Giant Bomb Review64 Comments
by Jeff Gerstmann on
Bodycount has a few solid ideas buried underneath layers and layers of boring gameplay.
It's hard to tell how much of Bodycount was developed as intended and how much of it was cut or simplified out of necessity. It feels stripped down in an almost accidental way, like someone, somewhere had grand plans about how to make a shooter that doesn't feel at all like the popular games of the day, but they were cut short before they got to put in anything to make this game stand out on its own. What's left is a twitchy, mindless experience filled with weak firearms, poor enemy behavior, bland environments, and multiplayer combat that you wouldn't find acceptable in a $15 downloadable shooter.
Codemasters, however, is attempting to sell Bodycount at full price.The game opens without much fanfare, dropping you into the middle of a war between two nondescript factions in West Africa. Both sides will open fire on you when they see you, so it's in your best interest to just shoot everyone on sight. The game gives you a waypoint, and it's up to you to shoot your way over there in order to get another waypoint. Sometimes you'll find things that must be hacked or disarmed at these points of interest, but you're really just walking up to objects, pushing an interact button, and moving on. The one interesting thing about the structure of the game is that most levels are set up as a large, open zone--it's essentially like playing a campaign out on a game's multiplayer maps. This gives you multiple routes to take, which is at least a nice change of pace from the corridor runs found in just about every other shooter on the market.
That doesn't exactly save Bodycount, though. The core structure of the game is setup around combining together skillful kills. There's no timer on stringing these together, so as long as you never kill anyone in a "normal" way, you can extend your streak across an entire level. But the skillshots themselves are mostly basic, including headshots, killing someone with a grenade, environmental kills, shooting someone through cover, stabbing someone in the back with the game's laughably slow melee attacks, shooting someone in the head while you're almost dead, and so on. Headshots, as you might expect, are the easiest ones to rack up, and the game's default auto-aim snaps right to targets. Also, the bullets seem to almost want to hit people in the head. I found myself aiming squarely at a guy's shoulder only to get a headshot after pulling the trigger. Unless someone's right up in your face, it's almost easier to shoot someone in the head than it is to shoot them in the torso. It's kind of silly.
That said, you don't really get much for working up a big combo of skilled kills. At the end of each area, you'll get a score and a letter grade based on your performance. There's also a separate mode that lets you replay campaign levels in order to grind out a higher score. But since none of the skillshots are that exciting, and there isn't much of an in-game benefit to playing that way, the core conceit of the game comes across as almost totally meaningless.
You can carry two weapons at a time, and most of the weapons are fairly standard, with a few pistols, some assault rifles, a shotgun, and so on. The game uses a variant of the standard "left trigger aims, right trigger shoots" mechanic a little bit by causing you to plant your feet completely when you pull the aim trigger all the way in. Once you do this, the left analog stick is used for leaning and ducking, which might be handy if the AI was able to put up a competent fight. Pulling in the trigger partially lets you aim while continuing to move, an act that just feels weird and, given the design of the game it's found in, is a completely superfluous option. The game's power-ups are a little more useful. As you kill enemies, Crackdown-like orbs pop out of them, giving you ammo, grenades, and "intel." You'll never read this intel or get any useful story information out of them, but it fills up a meter that powers your abilities, like one that gives you bullet-stopping armor. The meter drains quickly, so you'll have to act quickly, but it's useful when things get hectic. You can also use that intel to fire some exploding bullets (not that useful), mark targets (ditto), and call in an airstrike that has its uses, but you're almost better off popping your armor and shooting everyone yourself.
It has some interesting ideas that, if placed into a better game, would help set Bodycount apart from the pack. But instead the abilities, quick reloads after deaths, and other little things that the game does right only serve to remind you that the complete package is an utter mess that has no business releasing as a full-priced retail product.