A game called "Bodycount" was never going to be the subtlest of affairs. This proves to be the case from the outset as you’re tossed into the midst of an African civil war with little more than a brace of firearms and some garbled instructions from the obligatory sassy female voice in your head. It’s never entirely clear who’s fighting whom, or why, but if in doubt, shoot anyone that moves, head to the next waypoint, and do as you’re told.
We are very firmly in the realms of the arcade-oriented first person shooter, a sub-genre that has been explored, with mixed results, in recent years with the likes of The Club from now-defunct driving specialists Bizarre Creations. As well as the scoring and multiplier system, there’s a further tenuous comparison in that the graphics engine for Bodycount is the same at that used for later iterations of Codemasters’ successful Colin McRae rallying franchise. Recycling is of course to be encouraged, but at times it feels like an infinite number of developers were locked in a windowless room in Guildford with a copy of Colin McRae and told not to come out until they had made a brand new first person shooter.
As such, Bodycount is all bright colours and exterior locations. With the action taking you from Africa to Asia via a sterile indoor setting, it will eventually dawn on you that they are simply reusing the three key environments, which may be stretching the recycling a little far.
The action is as relentless as the title would suggest. You spend the entire campaign with two guns, seemingly endless ammo, some idiosyncratic grenades and occasionally useful proximity mines. Each level features a weapons cache that enables you to change your primary and secondary weapons, with largely interchangeable guns unlocked as you progress. At one point you are given a silenced pistol, which given the relentless pyrotechnics we can only assume was a joke.
Killing enemies releases coloured orbs of ‘intel,’ the collection of which eventually allows you to momentarily use four other skills, namely a health boost, explosive bullets, improved enemy detection, and a barely-used air strike. Controls are clearly console-oriented, but it doesn’t take long to get to grips with it, and there’s even a return of the unfashionable leaning round corners mechanic, which doesn’t get a great deal of use, given the constant onslaught.
Essentially a glorified duck hunt, the enemy AI is at the lower end of bright, and allegedly trained soldiers can be found scrutinising a nearby wall while you stand in full view of them. Some characters seem to have wandered in from another game, and it’s not unusual to stroll up behind a foe and shoot him in the head from point blank range. Indeed you’re actively rewarded for doing so, with so-called skill shots accumulating into an arbitrary score awarded at the end of each level, along with a grade from A to E. It doesn’t really affect your progress, but once unlocked, missions can be replayed in order to improve on your score.
The (familiar) scenery does make a refreshing change from trudging down brown corridors, and at a stretch it could be compared to Far Cry without the ingenuity. There’s also a look of recent flop, Brink, all shantytowns and Mad Max stylings. You scarcely have time to drink it in though as you’re constantly on the move and in fear of your life. In one level there’s even an invincible enemy who makes a beeline for you at all times, just in case you were considering having a breather to think about what you’re doing. Trial and error come into it, as does rote-learning, although simply running as fast as you can towards the waypoint is by no means the worst strategy.
The arcade comparison is a valid one, as there is a definite "one more go" aspect to it, as instead of firing a quid into the slot you’ll find yourself pummelling the restart key through gnashed teeth. You can easily find yourself attempting bottleneck sections ten or more times, with your brain succumbing to the relentless action/reward process.
Although we’d struggle to make a case for Bodycount advancing the first person shooter genre one iota, while it lasts, it could loosely be described as fun. Some bog standard multiplayer modes arguably add longevity, but you can easily plough through the main campaign over a weekend, suggesting it may be a rental candidate rather than something you’d hand over forty notes for.
Codemasters stab at creating a new first person shooter IP is a sledgehammer affair with none of the niceties associated with the current state of the genre.
Largely personality-free, cheap thrills are the order of the day, with your trigger finger tested to the full over a paltry 17 missions. If you're looking for a long, character driven game, then this isn't it. If you're looking for explosions, shooting and a fun weekend with your console, then grab a copy and fill your boots.