Bodycount First Look

Stuart Black takes us through the influences of Codemasters' upcoming shooter and we go hands-on with an early build.

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How do you make a first-person shooter "soft?" Add HBO, a bit of J. J. Abrams, a futuristic style, and a dash of Lady Gaga. Confused? You're not alone, but it's that heady amalgam of influences that all combine to create Codemasters' upcoming Bodycount, a first-person shooter from Codies' Guildford Studio. The project is being led by Stuart Black, the creative force behind 2006's notorious FPS for the PlayStation 2, Black (you remember "gun porn," don't you?) As with Black, there is a strong vision behind Bodycount, one that aims to make this game stand out from the always-crowded FPS space through an interesting mix of humor, sci-fi visuals, and raw firepower.

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So, let's talk about "soft" for a minute, which is a term Stuart Black brought up several times while recently giving us a demo of the game. Based on the game's tranquil front end--with calming music and an attractive menu system--which Codemasters games have come to be known for, you'd think this game would be about a magical space butterfly that shoots puffy white hypno bubbles at his friends to give them sweet nappy-time dreams. Far from it. Instead, this game is called "Bodycount," and as a result, the bodies will pile up as you play as a character named Jackson who has recently been recruited by a mysterious organization known as The Network. When Black mentions "soft," he's talking more about an aesthetic approach--one that veers away from the traditional narratives of the FPS genres--you know, badass hero in a badass setting doing badass things. These are tropes that Black calls relics of action movies from the 1980s and 1990s. You'll still be doing badass things in Bodycount but all within a context that Black says is more applicable to the 21st century.

And what of Lady Gaga? Black mentioned the singer/performance artist after seeing her in concert last year and, specifically, cited her retro-future chic approach as an influence for the approach to developing Bodycount's contemporary spin on the FPS.

Part of that contemporary approach, it seems, will be in the narrative. Black said he feels that many games try to cram a two-hour action movie into a 10-hour game, which leaves for a lot of padding in the game. For Bodycount's storyline, the team is aiming to use a style similar to HBO's handling of its long-form narratives--10 episodes of 40 to 60 minutes apiece. Bodycount, then, accounts for the first "season" of the storyline--a chance for the player to get to know Jack and the rest of the characters in the game, do some world building, and, according to Black, end things off with a big cliffhanger twist that will lead directly into the second season: Bodycount 2 (or whatever the next game is called). When you toss in some J.J. Abrams-inspired lunacy--Black mentions Abrams' spy thriller Alias as a guidepost--you have huge mix of influences that have contributed to the Bodycount universe.

Those influences aside, how does the game play? After demonstrating a brief (and evidently unfinished) animated cinematic setting up the conceit of how Jack gets involved with The Network, we were dropped into a shantytown level of sorts. Buildings and cover were everywhere, but all of them were begging to be blown apart, thanks to their flimsy construction and the powerful automatic weapon Jack was holding. While smarter enemy AI units will use cover to their advantage (soldiers will be sure to reload behind cover, for example), cover is a merely a temporary sanctuary in Bodycount.

Bodycount's enemies will come in all shapes, sizes, and classes. The demo we played showed off a couple of different enemy types: the nearly brain-dead militia types who were essentially bullet catchers; the upgraded soldiers who were a bit more gun savvy; and one particularly intimidating unit known as the psycho-tank, which was an eight-foot-tall maniac toting a .50-caliber machine gun. Black promised other unit types, including medics to heal fellow soldiers and scavengers who collect nearby intel, which is the currency of Bodycount. Intel can be spent to buy and upgrade new weapons or do things like call in predator drones, air strikes, or mobile machine guns that Black said will act as weaponized pets. Scavengers, too, will be able to use intel to call in air strikes and the like on you. These different enemy units will often work together in squads, making them tougher to take down than individual enemies.

The game's controls are easy to grasp--you move with the right stick, fire with the right trigger, sprint with the left bumper, and duck with the left trigger. When behind cover, you can move to the side or up and down by pressing the left stick in any direction, which is an easy way to pop in and out of cover. You can also zoom in for more accurate fire by pressing the R3 button. The game uses a firing reticle that collapses if you are crouched, still, and zoomed in; however, if you are moving, the reticle will open up and your fire will be far less accurate. That said, thanks to the dynamic enemy movement and the degrading cover all around you, there are times you'll be able to stay still and fire, as well as times when you'll need to be moving at top speed.

Though Bodycount seems to have a strong focus on single-player narrative--particularly in the relationship between Jack and his remote female "operative," who is constantly speaking in his ear, offering him mission tips, and giving him sly encouragement--there will be a multiplayer component as well. Deathmatch and cooperative play will be included. For co-op missions, you'll be visiting some of the same areas as in the single-player game, but you'll be playing as different (anonymous) characters and visiting these areas either before or after Jack has been through them in the single-player game.

While the vision behind Bodycount seems clear, that vision wasn't always immediately apparent in what we played. Perhaps things will become clearer as we learn more about the game's narrative, the relationship between Jack and the rest of The Network, and meet new characters. What we do know is this: With gun in hand, Bodycount is satisfying despite the normal technical difficulties you'd expect at this early stage in development. That's probably a good sign--get the core experience right first--but we're curious to see if and how the other myriad influences in the game come together. Codemasters seems to be aiming high with this one, and we'll be following its progress throughout the summer and beyond.

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coasterride509

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Black was the game that got me into the FPS genre. This is a definite buy for me, but LADY GAGA WTF?!!?

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belgand42

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Cliffhanger? Please don't. It's always annoying when a TV show does it because I know that the things that I was deeply involved in and keeping track of I'll have forgotten about in three months to a year. It's not getting me to come back to the show to find out how it ends because by the time the resolution comes I've forgotten what I cared about so much in the first place. I'm watching simply because I enjoy it. When you take this same principle and stretch it out to a game's development cycle it's just going to be worse. Not to mention having even less certainty that it will be successful enough to warrant a sequel and gain a resolution. When I reach the end of a game I want to have the current arc resolved. Feel free to leave options and threads open for the future, but at least provide closure for where we're at. Season One (and no other) of Heroes did this well as did God of War I. Terrible examples would include Half-Life II and God of War II.

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oneofthefall

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I like the story and concept, Just looks a bit old style shooting shooter with the aiming, hopefully we can aim down the sight of the gun the lack of zoom would just be a lil frustrating and may stop me buying it, But i suppose its early days and this is an early demo build maybe? To be honest it sounds and looks good and codemasters are great at making shooters as operation flashpoint was awesome imo! Im keeping my eyes on this anyway...

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Alkpaz

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Operation Bodycount was an old FPS game in the mid to late 90s as well, for the PC no less.. Possibly he played these as well? << LINK REMOVED >> Also, a futuristic one: << LINK REMOVED >>

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tomio160

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got potential this one :D

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thestrateger

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it sounds pretty great.

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Gelugon_baat

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"And what of Lady Gaga? Black mentioned the singer/performance artist after seeing her in concert last year and, specifically, cited her retro-future chic approach as an influence for the approach to developing Bodycount's contemporary spin on the FPS." Somehow, I don't find this comforting to know.

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DarkGhost32

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Some of you guys need to pay attention to the article, this is in Pre-Alpha development as hxcShock pointed out and even Black says that this demo is only a visual representation, but on a brighter note, if this game is anything like the Ps2 game Black, then it will blow most of the other FPS's out of the water. Black was ahead of its time graphic wise, especially the amazing work on the weapons, I just hope that this will be as advanced as Black was.

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calvinx6

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looks good

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manga777

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On the demo it seemed like the enemies missed a lot even when he was just standing there

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GeigerdolylWodd

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Black sounds scottish is he a scottish dev? like Dave Jones? It sounds like they are going for an almost openworld gameplay experience.

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rob_dAmAgE

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black is still one of my favorite games. bodycount is going to be my next video game crack- i just know it! side note: Stuart B. is a really great speaker. he seems so much cooler than that cliffy guy that makes the gears games..

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vahnn0

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Sweeeet, I've been waiting so long for a game about shooting featuring tons of guns and different types of enemies to just shoot at. When's it coming out?! ....durrrrrr

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crabapple87

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Looks cool. Is it open world?

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hXcShock

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If only people could read, this is PRE alpha, not even an alpha build, so yes the game doesn't look great, the mechanics and graphics are gonna change a lot between now and release

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Crayzorder

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Might look into this as the date comes closer.

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MEDzZ3RO

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Give it a year and I may change my mind,especially seeing as it's the same people that brought us Black.That's the only reason I think it may become a gooden.

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MEDzZ3RO

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Looks rather rubbish to be honest.Black was great but this looks really bad gameplay-wise,no recoil and "proper" aiming apparently.

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Shadow4020

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I loved Black, so I'm definitely looking forward to this.

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ElektroniqueUK

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Looks cool, but the guns don't seem to have any recoil. Could be really tinny and due to the high health of some of the enemies it could feel like you're guns are shooting BBs.

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wavelength121

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Old-school shooter with high-end graphics, just the way I like it.

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stupid4

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the idea sounds cool, but the gameplay doesn't have me sold

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LeMarfanz

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looks decent

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ihaveaface

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I assume no one caught in the description that the game is unfinished? It'll be another year before this game is released, so chill. Of course it doesn't look that good.

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DanGleeSack

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this might be fun looks like an old school fast paced run and gun the bullet hits and all the distructable sh!t looks cool looks like call of duty combined with crysis combined with serious sam

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cyclonebw

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I love this mode in KZ2!! All I play is bodycount! :D

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e1337prodigy

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Might be quite fun, I give it a chance. Plus I do like most of codemasters games. Looks like a just pick it up and shoot stuff game. My kind of game.

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hughtrue

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Not really attractive

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gtaking40

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Looks like Borderlands meets Crysis.

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samfisherelitec

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it looks like YOU lost control of the situation buddy.. another unrealistic fps HALO knockoff?? no thanks.. I'm getting Cevat Yerli's CrYtek debut CrYsis 2 NY bang boom boom wreak havoc alien molestation for my ps3... go work on improving COD blackops.. will be a glitchfest huh??

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dakan45

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EVERYONE PLEASE READ: First of all i want to thank them for considering the pc version, unlike Black. Second of all the graphics look weak and the crosshair is god awful, it spreads wide to space and beyond. However this guys seems to know what he is talking about. The way he moves his hands when he talks shows that he wants to create an fps that the player feels the shooting and gets immersed. Also i agree with him, dont you get tired when the developers make you to do things only the way they want you to? In crysis for example, it cannot be played as a run and gun fps no matter how much you might want to, you will use the nanosuit. However in this game they completly allow oyu to play wherever you want in every situation withiout having to use something to get past such as maximum strength to jump up. It seems to me this guy understands oldschool fps and the variety of things and making the gunplay to feel imerssive and use plenty of weapons and remind you the day that fps used to be fun without needing other aibilities and gameplay mechanics in order to feel good. They were entairting just because the develeopers had talent in action and level design. Oldschool fps FTW!! Anyone remember those good old days? Half life, doom, goldeneye? Oh and it has lean!!!

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Phantom_--

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Good lord, is he wearing a Lady Gaga shirt?

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Phantom_--

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Remember when FPS were interesting, when they actually took skill? If anyone needs me, I'll be playing TF2 -_-

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lindallison

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They need to make the muzzle-flash bigger. and add more bloom.

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Wam11

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aight? watching this ... only thing im interested in is how much stuff can be epicly destroyed.. other then that i dont see nothing that makes this worth time

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deactivated-594be627b82ba

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seriously they should just call it generic fps number 665415

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albertCmoon

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lame

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doomonger

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Guns, guns, guns... any story?

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TheLostBorieals

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looks like the force unleashed with guns and bullets. :P

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ebun100

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Reminds me of BLACK on ps2

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panetero

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Doesn't look any good, tbh...

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SaldanhaBoss

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It does look like is going to be good fun! But i still think they should do a sequel for Black! I would love to play Black 2!One of the best games for ps2 if not one of the best games of all times!(FPS)

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alexbartle

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h8 the crosshair/ reticule make the guns feel less solid

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fkbwii

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pretty cool

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alemaoBRA

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100% action

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TheoAlmighty

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another spray n pray shooter... where's the recoil?

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km1498

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I'm kinda tired of FPS games but i will give this a try if there's a demo.

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Tanzil_

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let's just hope they're as good at making shooters nowadays as they are at racers!

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QtrArt

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the game it's Good

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Morf_uni

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Come on Codemasters kick some butt n make this a solid FPS title! :)

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