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Black creator talks up Bodycount on PS3, 360

Q&A: Shooter specialist Stuart Black shares details on "glossy techno-thriller" shooter, due out in Q1 2011; says Black 2 "bit the dust" at EA.


In 2008, EA Games president Frank Gibeau admitted Electronic Arts was pondering a sequel to Black, its gun-centric, 2006 shooter for the PlayStation 2 and original Xbox. While nothing concrete has surfaced about the proposed project, one of the game's creators has unveiled an all-new shooter that aims to deliver the same sort of highly destructible environments and realistic gunplay.

Bodycount will let players shoot away cover such as concrete walls.
Bodycount will let players shoot away cover such as concrete walls.

The designer in question is Stuart Black, who is now leading a team at Codemasters' studio in the British city of Guildford. As revealed by a magazine leak yesterday, the game is Bodycount and is in development for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Due out in the first quarter of 2011, it is one of the first new internally developed intellectual properties from the British publisher in years.

"When I joined Codemasters, one of the big appeals for me was how serious Codemasters were about original IP," Black told GameSpot. "But I wasn't particularly interested in making another shooter, right. I wasn't really ready to go dipping my toes into those waters again. But, I'm a great FPS fan myself, right, I love playing FPSs and there was just this itch."

Based on the same proprietary EGO engine as the Dirt racing games and Operation Flashpoint, Bodycount will be a "glossy techno-thriller," according to Black. According to Codemasters, the game will see players as a commando who kills foes known only as "targets" for a shadowy organization called simply "the Network." Though he wouldn't go into explicit detail, Black likened the game's story to that of the television series FlashForward, in which the world's entire population has a two-minute blackout during which they see their lives six months into the future.

"It's not a military game; it's not a future game; it's not a game of the past; it's set now in the present day, but it has a strong technological thread," he told GameSpot. "You start in the present, and you take one step into the future during the course of the game. Then, you make your choice on whether you think that's a good or a bad thing."

Unlike Black, Bodycount will have a variety of multiplayer modes, including co-op. However, the game's campaign will remain single-player. Black explained the decision. saying, "As we got into the story more and we got into our characters more, we suddenly realized that from an emotional point of view and the emotional connection we want the player to have, particularly with that lead character, we can't have another player in there with them. "

However, just because the multiplayer and co-op modes are separated from the main story, doesn't mean that the three aren't interconnected. Said Black, "We also realized that because our single-player campaign is so focused on this character that we actually have an opportunity, with our co-op and our multiplayer modes, to look at more of the backstory of the world that the player's story fits into."

Codemasters Guildford is also trying to fashion realistic guns like the 2006 game Black.
Codemasters Guildford is also trying to fashion realistic guns like the 2006 game Black.

When asked if the multiplayer and co-op modes would be a prequel like the multiplayer modes in BioShock 2, Black said, "It'll be both a prequel and a sequel, right, because we'll be trying to advance before and then after the player was in that part of the world."

He also said that while the multiplayer emphasis will be on Team Deathmatch, the game will have something akin to Gears of War 2's Horde mode. The designer overseeing Bodycount's multiplayer development was in charge of the multiplayer aspect of Burnout Paradise at Criterion Games, where Black also worked.

Right now, Bodycount's maximum number of players is 12; a number limited by the sheer amount of destructible elements in the game's world. Black believes it will even outdo recent destructible-environment shooters like Battlefield: Bad Company 2 in what he called "intimate" levels of destruction.

As for Black 2, the game designer said it had been in development shortly after the original game's release but had been shelved when he left EA. "Not so long ago, people were saying, 'Gee, is there ever going to be a sequel?' I was kind of thinking, 'No, I don't think there is,'" he said. "I don't know what they're doing now. I certainly did some preliminary preproduction work on Black 2, once we finished Black, the first three or four months. I moved on quite quickly after that."

He continued, "A lot of the guys on the team I'm working with here now carried on with that and did a lot of preproduction for about a year or so on Black [2], before that kind of bit the dust. So, I don't really have personal knowledge about how that all played out. But there seemed to be overall a kind of general lack of direction. I'd be surprised if they managed that again."

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