Bodycount Hands-On Preview -- Does Bodycount Mode Make the Grade?By Jake Gaskill - Posted Aug 08, 2011
Despite being on our radars for what seems like a couple years, we really haven’t seen much of Codemaster’s adrenaline fueled, kaboom-fest Bodycount, which is a bit of a shame given its Black-inspired lineage. What’s perhaps even more disappointing is that not that much has changed from the first time we saw it last year to when we played it at E3 back in June. Our latest look, which included two previously unseen levels (and one we’ve seen a couple times now) played in the game’s score-based Bodycount mode, definitely introduced some new flavors to the mix, but it’s still unclear how this old-school shooter inspired recipe will turn out.
If you know anything about Bodycount, then you know the game is all about celebrating the awesome power of guns and explosions. Environmental destruction plays a crucial part in the strategy of the game, as virtually every surface can be torn to pieces, which gives the combat a spontaneity and flow that makes each firefight unique. While the weapons themselves are spectacularly powerful and sound equally as devastating, the controls are still somewhat of a question mark.
The main issue being that you can’t aim down the sights and move at the same time. Instead, when you pull the left trigger, you’re character locks in place but is able to tilt and sway in place, which actually works nicely when in cover, but makes you feel like an idiot when you’re ducking and dodging in the middle of the street while being relentlessly shot at by swarms of enemies. It obviously takes some getting used to, but I can see it being a major point of frustration for a lot of FPS veterans.
Bodycount includes a single-player campaign, co-op, multiplayer, and Bodycount Mode, the latter of which we played this time around. It’s similar to any score-based arcade-inspired mode where you try to rack up points by pulling off specific kills, skill shots, and more. Each kill earns you intel points that can be used to unlock upgrades, but skill kills such as headshots and silent kills earn you special intel points that let you gain access to those upgrades faster. Certain attacks nailed in succession also net you multiplier bonuses (i.e. 4X headshot, 2X grenade, etc.). You are graded at the end of each level (A, B, C, D), and there are also online leaderboards so you can compare your skills with the rest of the world.
The first new mission we saw took place in a futuristic base controlled by Bodycount’s mysterious band of baddies known as the Target. Unlike the standard, oddly shirtless foes you’ll face in the game, the Target members wear thick armor and pointy helmets that make them particularly hard to bring down, especially when traveling in packs. Still, the regular enemies are able to take a rather absurd amount of damage as well, which is made all the more ridiculous by the fact that you can tear buildings apart with the same ammo that apparently has trouble getting through unprotected human flesh. This is especially true when facing off again mid-level mini-bosses who can traipse through minefields and soak up six or seven clips before being killed.
One of the most satisfying parts of this Target base level was the caliber of the environmental destruction on display, particularly the glass physics, an odd thing to praise I know. However, glass splinters and shatters with stunning realism, and blasting wall panels into shards with a wicked shotgun never ceased to amuse. Clearly, one of the game’s primary goals is to make you feel like you have had a significant impact over your surroundings by way of the weapons in your hand. Whether this highly specific goal can be buttressed and expanded upon throughout the course of the game isn’t clear at this point, but a lot of attention has certainly been paid to it, so hopefully it can pull it off.
The last level had us in search of a Target bunker entrance hidden somewhere in a Chinese fishing village. Under cover of night and in the middle of a rain storm, we battled through the storm drenched docks, destroying buildings and neon signage with blast after explosive blast. Unlike the linear confines of the Target base, this map was much more wide open, with numerous pathways winding from one area to the next, leading to some particularly hairy shootouts as members of the Red Circle Gang, the local cannon fodder in control of the village, poured in from all sides and even across the rooftops overhead. Thankfully, there were plenty of explosive barrels and gas canisters to make short work of entire sides of buildings and their inhabitants.
In this level in particular, using our Operative Support Button (OSB) became crucial to our survival. This system lets you trigger timed perks like making you temporarily invulnerable to damage or turning your ammo into explosive rounds. You also have the option of calling in an airstrike or highlighting nearby enemies, both of which can be lifesavers especially in the fishing village with its low visibility and vertical
threats. These perks can be upgraded to a second level over the course of the game.
Bodycount certainly has a distinct style, and there’s no doubt as to what kind of game it’s trying to be, but there’s still something that’s not quite clicking for me. Maybe Codemasters is holding back the most spectacular bits to make them all the more impactful when we see them in the final game, but that would be a risky gamble given that it’s a new shooter IP coming out in a year filled with some of the most anticipated shooters of this generation. We’ll find out if the gamble pays off when Bodycount blasts its way to store shelves August 30.