to our mission and as with powerups various extra firearms are unlocked as the game progresses.
Those are the essential points of the single player experience, cause mass destruction and carnage as we progress through the story... and those elements play quite a large part in multi-player too. There are three main multiplayer modes in Bodycount and these are Co-Op, Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch. As normal DM and TDM are a battle between individuals or teams towards a kill limit, the first to reach this wins. In co-op we play with another player trying to survive wave upon wave of NPC's. Codemasters have also added in a fourth mode, Bodycount mode, where we replay unlocked missions from the campaign trying to achieve better scores for comparison with our friends.
Graphics and Sound
While the controls are responsive and the level design decent the visual aspect of Bodycount varies in quality throughout. In some areas we have bland structures and textures which are very low-res in their appearance and in others the game looks rather impressive. It screams a lack of polish in development and as with many titles some extra time given to the art department would really have helped add some extra sheen to a game which does in-fact use a decent engine (the same used for the Colin McRae/F1 games).
As well as suffering from some less than great environments which can be repetitive in appearance there is also a real lack of variation on the enemies we fight. They are incredibly samey, other than key characters such as mini-bosses, and this really is noticeable given the number of people we kill along the way. We also noted that the game's field of vision is a little claustrophobic for our liking and it would have benefited from being a little wider... and of course there is some slowdown to add to an already disappointing situation.
Audio wise the game delivers on one key aspect, noise. Even with our sound system turned down low the level of gunfire and explosions in Bodycount is impressive and loud. This of course means at a normal volume and above the room really does become an epic soundstage of battle noise which enhances the gaming experience.
There is a musical soundtrack as we progress but it does feel somewhat out of place in areas, kicking in when nothing of importance seems to have happened and to be honest it adds nothing... the explosions and gunfire are plenty.
In game we also have voice comms from The Network, instructing us on our objectives and this voiceover is decent or more importantly not annoying and kept to a minimum allowing us to concentrate on the action.
It is very clear when playing Bodycount that Codemasters Guildford haven't set out to create a tactical shooter, this is a game which is a collection of action set pieces with a story linking them all together. For this reason the game succeeds on many levels. There is for example plenty to blast through, rarely do we find a quiet moment where nothing is going on. We also liked the fact we could make our way to objectives via our own path rather than be forced down a route by the level design. The game also succeeds in making us want to play more, offering a decent challenge on medium difficulty and above, though at 7-8 hours the campaign isn't the longest.
There are some issue though, the level design can be a little repetitive, the enemies very much too samey and the shortness of each area does give the game an odd, almost multiplayer like feel. This along with some slowdown can detract from the enjoyment at times... as can the low intelligence of the enemy AI.
For those who want a weekends worth of death and destruction Bodycount fits the bill. It doesn't claim to offer anything new or deep but sometimes plenty of action and loads of explosions are all that a player needs.
||Easy to pick up and play due to standard controls. Plenty of action, destructive environments and things to kill. Not a particularly original story though and the campaign is split into strangely small segments.
||Some nice lighting effects and some areas are visually impressive. Others really lack in polish though and the repetitiveness of the enemy appearance is disappointing.
||An average score at best. The explosions and environmental sections are spot on though and really add to the overall experience.
||Essentially a standard set of multi-player modes and another where we can replay previously completed levels.
(Not an Average)
||A decent FPS which doesn't require much thought and delivers on action, some additional variation would have elevated it to a higher rating.