First person shooters today have a lot of heavyweight competition. Codemasters’ latest entry, Bodycount, is released during a time when most gamers are waiting anxiously for the release of Gears of War 3. Sometimes, the period of time either before or just after a major title’s release gives birth to sleeper hits that end up becoming beloved classics after the overshadowing of their original release window has passed. Unfortunately, Bodycount is not destined to be one of those titles. While there is nothing screamingly wrong with the game, there also isn’t anything exciting, new or compelling about it either. It’s like the developers read a manual on “how to make a first-person-shooter on a console” and followed it to the letter. Bodycount is perfectly workable, perfectly functional and perfectly dull.
From the outset, Bodycount seems to be a mixture of elements from action titles of the past. A little bit of Halo plus a generous helping of Soldier of Fortune (with some Red Faction thrown in for seasoning) creates a stew pot that ends up serving gamers a meal that is sharp on flavor but low on nutrition. Fancy metaphors aside, you will recognize many of the trappings present in Bodycount without even thinking about it.
Naturally, the key to any FPS being worth its salt is its guns. Bodycount contains only ten usable guns, with only a distinct few being any kind of fun to use and, surprisingly, only two can be carried at any one time. The requisite machine guns and pistols are all present, as is an SMG that is best suited for chewing away the enemies’ cover. Yes, Bodycount’s good points consist of wide open battlefields with destructible environments that players can shoot through, knock over, blow up or otherwise decimate. A bit of fun, to be sure, but not nearly enough to carry a whole title.
Players control the stereotypical mercenary, sent to third-world locales with orders to destroy everyone in sight because, dammit, they deserve it! A disembodied female voice speaks to you through the whole campaign, pointing you toward your objective and sometimes helping you find the way out of a tight situation. She also seems to be keeping the “body count” score on her own, in a strange Kubrickian-Mother-Overlord kind of way. This is really all you need to know to embark on Bodycount’s meager six-hour campaign, which is light on story but very heavy on sheer berserking and blazing weaponry. The enemy AI is even a bit suspect as they tend to stand out in the open almost daring you to get a bead on ‘em. The result? Headshots by the score with very little effort. The game does reward players for executing enemies in various styles, and even several achievements are awarded for doing so. Surprise kills, stealth kills, explosive kills, headshots, destroyed-cover kills and the “I was about to die but killed you instead” add a nice touch to the gameplay.
A downed enemy will spontaneously drop coins, er, “intel orbs” which players then collect in order to amass intel about the current combat scenario. Collecting enough of them also results in equipment enhancements for our hero in the form of speed, durability and advanced weaponry (you can even call in an airstrike). These enhancements, however, aren’t what you would call “motivating” enough to really strive to collect them. Like much of Bodycount’s details, they seem like tacked on afterthoughts, present because someone felt they had to be.
The multiplayer element doesn’t fare much better, with only deathmatch and team deathmatch modes available, limited to twelve players across four maps. While perfectly serviceable, the whole presentation lacks any kind of exciting delivery or detail. If you have played these modes in any other FPS ever made, you have seen all of what Bodycount has to offer. The co-op mode is no better either, as it is just two players online fighting against wave after wave of enemies of advancing difficulty.
Bodycount was a tough game to score. There’s nothing really bad about it, but nothing really exemplary, either. It can almost be viewed as gaming purgatory or FPS 101, an adequate training tool for those who have never played one before in their lives. If the price tag were low enough for a bargain purchase, it would almost be worthy of a recommendation. As a first-tier title priced as such, the best thing that can be said about Bodycount is that none of it is broken, it doesn’t crash and the package was easy to open. If you absolutely must play anything that allows you to shoot things (and at the risk of aggravating those who have launched the current campaign against used game sales) rent it or wait to get it on Ebay for a third of the retail price.