In our preview of Bodycount, you may recall that we weren’t particularly enthused with what we’d seen. The three level snapshot that we’d been privy to simply didn’t offer enough to encourage us to hold out much hope for the full release. Luckily for Codemasters our time spent with the full game has gone some way to swaying our opinion towards considering Bodycount a fairly solid, if entirely unexciting, title.
The biggest change – which we blame on the odd selection of levels and lack of exposition available in the preview code – is the power up system. With little explanation, these became almost entirely redundant. When discovered at the specified points that the game design deems fit, and with a little exposition to suggest their use and talents, some of them turn out to be absolute essential short bursts of help that turn the tide of any battle.
Alas that only extends to two of the four power up’s, and that’s the pair that are introduced within the first half an hour of play. The latter two become almost entirely redundant as soon as you progress past the area that they are essential. The airstrike is powerful, but is so rarely available or relevant for what’s ahead that it’s only really something you’ll expect to utilise during a specific boss battle. The last, designed to allow a glimpse at your opponents positions when they suddenly disappear from your radar isn’t ever absolutely required. In a stealth focussed title it might have been a worthwhile inclusion. Here it seems like it’s there just to fill a gap in the HUD.
Having now been able to sample the entire storyline, it’s unfortunately entirely forgettable. There’s ham fisted attempts to develop some form of connection between you, your playable character, and your guide, but this certainly isn’t a tale to remember.
Not that every game requires extensive exposition to be relevant. As this is the spiritual successor to the gun totting Black, this could easily be an important title for offering purely brilliant weapon play. To an extent, Bodycount does manage to achieve and exploit that gap in the market console market. But it falls short of truly making the niche its own.
Against the walls and scenery, the weaponry within Bodycount feels powerful. Shotguns blast away walls, grenades send tables and chairs spinning through the air, and everything becomes pockmarked with bullets. While there may not be too many weapons to choose from – it’s all standard machine guns, pistols, and shotguns until a particularly outlandish item is introduced towards the end of the game – they all have their slight variations that make them unique enough to encourage you to try the whole lot.
But taking on enemies is another matter. A shotgun blast from close range will merrily slaughter earlier enemies, but it doesn’t take too long before they seem to become artificially powerful. Even the most standard of enemies, outside a perfect headshot can require a good half a round, or a few shotgun blasts before they’ll finally give up. It’s odd to discover that a blast that’ll blow a door off its hinges will barely cause a minimally armoured enemy to raise an eyebrow.
The larger human enemies we mentioned in the preview that are essentially the games bullet sponges continue to appear throughout a large number of the games levels. When they do come into view, the enjoyment levels take a swift trip downwards as your sole chance of victory is to turn and run, dropping mines behind you. Getting caught in the open when one or more of these beasts appear is pretty much a guaranteed drop back to the last checkpoint.
Not that enemies are the sharpest of individuals. While they do display some obvious tactical knowledge at times, flushing you out with grenades, and destroying the cover that you’re hunkering down behind, they still manage to sometimes miss the fact that you’re mere feet away, obliterating their compatriot with a deafeningly loud weapon. It makes progression a touch unpredictable, as you never know if you need to progress tactically and stealth like, or simply run forward and merrily blast away, safe in the knowledge that no-one is going to bat an eyelid.
Luckily the checkpoint system is always there to save you when things get particularly screwy. Like Halo, it’s never looking to dump you back too far if you find yourself losing all your health. Which is a thankful proposition considering the frequent difficulty spikes which occur every few levels. Even on the ‘normal’ difficulty settings, there were times when we’d find ourselves stuck in a situation of replaying the same five minutes of game a dozen times before we found the sweet spot and managed to progress.
Not that there’s too many of those, as Bodycount isn’t a particularly lengthy title. If you’re a skilled FPS veteran, there’s little doubt that you’ll fly through this potentially within one or two sittings. It’s a particularly short game, which makes the repetition of levels all the more unusual, with some settings being utilised twice. Yes the Bodycount Mode that we mentioned in the preview is available, as are online multiplayer and co-op modes, but none of those manage to raise the quality bar from the fairly average experience of the main single player campaign.
Bodycount is obviously a missed opportunity. The weapon play at its best can feel absolutely wonderful, but those fleeting moments only make the rest of the game feel average at best. It’s a shame, as there’s certainly scope for an FPS just like Bodycount to be a real success. Unfortunately, this one is bound to hit the bargain bins well before the Christmas rush, and the major FPS franchises, come out to play.
Rating: Average Review policy
You can order Bodycount now on Xbox 360 and PS3.