Bodycount is not unlike a Friday night out in Essex with a date battling low self esteem. It's easy to pick up, looks good (in places), makes some nice noises but six hours later you're glad to find it smashed outside your house in the bin.
Bodycount isn't bad, let's make this clear from the start. Current gen consoles definitely possess two fists full of worse first-person shooters to punch you in the face with.
Bodycount has a few neat tricks up it's sleeve too. A funky blue, circular HUD permeates the bottom left hand corner of your screen. You fill it up by collecting 'intel', little blue icons that gravitate towards you from slain foes, a currency paid, for completing 'skill kills', essentially these are kills achieved via specific criteria; headshots, explosive kills or kills through cover, for example. The more 'skill kills' you complete, the more juice you'll load up into your meter and from an unskilled start, as the first few levels evolve, you'll unlock one of four unique abilities. Each of these positions you more favourably on the battlefield, from increased movement speed and durability, to a full on, baddie swatting, air-strike. As the levels progress further, these abilities will upgrade one level further, for increased latter level potency.
The cover system is not like most FPS options either, left trigger will sticky-tape you to the nearest available surface and from wherever you may be, you can poke your head out in pursuit of further ravenous intel gathering. Don't stay still for too long though as Bodycount's stock in trade is 'tear apart the environment'. Most things you, or your enemies, can hide behind can be blown to the rafters. Whether bricks and mortar, wood or glass, almost everything in Bodycount is fair game, an overt nod indeed to Bodycount's spiritual predecessor, Black. This makes for some frantic run and gun action while keeping you on your toes.
Exactly whose toes is unclear as you play a faceless (and unnamed), non gender specific agent working for a mercenary contractor known as 'The Network'. Your mission: to enter assorted war torn fascias and remove key figures via the medium of shooting them in the face lots.
You emerge in Africa amidst guerilla militia conflict with the local peace keeping forces. There's no one to tell you who is good or bad and that's fine as they are all more than keen to shoot you on sight, best act in kind then. Guided by your equally mysterious female companion, always in the local but never seen, you'll cut a swathe through any and all that stand in your way.
Each level gives you the option to interchange primary and secondary weapons through a weapons cache and more are unlocked as each level unfolds. It's an unusual selection however. Firstly, it's limited to a stomach cramp-inducing ten guns (plus your ever ready blade) and second it's restricted to pretty much two types of weapon, shotgun and assault rifle. Pistols are available too but why (oh why?!) is a mystery. Dropped into china mid-game you start with a silenced pistol and nothing else. Amid noticeably more subtle audio and the cover of night this feels like a welcome change of pace. That is, however, until you whistle your pea-shooter produce at far off foes only for them to return maximum impact explosives at you with interest, it could make you feel a little inferior.
The visuals in the game are nice in two of the three environments you traverse. Africa is lit with a warm sunset glow and China's moody night time backdrop provides something different. Unfortunately, they are punctuated with a progression strangling, drug fuelled bunny hop off a cliff, straight into a world of what I can best describe as, leather-clad techno towers.
An appealing set piece, such as a Chinese train yard will suddenly and inexplicably be torn asunder by random, gargantuan black towers, bursting skyward from the sub-terrain. Upon entering the base of the offending structures, imagine the 'Crystal Maze -Future Zone' bathed in brilliant white light. Now imagine Richard O'Brien gave you a fully automatic weapon to negotiate it with. That, admittedly, sounds pretty good and it could be forgiven until the tower spawn make their bow, all dolled up like the Knights Templar took a day off from their busy Assassins Creed schedule to have a dust up with you at an eighties night in Shoreditch. It devalues any visual credibility maintained previously.
It's an extreme example, but there is no reason to pull you out of these semi-believable environments just so you can navigate what is ostensibly the same level six or seven times before the 'fun' is over. The sense of progression is significantly hampered by building to a climax only to pull the rug from under you again and again.
It's a reoccurring theme. Gun toting, frantic action but only ten guns. Awesome special moves yet two of them barely get used. Some lovely lighting and visuals but only three different backdrops to display them. Futuristic change of pace in gritty settings but no story to make any real sense of it. The flaws grow and grow as you go on. Most levels feel like ticking boxes and going through the motions. There is no story or means to identify with your character, not even if you really wanted to. Online is limited to four modes and finding a match takes some real patience. Oh and lastly, it is about six hours long...six.
Bodycount also has a 'Bodycount mode', where you can replay levels to achieve high scores. If Halo had a 'Halo mode' I would be really annoyed. That aside, it just isn't enough to encourage any kind of real re-playthrough.
Oh and don't forget the boss battles. You'll come up against the 'Queen of the Shoreditch Templar' – Nemesis, twice. The first an entirely forgettable affair and the second a more memorable yet equally uninspiring jaunt aboard a giant rocky prison not unlike a tiered Alcatraz wedding cake. Visually, it's one of Bodycount's genuinely appealing moments but these moments are certainly all too brief.
Refer back to the start of this review, this is not a bad game. The thing is it's not great either. Good in parts, appalling in some, confusing in others and frenetic throughout. In spite of this game's obvious shortcomings, it's hard to fault the basic, rough and ready gameplay principles on which this game is built. It is however, very easy to fault almost everything else.