Bodycount Hands-On Preview – Ammo Conservation? Screw That!
Written Monday, August 08, 2011 By Dan WebbView author's profile
On the back of the news that Bulletstorm – Epic’s critically acclaimed shooter – failed to impress the bank manager and break even, Codemasters and like-minded new IP shooter creators the world over must be quaking in their boots. Perhaps Bulletstorm’s bravado was too much for the everyday gamer. Perhaps the game’s budget was a little on the generous side. Who knows? What we do know though is that Codemasters has its work cut out with Bodycount if it’s going to resonate with the masses. Its core tenets should though: it’s an arcade shooter where the emphasis is on frantic gun action and environmental destructibility.
Back in 2006 when Stuart Black’s egotistically named Black launched, it was a much different market. Battlefield and DICE weren’t blowing consumers away with their fully destructible levels, and Call of Duty hadn’t soaked up a large contingency of the shooter fans like your neighbour’s towel soaks up your excess spray from his toilet seat when you’ve popped round and had one too many. It was wide open. Emphasis on 'was', just ask Bulletstorm. Bodycount, which is essentially a spiritual successor to Black, not only had (I say “had” because Stuart Black left the team a while back) the makings of the same team from EA Guildford, but they have the same goal that they did from 2006 and beyond, and that’s to create a fun arcade shooter.
It’s quite clear from very early on in our hands-on – this time in the comfort of our own office, not amidst the hustle and bustle of E3 – that the budget of this and Bulletstorm are vastly different. Epic was clearly bundling money into their franchise to create another triple-A behemoth, while you get the feeling that Codemasters had a tiny fraction of what People Can Fly had. Why am I comparing it to Bulletstorm? Simple… they’re arcade shooters where the emphasis is on fun and freedom, not realism and tension.
If there is a game that our recent hands-on with Bodycount reminded us of, it’s Army of Two… but in first-person, without a co-op campaign and with destructible environments. But wait Dan, that’s nothing like it then!? Oh, but the enemies, the AI, the heavies, the relatively low-budget production values and even the levels all scream a second-tier title in all honesty. The visuals don’t come close to what we class as decent in this day and age of games – making it especially tricky to pick out enemies at times – and even the little things like the radar are a confusing state of affairs.
Thankfully though, which is what Codemasters was shooting for – excuse the pun – the game is a great deal of fun. As we ripped though the Asia level on our lonesome – and the other two which Rich experienced at E3 – picking up blue and yellow intel for the game’s RPG-style upgrade system along the way (blue for standard kills, yellow for style kills), you realise that the idea of Bodycount is just to throw so many enemies and pieces of destructible scenery at you, that you never get chance to stop and take a look round. How long this formula will remain successful for is a potential sticking point though.
Bodycount is not about just pointing a gun and mowing down line after line of infantry, it’s just as much about accruing intel to rain down destruction on them – with everything from incendiary ammo to a missile strike – than anything else. So killing foes and collecting their coloured intel drops will fill a meter in the bottom left hand corner of the screen, allowing you to use it when you see fit. Get headshots and other bonuses, and you get more intel (i.e. the game’s currency).
When you use the bonuses is up to you though; if you want to use up the points early on some of the smaller bonuses like the aforementioned incendiary ammo, go right ahead, but if you want to save up for that carpet bomb, carry on and do that instead… something we – like Codemasters did when it demonstrated this level to us initially – opted for, saving it for the big heavy at the end of the first bit of the Asia level. It’s a smart tactic as this large machine gunner can cause some serious damage otherwise, kicking down doors as if he were Rupert Murdoch’s wife and bombarding the thin sheet metal as if he was a pie-throwing madman. The unique thing with Bodycount though is how you approach the level and there is plenty of opportunity to tackle it tactically, stealthily or by just blasting holes through walls to save your legs some walking.
What makes Bodycount stand out from almost every other shooter though – well, aside from Battlefield – is its destructibility, which cautiously sits more on the micro side of things. Want to punch a hole through a wall with a shotgun and then catch enemies off-guard? You’re more than welcome to. Want to shoot a small hole in the wall with a handgun and then peek inside or even better, stick through the barrel of a sniper rifle as if it’s a glory hole in the Blue Oyster gents toilets? You’re free to do so as well. However, in a time where we’re spoilt by bringing down buildings on our aggressors, whether this will quite stack up over time is another point of contention.
I guess the main thing with Bodycount is that the general gameplay is fun for the most part. That, and there certainly seems to be a lot to do, whether it’s the single-player campaign, the co-op challenge missions (basically, horde) or the multiplayer, you should never be short of things to do. It may not have the big budget appeal or production values of Epic’s recent arcade shooter, Bulletstorm, but in short doses, it’s fun, it’s chaotic and there’s never a shortage of ammo… which really pisses me off in games. Who wants tension when you can go nuts with that trigger? Staying power and keeping things fresh is something that Bodycount still has to convince us with though, so check back at the end of the month to see whether it has either or both.
Bodycount is scheduled for an August 30th and September 2nd release in North America and Europe respectively.