Bodycount is Codemaster’s latest attempt at establishing a foothold in the already overcrowded shooter genre. It’s the spiritual successor to the enjoyable albeit flawed Black, which came out all the way back in 2006. Black was named after Stuart Black, the game’s creator, who also served as Bodycount’s creative director. The guy jumped ship many months before Bodycount’s release. He must have seen this mess coming…
Bodycount’s gameplay can be decribed in a few short words: you pick up a gun, point it at bad guys or explosive barrels and fire away. That’s about it. If you were expecting depth, you clearly picked the wrong game. At the start of the game, you, a loyal mercenary goon of The Network, are called upon to stop an ongoing war in Africa, which was apparently caused by some corrupt corporation called The Target (they should’ve called them The Bad Guys if you ask me).
The six-hour campaign takes you through to a lot of colourful environments, like shanty towns, harbours, Chinese temples, neon-lit street and high-tech factories, that can all be shot to pieces. In theory. While most walls and houses can indeed be blown away, not everything can be destroyed. The distinction between what’s destructible and what’s not is very arbitrary, to say the least. And while Bodycount encourages you to wreak havoc on the environments by placing explosive barrels virtually everywhere (often with half a dozen dimwitted mercenaries conveniently standing in the vicinity), you can’t help but feel underwhelmed by the action. About one hour in the game, you’ll already feel like you’ve seen everything there is to see in the game. Sadly enough, that’s also the truth.
The guns feel sluggish and heavy, which clashes with the game’s fast-paced, shoot-first-think-later setup. Bodycount would have been better off with the kind of quick and responsive controls Call of Duty is famous for. Speaking of guns, there are only about ten of them, nearly all your garden variety pistols, SMGs or assault rifles. For a game (and a developing team) that prides itself on its guns, that’s a very poor showing. To make matters worse, the plain vanilla enemies fail to challenge you until the last few levels, when the game’s difficulty suddenly spikes. They never take cover and sometimes just stand there cluelessly, as if they’re waiting to get shot. There also seems to be something wrong with the scoring system. Curiously enough, the best way to achieve a high score is by playing carefully, ducking behind cover and taking potshots at the opposition’s heads or chucking grenades, thus keeping your multiplier up. This slower style of play also seems diametrically opposed to all the wanton destruction you can (and want to) cause.
After every gunfight, the ground will be littered with all kinds of flashy ammunition icons that fill your intel meter. Once filled, this gives you the option to activate special powers, such as temporary invincibility, explosive bullets or an airstrike. All of them sound much more impressive than they actually are.
Perhaps the final nail in Bodycount’s coffin, is the game’s lacks of a decent multiplayer. You can only chose between deathmatch and team deathmatch with up to 12 players, which would have been a little light in the Quake 3: Arena era, let alone over a decade later. And with only a few people actually bothering to play the game online (can you blame them?), you shouldn’t expect a lot of mileage out of the competitive modes. The lone bright spot is bodycount, a two-player co-op survival mode where you’ll face multiple waves of increasingly difficult enemies. Think CoD Black Ops’ zombie mode or F.E.A.R. 3′s new contraptions mode.
In an overcrowded market, Bodycount does nothing to distinguish itself from the competition. The action is soulless, the narrative non-existent and the controls clunky. Add the primitive multiplayer (save for the enjoyable bodycount mode) and a campaign of only six hours long, and you won’t need me to figure out there are better ways of spending your money. And if you need a recommendation: everything Bodycount can do, Bulletstorm does better.