It turns out the test level we saw at E3
was just that -- a test -- and this time, Codemasters gave a hands-off tour of an actual level, in pre-alpha, "about two-thirds of the way into Act 1." It took place in an African mining site that displayed the visceral gunplay the game is designed for and hinted at a deeper threat beneath the surface of the mine.Bodycount
has retained a few distinct gameplay elements since last we saw. First, the front-and-center gunplay that Black was so excited about at E3 is still present and embodied in the game's weapon choices. "We're not going for 30 different weapons in this game," Wilson explained. "We're going for about twelve, and we're going to polish the hell out of every single one of them."
Firefights in Bodycount
aren't necessarily strategic or tactical -- they're raw and loud, with plenty of explosions and blown-up bad guys. The world disintegrates as you fire away, but you can use this destructibility to your advantage. If you need to see through a wall to hit an enemy, for example, you can shoot it a few times and then aim through the holes.
Of course, this kind of gameplay can be hindered by some traditional shooter weapons, like the sniper rifle. "We toyed with that," Wilson said, "and we decided against [including] it, because it sort of ruins things a bit. We don't want it to be the kind of game where everybody's hanging back the whole time and taking potshots from a distance." Bodycount
will still feature some weapons that can be fired from a distance, including a rocket launcher and railgun, but the game will definitely encourage more close-quarters combat. "We want you to get involved, and the key to getting involved is having lots of short and mid-range weapons in the selection," Wilson emphasized.
Your guiding voice, "The Handler," is still in the game as well, though in the short gameplay demo I saw, she was a little less satirical and sardonic, sincerely cheering on the player. Reflecting on the E3 demo, Wilson felt the Handler's tone wasn't spot on yet. "I'm not sure we hit quite the right balance with it. It was possibly a little over the top for that demo. Her character and her personality are going to change throughout the game."
The front-and-center gunplay that Black was so excited about at E3 is still present.
The overall tone, too, has been affected by Codemasters decision to remove the protagonist's voice in an attempt to allow players to more easily embody the in-game character holding the guns. "We want you to play as you," Wilson said. "And if you've got this disembodied voice talking back [to the Handler] the whole time, it's quite jarring." Removing the character's voice, including his internal dialogue, is also an attempt to allow players to experience and interact with the gameworld at their own pace, as they travel from Africa to the Far East and all the way to a "battleship graveyard."
The mystery element involves what Codemasters has dubbed "The Target," the game's "big bad
," according to Wilson, a shadowy group that opposes "The Network" that the player works for. The Target is a group of mysterious beings sporting Cylon
-esque armor, and at the close of the African mine mission, you enter one of its giant underground fortresses. "Target" is the just the codename the group has been assigned by the Handler's Network, Wilson added.
"We don't really know what they call themselves," he teased, "and we also don't know how old they are and what they've been up to."
That will be for the player to discover -- and probably to blow up. While I didn't get to see any of the Target environments demonstrated, the concept art for those areas looks sleek and quite fragile -- perfect for disintegrating with a shotgun barrage. "They're so arrogant that they could never possibly expect anyone to get in," Wilson joked, while showing off the art. "So you can shred this to buggery."Bodycount
is going to need the development time afforded by the recent delay. The gameplay I saw was most certainly at a pre-alpha stage, inherent in the framerate lag and AI glitching. As some of Black's lofty ideas still remain, Codemasters is faced with the challenge of not watering them down as the developers balance practicality with innovation. What is apparent is an enticing narrative and some gameplay concepts -- namely free-flowing ammo and intel orbs -- that propel the player into a notably in-your-face experience. By next summer, Bodycount
could turn out to be something special.