Bodycount: Hands-on preview

Criticalgamer.co.uk was recently invited down to London to experience Codemasters’ up and coming shooter Bodycount. For those of you who have not been following the development of Bodycount, let us have a small reminder of events so far.

The game has unofficially been tagged the spiritual successor to the PS2 and Xbox hit Black, not least due to Black’s lead designer being involved. However, he left the development of Bodycount some time back and so that link is a little tenuous and overused. What does link the two games is the focus on arcade style, explosive gun battles where the star of the game is the gun.

Unlike, say, Borderlands where the stars are the many guns, Bodycount only has ten firearms and they are not customisable. However, they are full of character, and by limiting the player to two at a time getting to know their strengths and weaknesses will be crucial for efficient gameplay.

The gameplay itself is very ‘throw away’, but in a good way. A great deal of the environment can be destroyed, and this is best highlighted when the player takes cover. There is no ‘cover button’ per se, but instead the ‘ironsights’ button is no longer an ‘on or off’ toggle but instead recognises the analogue nature of the controller, similar to how modern racing games allow you to control the gas pedal.

Hence if you hold the left shoulder button all the way down you will have a traditional, accurate iron sight but you cannot strafe or move. You look, and you can lean. Yes, you can lean left, right and over objects allowing you to use anything for cover, however it best suits you. However, the cover you hide behind rarely lasts long as either your own bullets or enemy ammunition will soon destroy it. If you only hold the left shoulder button halfway down you will have traditional ironsights with movement; but it is less accurate. This system works very well and is refreshing. Leaning has been in FPS games before, but this is one of the best implementations of the technique.

The game forces you to run – keep moving and keep shooting. The storyline is intentionally non-existent as the game is all about the action, similar to a nonsense 1980s Hollywood action film. You are an unnamed character, working for a vague organisation fighting the enemy. That’s about it. The levels have mission targets within them, but you can carry them out as you choose as each level is a small sandbox, rather than a linear scripted experience. Additionally the game will offer traditional deathmatch shooting and a co-op survival mode, which could be terrific. As the rounds progress there would be less and less scenario to hide behind!

The build we saw was not the latest and the graphics were still rough at times, but the game moved fast (it’s a 30 frames per second game, techie nerds), and the outside level we saw looked bright and inviting. We also saw an inside level which, while clearly inspired by Tron, felt very narrow; full of ‘corridors’ and a strange coming together of Halo 1’s opening level and the Wii’s Conduit (not a good thing that).

Overall this could be a great antidote to the serious nature of MW3 and BF3. Other games have tried to give players a lighter, more humorous shooter in recent times such as Bulletstorm and Duke Nukem Forever, but many have failed as they got too bogged down in narrative or were not ‘pure enough’ in terms of simple shooting and running action. Our playthrough was limited and as with all AAA titles, we are still to find out if the game can keep our interest for a number of hours.

If the level design can be kept varied, and if a range of gameplay modes such as destroy and fetch missions along with survival (with respawning enemy sections against the clock) and possibly more can be implemented, then Bodycount could be a high quality, over the top diversion from the serious nature of the other 2011 shooters. A game like this really needs interesting locations and maps, along with enemies with a good AI. Even though the build we experienced was not up to date, the enemy AI already seemed ferocious and adaptive, which bodes well.

Bodycount could be a very addictive, play for 30 minutes and get a high score shooter. It’s out in a few months and with any luck we will do a full review to see if the final package hangs together and delivers on its promise to entertain with explosions and adrenaline.

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Written by Steven G

Steven Gurevitz is the CEO of 2002 Studios Media LTD and a founder of gaming accessory company Asiiya. 2002 Studios started off as a music production company, but produces a range of content from videos to videogames. The company specialises in localizing content for global brands. He also owns the Urban Sound Label, a small niche e-label. He is a freelance music tech writer, having co-written the Music Technology Workbook and is a regular contributor and co-owner CriticalGamer.co.uk. He enjoys FPS, Third person 'free world', narrative driven and portable gaming. He is a freelance music tech writer, having co-written the Music Technology Workbook and is a regular contributor to CriticalGamer.co.uk.

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