The clue is in the title. Far from some earnest, grittily authentic military simulation, Bodycount is a straight-up gun-fest; a caffeine-charged bullet ballet packing the latest in destructible environment technology. “It’s a very focused, very pure shooting experience,” says outspoken Creative Director, Stuart Black, of Codemasters’ new Guildford studio. “It’s all about what happens when you pull that trigger. A highly stylised orgy of shooting…”
Stuart was the designer on Black – Criterion’s style-obsessed PS2 shooter – and while Bodycount shares spiritual ties, it’s not Black 2. It’s a different scenario, and an evolved take on gunplay. Codemasters has hired senior people from the Splinter Cell, Pure and Brothers in Arms teams – creating a diverse pool of influences.
Billed as a glossy techno thriller, Bodycount follows a slick young operative carrying out missions for an agency known as The Network. “These are overt assassinations in global conflict zones,” says Black. “You’re not the kind of guy who’s going into Dallas to take out JFK and sneak away. You’re the guy who’ll go to Lagos and create a corridor of death 50m wide toward your target. It’s secretive because there’s no-one left to talk about it…”
Your enemy is The Target, another super-rich organisation with global interests. “These guys are really vicious,” explains art director Max Cant. “They’re psychotically focused on their world vision, which is diametrically opposed to The Network’s. Their hardware is aggressive, angular and predatory. They’re going to be coming after you and they’re going to enjoy it. They savour the kill.”
Of course, when two global corporations clash it can only mean one thing: destruction. Bodycount features an advanced damage engine that lets you shatter almost everything. We got to play an early, grin-inducing, test build. Fire at a wall and chunks of plaster and brick erupt off it. Keep firing and you’ll wear through to the support beams. With thinner internal walls, you can blast a large hole and then run through it, adding a layer of tactical depth. We love Bad Company 2’s devastation, but it’s sign-posted – in Bodycount, if the world is a canvas, the gun is your paintbrush.
Hands-on, it’s fraught and solid. Even the agile Heckler and Koch G36C assault rifle has a real solidity and ballast to it, with thunking sound effects – feeling more like Killzone 2 or Gears Of War, than Modern Warfare’s lighter arsenal. Indeed, the proximity and visceral combat – tied to the use of health packs and energy meters, instead of COD’s gradual recovery mechanism – lends an almost Quake feel. Sniper rifles play a part when the environment opens up, but this still isn’t a camper’s paradise.