by Ryan Sandrey
reviewed on PS3
Let The Bodies Hit The Floor
When Black graced our consoles back in 2007, the highly destructive first-person shooter gained critical and popular acclaim. Its movie-like assault on the player's senses was seen as a step forwards for console shooters. With highly destructive environments and a focus on action more than story, it was rather popular to say the least.
Fast-forward 5 years. After problems with Electronic Arts, the backbone of the developers of Black have abdicated to Codemasters' new Guildford studio and produced Bodycount. Promising to be a spiritual successor to Black, has the game succeeded and brought the level of sensory harassment that the original did to the next generation with style and aplomb? Or is Bodycount a dated last-gen shooter in a high definition skin?
Sorry to disappoint, but Bodycount is almost certainly the latter and unfortunately it's not even in a high-definition skin. The graphics, with their low resolution textures and jagged edges, look like a remake of a PS2 game. Considering that it is using the evolution of the EGO engine that powered such great-looking games as Formula 1 2010 and GRID, the game doesn't look good for it. At all. The overall presentation is mixed as well. For the 'bad' graphics, there is still often slow-down when things start getting heated on screen. I can understand this in games that are really pushing the graphical boundaries of consoles, but Bodycount is not doing that. It is therefore inexcusable that a game should experience slowdown as often as Bodycount does this far into the console cycle. The game's audio is decent, with some infectious techno music in certain areas, and the weapons sound quite meaty. All in all, however, the game looks and feels like a launch title with no real polish to speak of.
However, whilst the game feels like a contemporary of its spiritual predecessor, surely the campaign is worth something of note? Not particularly. It's a clichéd story - you are a mercenary for a mysterious entity known as the 'Network', tasked with eliminating 'the Target', who has been infiltrating into power struggles in places such as fictional West African and East Asian countries. However, you then uncover a mysterious undercurrent to everything in bunkers filled with advanced technology. Barring a couple of transparent plot twists, the story is relatively predictable and filled with little annoyance. Whilst you will undoubtedly enjoy shooting your way through thousands of enemies with a variety of different guns and over-the-top explosions, there are certain set-pieces that cause you to be violated quicker than a celebrity's voicemail. These set-pieces are often easy to spot but that doesn't stop them from being cruel and irritating. The campaign is rather short too, totalling about 6 hours, so all in all it feels like a short and mostly enjoyable romp apart from the annoying set-pieces. If you are one for exploration and finding different ways to achieve your goals, Bodycount is not for you, as it is very linear.
Out For The Count
Part two of Bodycount's small collection of modes is Bodycount Mode. This is the mode that appeals to high-score junkies - it's essentially mission select. After you've shot, knifed and fragged your way through the short campaign, you can play the levels again. If you are a glutton for punishment, this will be your mode. If not, I suspect it will not be played very often, much like the third mode - the game's multiplayer. Bodycount's multiplayer mode is practically anorexic - only 3 modes (excluding private matches). You have got Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch and Co-op...and that is your lot. Whilst it might be enjoyable once you find a game, I can guarantee you won't spend too long in the multiplayer, with very few players both playing and possible in games (a maximum of 12) and no longevity in it. Like the rest of Bodycount, it feels threadbare and unfinished.
Bodycount is an awkward game, characterised by its awkward controls and the enemy's awkward AI. The lean mechanic is confusing at first to people coming from other console shooters. It's more something you see in a PC shooter, and in this game it kind of feels like your character does not have a spine as they lean in physically impossible ways. The enemy is also a mixed bag - if you're crouched down, you can often be completely invisible to them from 10 yards, but visible to them from 400 yards. It's bizarre and often unforgiving, as I found out when I had to reload the game multiple times at certain parts where I was just being shot by troops from miles away without so much as a glance of them. It's very frustrating, and led to me stopping the game on several occasions out of a pure loss of temper.
Out Of Body Experience
Bodycount is an enjoyable game, but it's fundamentally flawed. The flaws will put off a lot of people, with the short campaign not amusing as many as it will inevitably frustrate. Add to this the lack of polish in the visual department, a lack of multiplayer modes and awkward controls and AI, and you have got a problem on your hands. Many people have been looking forward to a sequel to Black, and Bodycount isn't the sequel anybody wanted - in name or in essence. It is, instead, the poorer version of Black, just hiding under the guise of an evolution of the game. It is instead a devolution. That's a shame.
Enjoyable for a while, great sound, some enjoyable weapons and explosions
Lack of visual polish, lack of multiplayer modes, awkward controls and awkward AI. Little replay value