Release Date: 2nd September, 2011
Developer: Codemasters Studios
One of the oldest and most popular genres, First Person Shooters have become saturated. Therefore, contemporary FPS games require some kind of a hook to hold player interest. For example, the Call of Duty franchise has compelling cinematics, while Red Faction and the Battlefield games have destructible environments. Codemasters' upcoming console shooter Bodycount combines the destruction of the latter games with no-holds-barred violence. Well, that and a brand of "gun porn" reminiscent of EA's PS2 shooter Black.
Why can't the Ego Engine do that in the DiRT games?
Back In Black
Bodycount's similarity to Black (2006) isn't a mere coincidence, since it is a spiritual successor to the much-hyped PS2 shooter. The game comes from the same Stuart Black
), which was later assimilated by Codemasters to bring the successor alive with the fabulous Ego Engine
. Bodycount was supposed to release earlier this year, but the sudden and unexplained departure of Stuart Black put a spoke in the wheel. However, just a few hours with the very polished preview code at the Zapak
office were enough to see that the game still embodies its predecessor's spirit.
Bodycount's plot is a thinly veiled excuse to exercise your trigger finger. You have the quintessential American soldier working for a shadowy organisation dubbed The Network
, which is protecting the world from an even more shadowy one called The Target
, apparently behind most of the world's conflicts. As hackneyed as it sounds, this allows the action to be spread over diverse locales across the world. The preview code hosted three levels spanning the bright and dusty environs of Africa, a neon-lit and rain-soaked setting in China, and finally the futuristic Target base.
This is Darwin Award worthy.
I started off with the African scenario, which looked straight out of Resident Evil 5
. The bright colours popped beautifully, thanks to the bloom-happy nature of the Ego Engine. The perfunctory sexy female voiceover over the comms issued orders to assassinate a warlord, which pretty much translated into shooting everything to shit. This is where things got interesting, because Bodycount takes destruction to the next logical level. Throw a grenade into a hut and the tarpaulin and tin sheets fly apart to reveal the skeletal structure. Shoot a crate and it gradually disintegrates into its constituent parts, instead of just breaking down in a scripted manner.Rearranging Levels With Bullets
Bodycount's version of destructible environments is used as an active gameplay element. It's possible to shoot enemies through cover, as well as punch holes through walls to create defensible shooting positions. Scenery can be altered with well-placed grenades to create escape routes or open a line of sight exposing the baddies. While the scale of destruction isn't a patch on the Red Faction games, it is still gratuitous and instant. You don't have to empty clip after clip to erode the cover protecting your enemies. Just a grenade or a few bursts from your assault rifle are enough to force your foes to break cover - quite literally at that.
However, this works both ways. In traditional cover-based games, getting behind cover renders you invulnerable to all but flanking and grenades. This is not the case with Bodycount, whose new combat mechanics deliver more freedom, but also lodge it uncomfortably between the restrictiveness of a cover system and the vulnerability of battling it out in the open.
That looks more painful than the prison equivalent.
The graphics, models, and texturing (especially the weapon models) are pretty good for a cross-platform console game. The developers have chosen a small and narrow level design to free up the resources required to incorporate greater detail. Little wonder then that the environments look gorgeous, making it even more gratifying to shred the whole shebang with a machine gun.
Each level has its own distinct look, which is a far cry from most games that use recycled textures and object meshes. The wet weather effects and neon lights permeating the darkness in the Chinese scenario are a world away from the bright, shiny surfaces employed in the slick and sterile Target base encountered later. While the gunplay may get monotonous, it's hard to get bored of Bodycount's eclectic level design.
Flail, my ragdolls, flail!
The game employs an ability and ammo upgrade system fed by Intel
dropped by fallen foes. The quality of Intel dropped depends on how you kill your foes. Bodycount dubs them Skill Kills
, which is a watered-down version of Bulletstorm
. This opens up mad ammo upgrades and spectacular air strikes that allow you to carpet bomb enemies.
The controls, however, need some work. The thumbstick sensitivity was just too peaky and marred by excessive acceleration. It was frustrating to get my butt handed to me just because it was nigh impossible to get the crosshair where I wanted it. Hopefully, this is something the beta testing would have addressed in time for the final release.
The Chinese levels show off the gorgeous lighting.
Deciding whether or not Bodycount will appeal to your tastes is straightforward. It is basically a more capable elder brother of Black. Those looking for a deeper gameplay and narrative are frankly looking at the wrong place. However, if you are a Michael Bay
fan interested in guns and explosions and least bothered with a story or design finesse, Bodycount seems promising enough.
Yep, yet more explosions.