Bodycount, by Codemasters, is the latest addition to the first person shooter genre. I spent some time with this game and if I had to sum it up in one word, it would be “disappointing”. The game seeks to bring a breath of fresh air into the all too stagnant genre and attempts to revisit what was great about the first person shooters of yester-year, while simultaneously delivering an experience that is familiar to fans of more modern iterations of the genre. For this reason, don’t mind me if I refer to my favorite arcade shooters of yesteryear throughout the article. While it delivers on some of its goals, it falls grossly short on many others.
The story is very simple: You are a member of “The Network” going into war torn areas to bring peace by killing any and every one that is fighting. Eventually you get tangled up with a rival organization known as “The Target” (In a world of violent shoot outs, who would name their organization “Target” any way!?) and the rest is well… nonsensical or nonexistent. Almost every single plot element in Bodycount contradicts itself, feels forced, is cliché, or just doesn’t make any sense. It’s as if the developers created a game, and then tried to put the trappings of a story on it with scotch tape and staples. I know, story doesn’t really matter in a shooter – especially one branding itself as a jump in and kill people shooter. But every other great shooter I have ever played had at least a workable or engaging story. For example, Time Splitters had a story full of time paradoxes that don’t make any sense from a logical standpoint, but the story was still fun and engaging enough to keep you going. The fact Time Splitters didn’t take itself seriously also helped, Bodycount might be trying just a little too hard to be serious and it comes off as something I might have written in third grade.
Level design turned out to be OK. Many of the levels are fairly open with multiple paths which let you choose the way you want to tackle your mission. Only a select few levels can truly be classified as a “Corridor Shooter”. Sounds cool enough, but there’s a catch to it: Many of these levels are riddled with bottlenecks and your freedom of choice is really inconsequential in the long run. “Do you want to take path A, where you’ll run into eight enemies in an open market place? Or do you want to take path B through the alley where there are ten enemies shooting at each other?” Either way you’ll wind up at the same spot you were going to and will probably still need to kill all eighteen of them. In addition, there’s a lot of back and forth in the levels, taking you from point A to B crisscrossing the level as you try to obtain meaningless objectives. Add onto that the fact there is maybe six or seven different areas out of the dozen or so missions, and these areas get stale very fast.
Let’s talk a little bit about gameplay, the heart of this game and the single biggest merit it should be judged upon. Bodycount is a pretty straight forward FPS. You go into a level, shoot guys on your way to the next checkpoint or objective, and… continue this a lot. As I said earlier, the gameplay seems to be a bastardization of both the “Evasive” shooters and the “Cover” shooter. For those of you unaware, an “Evasive” shooter is like Goldeneye or Halo, while “Cover” shooters are your Call of Duty type games. The health system is very much Call of Duty’s unrealistic “You can shoot me with a million bullets and I won’t die… just don’t shoot me with them all at once.” regenerative stamina system that plays into the strengths of a cover based shooter. You get overwhelmed? You duck and cover till you’re ready to rejoin the fight. Meanwhile, with destructive environments and such, this game punishes you for taking cover too long. Assault rifles will chew through cover fairly quickly, and when you find yourself facing down twenty or so enemies reliable cover is at a premium. The actual shooter feels more like Goldeneye, Perfect Dark, Time Splitters, etc. though in which enemies blindly bum rush you, stand in open areas and shoot at you until you die, occasionally taking a side step or two. Only a few enemies will actually utilize cover efficiently, and team AI seems to be completely lacking. Thus I can’t help but feel they may have been better off with using the less popular health system.
I did mention the horrible AI didn’t I? Well, there is one area where that gets kinda grey and that’s grenades. The enemies in this game can lob a grenade from across the entire level and have it land perfectly at your feet ready to explode. You would swear you were up against an army of quarterbacks with their amazing ability that far surpasses your own. The only time this seems to backfire on the computer is when it decides that its perfect path to your feet needs to go through the wall it’s standing behind. In these sad moments, the computer tosses a grenade, only to bounce off of the wall and kill itself and many of its comrades. Also, don’t try to imitate the computer’s awesome grenade arms, you have very little control over the actual grenades you toss and should seek to only use them for easy throws.
Killing enemies in this game can be a chore, especially in the early levels where your guns are awful. The enemies all seem to have huge reserves of health, and unless you land a head shot you may be shooting at your target for much longer than feels comfortable. This takes away from the intended feel of mowing down tons of enemies in your bloody swath to the end of the game but isn’t too terrible. When you do kill them, tons of power ups spill forth from the corpse giving you an easy indication that your enemy is dead as well as a reward for the effort. The most common of these are something called “Intel” which increases a meter you can use to enable many special effects from an adrenaline boost to an air strike. The abilities were cool, but I found myself rarely using them, save for the tough shoot outs since I never knew what was around the next corner. This is perhaps why I died a lot, even on easy. Thankfully, the game doesn’t’ punish you too badly for death. You can skip your death sequence and immediately respawn at the last check point with the press of a button, much like in multi-player mode.
Finally, there are things called “Skill Kills” in which, if you kill an enemy in many special different ways (Such as a headshot, shooting them in the back, etc.) you get a multiplier. The greater your multiplier, the higher score you will rack up at the end, and the more intel you will receive from the enemies you kill. The moment you kill someone the good old fashioned way, you lose the multiplier and have to start back at zero again. This method rewards careful game play and causes you to think about how you want to progress through the level. This leads to a very Arcade type feel, which is what Codemasters was going for. Unfortunately, I didn’t really care as there is little incentive to keep up the chain, and the risk far outweighs the reward. For this reason the largest multiplier I ever got was 8, and I largely ignored this except for achievement hunting during my first play through. For those that really want to polish their skills, this game does give you a method to track just how skilled a shooter you are.
Multi-player in this game is next to non-existent, so if that’s the reason you’re thinking of getting this game, don’t bother. There are a grand total of four maps with three game modes! That’s twelve whole ways to play online! In addition, finding people to play with was difficult. I would often be faced with large wait times, and it wasn’t worth the wait when I finally did get to play. I guess if you really have to scratch that FPS itch with a new game, and absolutely need to play this game, or find yourself stuck alone in a room with your console of choice and this as the only game, and you have all of the single player achievements, I’d still grab a DS or PSP to occupy your time during the wait. Oh, also, this game is online Multi-player only – the number one reason why I would never buy this game new. It’s not hard to code on console multi-player once you have the framework for network play established, and is a clear sign the developer really didn’t care about the title. This could have been the best multi-player experience on the best game ever gifted to us gamers, and I’d still be unable to give this game a 10.0 because of no support for on console multi-player.
So, all in all, the game isn’t terrible but it isn’t good either. It’s a very average, turn off your brain and shoot people FPS. If you find this used for a great price or in some bargain bin somewhere, don’t be afraid to pick it up. The game isn’t so flawed that it is unplayable by any means, and delivers a lot of great concepts to the FPS genre that demanded more attention, something that CodeMasters was unable to provide for whatever reason. For a full priced, £34.99 game, however, this falls grossly short of what is expected of such a title. My final verdict: Stay away unless you are a die-hard FPS fan, or you see it for sale at a lesser price. Renting is ok if you have no other games you planned to rent. Meanwhile, I’m going to keep dreaming of someone actually releasing an old-school FPS that’s actually worth buying.
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 3.
Destructible environments and pick-up and play nature
Story, lack of multi-player support.
Bodycount brings us an arcade styled FPS that tries to focus on what’s fun about FPS’s. Unfortunately it falls just short of a great implementation and lands in the growing heap of mediocre first person shooters.