Release Date: August 30, 2011
ESRB Rating: Mature
Bodycount is a first person shooter published by the UK-based outfit Codemasters, and developed internally by their Guildford studio. Bodycount’s approach to the genre is the polar opposite of Codemasters’ other FPS franchise, the ultra-realistic Operation: Flashpoint series. The result is a stripped down shooter that eschews the ideas of tactics, stealth or cover in favor of Rambo style running and gunning. In fact it closely resembles, and has been called the spiritual successor to, another FPS whose roots are based in Guildford, England. A little PS2 and Xbox title called Black.
Now I’m going to tell you right off the bat, Bodycount is not as good as Black, but there are similarities. Both games are awfully short. Bodycount’s single-player campaign clocks in well under the 10 hour mark, and that’s if you take your time. Also like Black, the plot is similarly muddled and not always easy to follow. BC dishes out plot elements during load times to help flesh out the razor-thin story, but otherwise most of the details are delivered via the voice in your ear. A voice that, for the first half of the game anyway, I thought was supposed to be some sort of computer instead of an actual person. Maybe it had something to do with the voice acting, I don’t know. I do know the voice wasn’t super helpful in letting me know what was going on. One minute I’m fighting on the streets of a city in Africa, the next I’m in some sort of military complex that looks like something out of the Matrix. Oh, and it may or may not be run by a beneficiary of war profiteering bent on world domination. Oh, and it’s full of super soldiers in futuristic body armor that are prepared to kill me.
On the positive side, both games share some satisfying gun play. While Bodycount doesn’t quite fetishize its weaponry the way Black did, each game lends their respective arsenal an undeniable feel that is satisfying, yet hard to describe. The guns just fire the way you want them to. Bodies and the wildly destructible objects that litter the maps all react to your fire just the way you’d expect them to as well, whether it’s a slow fall from a silenced pistol shot to the back of the head, or equal parts wall and bad guy being tossed back by a chest-level shotgun blast. Bodycount attempts, with some minor success, to augment all this with a “skill shot” system that encourages headshots, environmental kills (read: explosive barrels), and the like. Bodycount does its best to make you want to shoot things, and for the most part it is successful. Too bad it’s the game’s only real strength.
It’s not just the gratification of turning flesh, wood and stone into Swiss cheese that will make you want to unload your virtual clip either. Half the reason you’ll want to take these baddies out is because they are just too darn stupid to live. I couldn’t tell you the number of times I walked, not ran, but walked up to an enemy and stabbed them in the face before they reacted to my presence. And if they’re not standing still, they’re charging you. Several times I actually encountered enemies so focused on their bloodthirsty charge that, if they didn’t stop two feet away from me before they stopped to look for cover to hide behind, then they actually ran right past me. Still, on occasion, these empty-headed dullards will manage to overwhelm you with their sheer numbers. Depending on your mission progress, this may expose to you the same design flaw in the game’s checkpoint system I came across. A few times I was respawned in a position that forced me to backtrack to trigger an event I had already seen. While not a game-breaking problem, it was frustrating each time I encountered it.
The game does feature an obligatory multiplayer component with a few different game varieties, including the ever present deathmatch. While there aren’t a whole lot of maps, they’re large and littered with destructible cover. The arcade-like running and gunning lends itself well to online play, but ultimately it’s too little, too late as the multiplayer component is unable to carry the title in and of itself. Unfortunately, while Black was able to rise above its abbreviated campaign with solid, action movie style gunfights, Bodycount’s flaws are too numerous. Sure, it’s still fun to shoot the guns, but you almost feel sorry for the computerized opposition when you do.