It’s no secret that the market of FPS games has simply expanded, bursting from its confines to take on a whole newer level as release after release has left fans wondering what happened to their beloved genre. Each new release is now brought to court, tried, and given a sentence. Will it be playable? Or will it fail before it’s even out of the gate? Sadly this market isn’t changing, and the world is already sitting in the juror’s box, waiting for the judge (i.e.gaming news sites) to pass their judgements. Dirty Bomb, the newest free-to-play FPS game from Nexon and Splash Damage, hasn’t come to the court unprepared, however, and they have quite an argument to make for themselves.
Free to Pay, Play to Win
For many gamers out there the words ‘free-to-play’ roughly translates as 'pay-to-win’. But this isn’t always the case, and Dirty Bomb is one of the exceptions to the rule. Building off of a ‘champion’ system similar to that of modern day MOBAs, Dirty Bomb features several mercenaries for players to choose from and play. Not all of these mercenaries are unlocked when you first pick up the game, and you’ll actually need to purchase several of them in order to use them.
This is the point where many may point their fingers at the developers for P2W practices. But, this isn’t the case for Dirty Bomb. Sure you need to purchase the mercenaries, and you can’t buy Boosters (XP, Credits, etc) with in-game currency, but what sets it apart is that you really don’t need to. Splash Damage has released a stable ‘champion’ system, offering up 2 free characters unlocked from the start along with another three for limited trial periods. This gives you a perfect chance to try out the mercenary, see if they fit your style, and then decide whether or not they are worth the 50,000 in-game credits you’ve spent the past five to six hours earning. Credits might take a little bit of time to earn, but overall it isn’t an impossible grind that just leads to you dabbling into your wallet for real, substantial funds.
The gameplay in Dirty Bomb is extremely skill-based and team-oriented. The two objectives available right now, Stopwatch and Objective place one team against another in an attempt to Attack or Defend a series of objectives, ultimately stopping the other team from completing their task.
Objective is simple, the Attackers have three different objectives. Repair the EV, Escort the EV, and Steal the Drug Samples. Each of these objectives takes teamwork, and coordination to pull off, and most times not playing as a team will end up with your team stuck on an objective, and crowded into your spawn as the enemy shreds you to pieces with their bullets. Stopwatch is virtually the same game mode as Objective, however, instead of Repairing and Escorting and EV, players will need to deliver three Datacores to win the game. Then the mode resets, and the other time has to try to beat the first team’s time.
Both game modes, while virtually the same, differ quite drastically depending on the maps you play. Each map has its own flank points, as well as various choke points in the map. Overcoming these, or using these to your advantage is a massive part of winning the match and bringing home the goods for your team.
Play Dirty, Be the Bomb
At this point in time I’ve played over seven hours in the game, and so far I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. The developers provided me with a Merc Starter Pack, which has allowed me to experiment with various loadouts, mercenaries, and weapons. Overall the loadout system, which works off of Loadout Cards, is simple. Each loadout varies, but doesn’t change drastically, and after the lower rarity cards are the only ones that include additional bonuses to your character stats. Each Mercenary is different, but none is greater than the other, unless in the hands of the right players.
Matchmaking is still rough around the edges, most times ending with me placed inside of servers outside of my optimal Ping range. However, this hasn’t negatively impacted my experience with the shooter, and I’ve already seen improvements to this system since I began playing a week ago. There are still several things missing, the game is open beta after all, but ultimately these things do not ruin the experience, and will actually help cement Dirty Bomb’s inclusion in the FPS world upon their release.
You can pick up Dirty Bomb for free on Steam, and it’s definitely worth a few hours of your time if you enjoy objective and skill-based first person shooters.
These impressions are based on a download code provided by the publisher. Dirty Bomb is available in open beta for free via Steam. The game is not yet rated.