Bodycount is Codemasters’ attempt to muscle in on the mainstream FPS market, but it suffers from the same identity crisis that befell Operation Flashpoint: Red River recently. It’s a game with one foot in the past and one in the present, lacking the confidence to deliver either classic old-school thrills or contemporary blockbuster highs. Sent in to tackle an escalating conflict between warring factions, it’s your job to aim big guns at big blokes and hope they hit the ground first. The plot – certainly not the gameplay – gets complicated when The Target, a shadowy group of sci-fi villains, gets in on the action, introducing some jarringly ugly futuristic designs to the mix.
What Bodycount gets right is its lineup of weapons, perhaps unsurprising with Black’s senior designer Stuart Black having a hand in the game’s early development. Shotguns pack a powerful, ear-splitting punch and machine-guns rattle and hum as you unleash bucketloads of bullets at waves of racial stereotypes. Black built a gauntlet of set-pieces around the beating heart of its firearms but Bodycount attempts – unsuccessfully – to weave a more extravagant world and narrative around all the shooting and shouting. Your travels take in Africa, East Asia and the porcelain white innards of The Target’s bases, but the proprietary EGO engine is no Unreal, and the visuals, spine-chillingly, bring to mind Conduit 2, with rough edges and crude textures.
The early missions, set among decaying shanty towns drenched in pastel washes, initially evoke Bulletstorm’s bold cartoon aesthetic but the similarities, sadly, end there. Where People Can Fly married its grand environments to the tone of its over-the-top narrative and slapstick action, Bodycount’s bland plot and banal characterisations fail to mesh with the exuberance of its colour scheme or the high-score nature of its gameplay. Enemies are one-liner-churning chumps, regularly discovered in the middle of a corridor with no idea where they are and, seemingly, who you are. Hit detection can be inconsistent, too, as your shots zip under and over the shambling fools populating each short level of the six-hour campaign.
Anything other than sitting ducks, however, would pose a big problem to your thumbs, because movement around Bodycount’s battlefields is heavy, sluggish and laboured. A temporary adrenaline shot allows you to move faster on your feet, but it’s still not enough to remedy the slow pace (specials such as the adrenaline shot and air-strike require a staggering number of collectible orbs to charge up, too). The game’s aiming mechanic, in which holding the left trigger fixes you in position – allowing you to bob up, down and side to side – is vital for headshots and quick escapes.