E3 2011: Bodycount Hands-On Preview – Two Tickets to the Gun Show
Written Tuesday, June 21, 2011 By Richard WalkerView author's profile
Anger. That was our overriding feeling when we first got our hands on Bodycount and jumped headfirst into the 'Out of Africa' stage. Starting off in a confined shed/office where outside the windows there's a small skirmish taking place between a bullet absorbing Psycho Tank enemy and a platoon of soldiers, our first instinct was to blast our way through the window looking out onto the battle and get involved. Big mistake. The lofty, heavyweight Psycho Tank is not to be messed with, as we quickly find out. Turning his attention away from the soldiers trying to fight him off, the tank turns to us, brandishing his chaingun with a sadistic gleam in his eye. Okay, maybe he doesn't have anything going on in or behind his eyes, but whatever the case, he's got it in for us.
Why it took us multiple hair-tearing attempts to figure out not to tackle the Psycho Tank head-on we'll never know, but after this 'eureka' realisation, we find Bodycount is suddenly an enjoyable FPS romp with a line in destructible scenery and beefy weaponry. Armed with a heavy assault rifle, we blast out the rear window and flank the tank, watching him as he decimates the enemy soldiers at a bottleneck passageway at the end of this part of the stage. At this point, we nip around to attract the tank's attention, picking off a few stragglers from the skirmish along the way. Luckily, we manage to route his path towards an explosive barrel, which we shoot to damage him slightly. He stumbles, stunned for a second giving us the opportunity to quickly throw down a triangle of mines in front of us with a single button press, and let rip with a grenade or two. He walks through the mines, laughs at our grenades (probably) and shrugs off our gunfire for a while, walking towards us like The Terminator until the barrage of projectiles and explosions manages to stop him in his tracks, finally bringing him down.
It seems like an odd decision to start a demo in the midst of what is essentially a battle with a sub-boss, but we've probably learnt more about Bodycount in just a few minutes than we will for the rest of the demo. Pressing up on the D-pad administers an adrenaline shot, and we're fighting fit once again, ready to take on the remaining African militia entrenched in and around the mining facility that the level takes place in. Progressing into the heart of the facility, we find a few troops from the alien Target faction have decided to pay a visit, bringing a medic with them to heal the unit. The Target are the main antagonists in Bodycount, making them among the most lethal – save for the Psycho Tank, of course – enemies you'll face. Fortunately, you have a dynamic cover system at your disposal, which enables you to lean out from behind a barrier, take a few potshots and then lean back in. It's an incredibly simple system that asks only that you aim down the sights with the left trigger and push left or right on the analogue stick to lean in the desired direction. It works remarkably well.
Eventually, we find ourselves climbing a crane fighting Target reinforcements as we set a charge and defend it until it blows. The only thing left to do is finish the stage by leaping from the crane just before it goes up, at which point we deploy our skyhook cable and get extracted in style as our ride flies in right on schedule. A cut-scene cuts in and we get to watch the facility erupt into flame as we soar through the air. Mission accomplished! Our demo's not over yet though, as we're given a second mission to play, set aboard one of the Target's hard-edged, neon-drenched sci-fi bases, entitled 'Exit Nexus'. You can guess what this mission involves. Opening with an objective to upload some destructive software onto a control panel at the top of a vertiginous shaft, things quickly go awry as the base is shaken to its foundations, prompting a hasty escape against the clock. Hitting right on the D-pad, we can switch between explosive and shredding ammo types, helping to make short work of the Target as we descend down stairwells dispatching the enemy with deadly force and fatal precision.
Bodycount feels suitably weighty and robust, so it feels like you're controlling a person rather than a floating gun, which also makes it even more tense as we tear down the stairs and strive to make a break for the exit before the Target base is destroyed. Even the Target are running away, but that doesn't stop us from shooting them in the back as they flee, which in retrospect was perhaps a little pointless and excessive, especially as they're all going to hell anyway. Reaching the ground floor, we have to jump a piece of scenery and get to the way out with seconds to go, and as time elapses, we reach the door with nary a second to spare. Phew. The Target have their own version of the Psycho Tank called the Nemesis too, who mercifully doesn't show up aboard the Nexus.
If these missions sound far too short for your liking, then it's worth noting that both actually take place about a third of the way into the action, so all 20 missions promised for the final game will last approximately between 20-25 minutes to complete. Each mission ends with a grade too, encouraging repeated playthroughs to garner an A grade and get a high score worth bragging about on the game's leaderboards. Enemies also drop intel icons and ammo as you kill them too, giving you currency towards your additional abilities like your radar, adrenaline or an airstrike, which was notably absent from the demo. There's a reason for the Bodycount title too, as it's a kill quota that you can accumulate with skilful shots and combos. Your bodycount accumulates exponentially, increasing your scores and rewarding you with more intel and pick ups, as well as the all-important points to reach the higher echelons of the leaderboard.
As well as a replayable single-player campaign, Bodycount will also support 12-players in online Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch modes, as well as a 2-player co-op Horde mode, that tasks you with fighting off the campaign's militia, Target and army factions in their various classes, be it snipers, suicide bombers, medics who revive their allies, scavengers who steal your pick-ups while dropping mines, the aforementioned tanks or commanders who can call in airstrikes against you.
Initially, we weren't too sure about Bodycount, but having played through parts of two of the game's twenty missions across three distinct acts spread across Africa, Asia and an assault upon the Target Stronghold hidden in a huge shipyard, the game exudes the 80s action movie vibe that Codemasters' is angling for. The visuals could use a little bit of additional polish in their current state, but as far as the core FPS mechanics are concerned, with the destructible scenery and other gameplay trimmings, Bodycount is standing in good stead ahead of its impending launch in just a couple of months time.
Bodycount will be blowing a hole straight through a wall in August 2011.