OverviewPlatform: Xbox 360
Is an orgy of explosions enough to distract you from Bodycounts many flaws?
The first-person shooter genre has become arguably the most saturated in all of games over the last few years, forcing developers to become more creative in order to stand out from the crowd. Bodycount from Codemasters touches on the nostalgia for faster, more twitch-based shooters, resulting in a unique but greatly flawed FPS experience.
Bodycount sets out to be an intense “arcade” FPS, based around environmental destruction and a scoring system which includes chaining together “Skillshots” in order to increase your multiplier. This is a similar system to the one seen in Epic Games’ Bulletstorm earlier this year, though it isn’t nearly as creative as the one seen there. In Bodycount your Skillshots are mostly limited to headshots or “Backstabs” which see you shooting enemies from behind. Oddly, stabbing someone in the back doesn’t actually count as a Backstab and shooting someone in the back of the head is called a “Headshot Backstab.” Other Skillshots require environmental kills, such as shooting an enemy through cover or, as this game was designed by Stuart Black of Black fame, shooting exploding red barrels. A little more creativity in the variety of Skillshots would have made for a much more compelling experience.
Your score multiplier in Bodycount doesn’t actually reset to zero until you kill an enemy in an “unskilled” way, such as stabbing them or shooting them in their chest. This means that as long as you take your time and move methodically through each level, it isn’t that difficult to keep a multiplier going from start to finish. It feels very rewarding to play the game this way and reach huge scores, but it definitely isn’t the way that Codies intended the game to be played. Slowly isolating enemies and lining up headshots completely spoils the fast-paced nature of the gameplay, but it is the only way to consistently rack up big scores against your friends. The game is much more fun if you ignore the Skillshot system and embrace the over-the-top action.
Played at a faster pace, Bodycount instantly becomes far more enjoyable as the game’s terrific destruction system comes to life. Before leaving Codemasters part-way through Bodycount’s development, Stuart Black brought the most memorable part of Black’s design into this new game with great results. Walls can be shredded with bullets to create new paths through the levels and the damage is detailed enough that individual bricks are modelled as they fall from the sides of buildings. Glass shatters realistically as well and wooden guard towers explode in a satisfyingly cinematic manner. If you play the game slowly, you’ll miss out on a lot of this action, but you will have to sacrifice big scores if you want to up the pace.
Bodycount’s graphics are a strange combination of highly detailed, realistic gun models and stylised environments featuring bold and bright colours. Downtown cities are a blaze of shining neon against dark buildings and enemy bases look like something from a sci-fi movie, with sharp white rooms populated by objects which are covered in bright primary colours. It certainly makes for a welcome change from the brown and gray FPS games we’ve become used to, but some visual detail has been sacrificed in order to keep the framerate smooth during the destructive battles. Explosions and particle effects lack detail, as do the textures on buildings and other objects.
Despite the fun to be had from blasting your way through the environments, Bodycount has several issues which often get in the way of any enjoyment. The game features a bizarre control scheme for aiming your weapon which goes against the standards of modern FPS games with very little benefit. Instead of holding LT to aim, you must only hold the trigger half-way. Holding it all the way down forces you to stand still and lean left or right using the left stick, instead of moving. This can become very frustrating if you play a lot of FPS games as it takes a long time to get used to and will regularly cause you to be killed if you accidentally press the trigger too heavily and stop dead while running through the middle of a gun fight.
There are other issues as well. Enemies often won’t notice you until you are only a few feet away, but can spot you from miles away if you try to attack from a distance. This is a shame because when you do engage them from a distance they can handle, they are very accurate and aggressive and present a real challenge, even on the normal difficulty level. This frustration is made worse when enemies get up close and personal, as the melee attack is terribly unreliable. You can sometimes count to three after pressing the B button, before the attack actually happens on screen. All of these problems take away from the thrilling destruction and the many good things that Bodycount is capable of and which should be seen in more games, such as the ability to instantly respawn after death without loading and the open environments which encourage exploration and creativity instead of traditional, linear FPS gameplay.
Take Bodycount online and you’ll only find a handful of modes to battle through, none of which are very original. The game’s Co-op mode is actually a wave-based survival game against twenty waves of increasingly difficult enemies, rather than a co-op campaign. The only other multiplayer modes are Deathmatch or Team Deathmatch and there is no persistence or sense of progression when playing online. That said, during the campaign mode you can always see the nearest scores on your friends leaderboard, which encourages you to replay missions and chain together higher multipliers for bragging rights over your friends.
Bodycount clearly has some good ideas behind it and a creative streak which is lacking in many of its FPS peers. However, it fails to execute its core mechanics in a satisfying way and its scoring system forces a style of play which glaringly contradicts its fast-paced “arcade” design. If you’re tired of other modern FPS games then Bodycount might be worth a look once the price comes down, but as a full price game at the beginning of an extremely busy holiday release schedule it is difficult to recommend it.