Bodycount review: Mindless manslaughter

In some ways, I admire Bodycount -- it's a game that says, "OK, shoot guys. That's really all we want you to do. Shoot them with your gun, move on, and then shoot more dudes, because shooting dudes is fun." And you know what? It's right. In Bodycount, mowing people down is satisfying, thanks to your obscene amount of power and the sheer volume of dudes being tossed your way.

However, nowadays, when other entries in the shooting-dudes genre offer us so much more than that, Bodycount wears pretty thin, pretty quickly.%Gallery-126207%

There are only a handful of maps (one of which is recycled throughout every chapter) and a limited number of guns to play with, which made it very difficult for Bodycount to keep my attention. Especially when the enemies volunteered their lives with so little effort -- the manner in which they run out into the open with intent to die could safely be classified as "suicidal."

That's really the biggest complaint I have about Bodycount: The AI is almost non-existent. Enemies present something of a challenge when they assault you en masse, but they never employ tactics or try to flank you or really do much of anything other than run up to a designated spot, then proceed to open fire. It's like they all graduated from Bumrush Academy with a major in Running Directly into Bullets.

OK, not every enemy is on a suicide run, but the majority certainly are. There's also an intriguing genus of enemies who kinda just stare at you -- I actually just walked (not ran) through a couple missions just to see if I could. (I totally could.)

That's doubly upsetting, considering the gunplay is solid in Bodycount. The weapons feel good: shotguns send enemies reeling with massive force, and machine guns shred wood and stone, easily stripping down cover and dispatching the (few) enemies who may be taking refuge.

The other big flaw in Bodycount is the mission design. The single-player campaign enlists you in the ranks of The Network, the good guys, trying to take down The Target, the bad guys. But it mostly revolves around you running between Point A and Point B a million times. "Oh, you just disabled a security terminal at Point B? Cool, that unlocks a door back at Point A. Fight your way through a bunch of guys again." As you can imagine, that routine got on my nerves pretty quickly.

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And it doesn't help that the maps are gargantuan, yet only have one explicit path for progressing from one area to the next. Their overall design gives the impression that you can go anywhere, but they're just a series of bottleneck points that connect smaller areas together. If you have to get to the next waypoint, there's only one way to get there. You can't go through any building or blow up a wall to move forward; you have to walk up a specific set of stairs, then across a specific ramp, only so that you can make it on top of this pipe bridge between two buildings. It's not pretty.

On the multiplayer side, there's the usual assortment of modes: Deathmatch, team deathmatch and a co-op variant in which two players try to survive 20 progressively difficult waves of enemies. These modes don't really offer any surprises, but since the straightforward level design isn't a problem online, and the guns still feel great, the multiplayer is almost serviceable.

In the end, the poor design choices and lack of any compelling moments really keep Bodycount from achieving its full potential. There are, like, two cutscenes in the game -- the main vehicle for story delivery is loading screen text and a lady telling you to find data cores. With a few more compelling strengths, these kinds of missteps could have been overlooked. Instead, Bodycount tries to drown out its many, many shortcomings with the din of a few big, loud guns.

This review is based on the Xbox 360 retail version of Bodycount provided by Codemasters.