Just when you start to think maybe the OSB (and, indeed, Bodycount itself) is turning out to be a bit guff after all its promise, you hit multiplayer mode. And suddenly, it makes a metric tonne of sense. For instance, each time you die, you are given a small amount of intel again when you spawn. Tap left on the OSB and you can immediately see the location of enemies around you (those higher or lower denoted with a small arrow in the appropriate direction).
It means kill streaks are not kept up not because you found body armor or an overpowered energy sword. Instead, they're kept up by using the intel you gather from felled enemies wisely. You shouldn't waste it all on an air strike or explosive rounds. You could use it to find your enemy, then switch to adrenaline and jump over the barrier he's cowering behind to fight him head on.
Above: Multiplayer maps can be vetoed by the majority, just like in CoD. But they're all decent
The destructible environments really come into their own in multiplayer, perhaps due to human behaviour that makes destroying a foe's last vestige of shelter so damn satisfying. Seeing someone turn and run is a wonderful power trip… as is hearing a distant explosion as some hapless individual steps on the landmines you laid several minutes ago. And at last, the 'I shot him a million times and he didn't die' whining can stop. He was using adrenaline, OK? Done.
Above: Standing out in the open like this is a very bad idea. But where can you hide?
While the shouts from the rebels that announced their presence in single-player is off-putting when you know there's no-one else around, the dip in ambient sound while someone speaks over voice chat is particularly slick. In fact, the fluidity of the overall experience is very close to the single-player game. There's perhaps a little more draw-in than during offline play, but it's solid and (pre-release) commendably lag-free. We'll see how the servers hold up when it's out.
Surprisingly for a shooter that's so perfect for party play, there's no offline multiplayer at all – you have to be connected to Xbox Live to get into a match with your mates. However, co-op is at least its own mode and not another retread of the single-player campaign.
This mode sees you facing waves of enemy attack, which plays really well (I went into more depth of this mode here if you want to learn its ins and outs). With the level of destruction and challenge just as strong as the single-player, I can see a lot of people enjoying this, but it's hardly CoD Zombies.
Against the big guns
While I wouldn't say I enjoyed Bodycount as much as the equally short-lived Vanquish, Bodycount has really succeeded in making the process of shooting things fun again. There's so much action, it's impossible not to have fun with this game. Words can't really describe how chaotic and explosive it is, so I've made a short video to illustrate a typical section of gameplay:
There's always a sense of danger and the horror of realising the cover you've taken refuge behind is about as much use as an ice cream wafer against the barrage of shells heading towards you is genuinely exhilarating. And, while those restart points are annoying, as with Tomb Raider, the knowledge that death is going to undo a lot of progress does make you value your virtual life.
I don't think there's anything bad I could say of the gameplay, except perhaps that no cover is ever truly safe, as even solid rock can have a grenade chucked behind it. It is 'samey' if you consider you just shoot bad guys from start to finish, but that's what the game was designed to be. It's a shooting game you can just pick up and enjoy. It does that exceedingly well.
The grenades are fun, the mines are fun...
Above: Try not to giggle like a naughty schoolboy when you place mines everywhere
...the little electronic noise that sounds when you pick up intel is cute and the later weapons are ludicrously satisfying (even if they do take that age to reload). It's challenging, good-looking, technically accomplished and designed with the player's freedom in mind. And little touches like shot sounds changing with more electronic bloops as you near the end of your clip as an audio cue to reload are clever.
So it's not the gameplay that I take exception to at all. In fact, it's the game's sheer enjoyment factor that's saved this from a kicking. I really got into Bodycount because it lets you approach it in so many different ways - and makes you feel clever while you're at it.
But there's no denying, aside from the enjoyable and well-weighted multiplayer, pretty much everything around that core experience of destroying things with big weapons is flaky. Big time flaky. But thankfully, happiness really is a warm gun, even if it is on the 50th respawn before that damn warehouse.
31 Aug, 2011