Most people have played or at least heard of Black. It was a shooter on Xbox and PS2 that really pushed the limits of what the hardware could do back then, and aside from being a little on the bland side, was generally well received. Bodycount was supposed to be a sort of follow-up to that game, as the figureheads from the aforementioned title were originally developing it. Strangely, before the end of the development cycle, Stuart Black and others left the team thus leaving Bodycount where it winds up today: a truly unfinished game that never really seems to execute what it is trying to do.
In one of the most generic settings I have witnessed (and in shooters this is saying a lot), you play the role of an operative of elite nature that is a gun-wielding badass set to take on armies of enemies and entire corporations on your own. The game spans two continents, Africa and Asia, and has you jet setting around various environments while a nameless woman barks orders in your earpiece. Yes, this is all as exciting as it sounds, and to make matters better (worse?) the game throws an unbelievable twist at you that simply switches things around right before you return to an already-played level to do it over again.
Now, I have to at least clarify that the campaign is certainly not what this game is about. It serves mostly as a tool to prepare you for online play, and that is fine. Bodycount is not your typical shooter in most aspects, which is what was supposed to set it apart. Instead, it focuses on skill kills and combos, much like Bulletstorm or, to a lesser extent, The Club. The game tracks special kills such as shooting enemies through cover or knifing them in the back. Perform these kills in succession, and you rack up a combo multiplier. Sadly, this really doesn’t do anything outside of boost your end of level score. The game uploads your stats to an online leaderboard and compares with friends, but that’s it. There is no incentive to perform these kills, outside of the Achievements/Trophies attached to them.
In addition to the campaign, you also have Bodycount mode, which is basically just a level select that keeps a tally on how many enemies you kill and posts to the leaderboard. Online skimps with the bare minimum, offering only deathmatch and team deathmatch and a paltry selection of maps. There is a co-op mode called Siege that plays out like every other Horde mode out there, and that is it. No progression system and no incentive to playing online confirm my suspicions that this game was simply pushed out the door.
The one area the game does feel right is the shooting. If you played Black, you know it was all about firepower and the feeling of your guns actually having weight and power. Bodycount does an excellent job of making the guns feel powerful. When you land a headshot or blow someone off his feet with a shotgun, it is satisfying. The selection of weapons is standard fare, and you unlock them as you progress through the campaign. You also earn some power-ups as you progress through the campaign that give you limited advantages against enemies such as becoming a bullet sponge or explosive rounds and even an air strike. These are powered by collecting intel from fallen enemies, all of the blue exclamation points dropped. These last such a short time that they rarely are a game changer, and to be honest I found myself forgetting I had them, outside of the airstrike, most of the time.
Now, for the bad stuff; while the controls are spot on, the one major issue I had was with the iron sights. Everyone knows holding down the left trigger lets you center and zoom your aim. Well, in Bodycount, it also stops your movement and, instead, lets you lean and adjust up and down in place, making you an easy target. This is jarring to say the least as you constantly are stopping in place in a shooter that is chock full of enemies and frenetically paced. It simply feels wrong. Another glaring issue is the enemy AI. I liked to refer to them as “idiot snipers.” They can see and hit you from a mile away, yet you can run past most enemies as they carelessly stare at walls and ignore you. It really is a mess in terms of their intelligence. It also doesn’t help that enemies blend in with the background and, again, there is no incentive to actually kill them, so running past is perfectly acceptable.
When it comes to visuals, this is one area I really didn’t have an issue. Surely, this is no Battlefield 3 by any stretch of the imagination, but what is here looks fine. I love destructible cover, and combined with the power of the guns, it is satisfying here. Lobbing a grenade into a shanty and watching wood splinter is cool, and breaking down walls to kill enemies behind it adds to the immersion. With that said, if I had one gripe it would be repetition. The game throws the same boring enemies and levels at you far too often for such a short game. There are exceptions, such as the boss fights and that out of place twist, but for the most part, the game does get redundant in its visuals. Sound is impressive, if not a bit conventional, but the explosions were rocking my Dolby Digital headphones, and I certainly love that.
Bodycount is a combination of good ideas and poor implementation. It is no secret that the game feels unfinished on almost every count. I even ran into a glitch that cause my game to display a black screen until I exited out of the game and installed it to my hard drive on the Xbox 360. There are so many things wrong here it is hard to recommend it to even the hardcore shooter fans. I had high hopes for this title, but in the end there really is no reason to pick up Bodycount until it drops significantly in price. The campaign can be fun at times, but the online is bound to be a ghost town less than two weeks after launch.
Review copy provided by publisher. Primary play on Xbox 360.