Bodycount Hands-on Preview – Let the bodies hit the flooooooooor

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Later this year, Battlefield 3 and its counter-part in Modern Warfare 3 will largely fill our quota of serious combat shooters. We’ve seen a fair resurgence in more arcadey shooters well, with the fairly successful Bulletstorm, a new Serious Sam and PC exclusive Hard Reset coming later this year.

None of them though, bring the weapon priority, that awesome heavy-hitting feeling of firing a gun from last generation’s fantastic “Black” that graced the Ps2 and Xbox in 2006.

Guildford Studios, the team behind that game are bringing Bodycount, a spiritual successor to that game to the PC, Xbox 360, and PS3. Sporting stylized visuals, and a pretty unique first-person cover system, will Bodycount carve out its own identity in a world of shooters?

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I got some hands on time with 3 of the game’s levels – so though I can tell you very little of the game’s narrative, I do believe I’ve at least got a handle on the game’s main Bodycount mode. As far as story does go, it seems to be both ridiculous and generic. You’re a generic ex-special forces agent recruited in to some generic earth-saving force called “The Network,” fighting some generic enemies in the form of a rather generic militia, financed by some generic global organization called “The Target.”

The first mission I had access to, mission 2, is set in a shanty-town in an unnamed bit of West Africa in a near-future setting that, visually at least, was reminiscent of Borderlands’ cobbled buildings bridges and causeways , with Brink’s visual style. You’re dropped in Africa to take down some large burly military leader and acquire intel. The second missions, actually mission 4 and set in a mysterious bunker, has a futuristic look and feel, while the last, mission 11 is set in a rainy Chinese fishing village.

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Bodycount has a distinct arcade sensibility – so instead of smart AI, you’ll generally face hordes of enemies whose sole purpose is to put bullets in you. You, as a single-man army, need to stop that from happening, by introducing their faces to hot lead first.

 

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Thankfully, you’ve got a few neat tricks to help you do that. The first is the game’s rather unique take on a cover system – one that actually requires a reworking of FPS’s standard controls, and takes more than just a little getting used to. Instead of looking down iron-sights when you squeeze on the left-trigger, you’ll find yourself locked in to place, with your thumbs-stick ducking you down and up, in to an out of cover, able to weave out left and right as well. It works well and doesn’t feel at all like a gimmick – but requires erasing years of muscle memory and instinct honed from playing other FPS’.

Killing enemies leaves glowing orbs that not only demonstrate its arcade spirit, but also give you ammo, grenades, mines and intel. Intel works as a sort of energy source that gives you access to the game’s four d-pad activated boosts; an adrenaline spike that grants temporary invulnerability and increased speed; explosive charges for your bullets; a lame-duck unimpressive airstrike; and a radial ping that highlights enemy positions. Unfortunately their energy doesn’t last very long at all – so it’s often you’ll find yourself no longer invulnerable, getting plugged full of enemy fire.

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Taking a page from Bulletstorm’s book, there’s a host of skillshots that give you increased intel energy; stuff like headshots, shots from behind, chain kills etc, all of which you’re graded for at level’s end. Unlike Bulletstorm, the game doesn’t provide you a list of what they are leaving it up to guesswork.

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The guns though, feel absolutely great, with each weapon having a noticeably different kick, with different ranges and fire rates. The vast armoury isn’t just for ripping through human flesh – as one of the game’s biggest bullet-points is its destructible environments – which are pretty damned destructible. Shredding through your enemy’s cover just adds to the powerful feeling of the weapons, adding a slightly tactical layer to the arcade shooter. It’s been a long time since games like Black and Red Faction though, so destructible environments aren’t quite as revolutionary as they seemed back then.

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As fun as blowing stuff to bits can be, I’m a gamer that needs a good, driven narrative to keep me playing – and if the story’s missing the game needs to make up for it with some seriously good gameplay. It seems, from the preview at least, that Bodycount really offers neither, but I’ve barely scratched the surface. The game will ship with a wealth of single and multiplayer modes I’m not privy to. What I have played though will certainly appeal to fans of incredibly fast, twitchy arcade shooters.

Will the game be able to hold up to other established shooters vying for release? We’ll have to see when it releases early next month.

Last Updated: August 8, 2011

Geoffrey Tim

Editor. I’m old, grumpy and more than just a little cynical. One day, I found myself in possession of a NES, and a copy of Super Mario Bros 3. It was that game that made me realise that games were more than just toys to idly while away time – they were capable of being masterpieces. I’m here now, looking for more of those masterpieces.

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