In the realm of Free 2 Play shooters, few games are ever that fantastic. Most are ruined by extreme Pay To Win models, terrible communities, and terrible servers. Games like Crossfire, Combat Arms, and Alliance of Valiant Arms all try so hard to be compelling, entertaining shooters–but end up becoming greed driven credit card fests, full of spoiled twelve year old brats that call you a hacker because you have the AUDACITY to be better at the game than they are. Sorry; bad memories.
Enter Dirty Bomb: A Free 2 Play shooter that actually has fantastic potential, but also suffers from some issues that could hold it back severely if not fixed. Luckily, it’s only in beta, so there’s plenty of time for those issues to be addressed.
Dirty Bomb takes place in a post apocalyptic London in the year 2020. The players take on the roles of several different mercenaries, (which serve as the game’s different “classes”) who are tasked mostly with blowing stuff up with C4. Each merc has different roles, weapons, personalities, and abilities. You can choose three separate mercs to use in each match out of the ten available (at the moment; more seem to be on the way), which you can switch between whenever you die. You’ve got the basic classes, such as ammo guy, medic, and sniper–but there are also some classes that have more interesting uses, such as Proxy, a merc who specializes in things like land mines and other sorts of traps.
The gameplay is sort of a strange mix between Counter Strike, Brink, and Team Fortress 2. It has the emphasis on teamwork and strategy like Counter Strike, the quirkiness and class system of TF2, and the art style and fast paced action of Brink. If this sounds ridiculous, trust me, it kind of is–but somehow, it actually works. Dirty Bomb has offered possibly some of the most fun FPS action I’ve had in a very long time, especially with friends. Teamwork is really emphasized in this game, and it shows. Working with my team led to very satisfying results–more satisfying than my experiences with games like Battlefield, even.
The game only consists of two gamemodes as of yet, and they’re nearly identical. One is Objective: This mode combines several different types of objective based gamemodes from all kinds of shooters. The most prominent is the “Place the bomb on the big flashing objective point and don’t let the enemy defuse it” mode, like Demolition from Counter Strike. Another map includes an escort objective where you must escort a vehicle to its destination before time runs out, like the Payload mode from Team Fortress 2. One team must complete the objectives in time, and the other must stop them. It’s a simple idea. The other mode is called Stopwatch, which is basically the same as Objective, except this time you’re competing to see who can complete the objectives faster. I’ll admit I haven’t played it yet, but it seems like a very cool idea.
Immediately when I started playing the game, I ran into some issues connecting to servers when trying to join friends. It took me about fifteen minutes just to finally get into a match with my friend because I kept getting all sorts of annoying errors: Server is full (it wasn’t), connection timed out, game currently not accepting connections (what does that even mean?), and possibly more I can’t recall. Actual gameplay seems to run very well, and I’ve experienced virtually no lag in game yet, but connecting can be a hassle sometimes.
Dirty Bomb has a weapons case system, much like that of Counter Strike: Global Offensive, where you can unlock cases (you don’t have to pay for keys in this game though, thank Talos) and receive items from them. In Dirty Bomb however, you receive new loadouts of differing rarity for your mercenaries, with perks, new weapons, new outfits, and so on. You unlock cases every so often when you level up.
This is my first major problem with Dirty Bomb. The idea of each class getting several loadouts to unlock rather than individual weapons\abilities seems neat, but in my opinion it severely limits customization, and upsets the balance of the game. Rather than being able to customize each merc to your liking, you have to pick from a set list of options. This also makes the game very unbalanced at times, because rather than getting better weapons progressively, you could just get lucky and find a super rare loadout that absolutely destroys everything–and believe me, I’ve seen it first hand already. I’ve encountered numerous players that killed me in half the time I could even hope to, simply because they had a better loadout. In my opinion, doesn’t that get rid of the entire purpose of ranked play? It stops relying on player skill, and starts relying on who was luckier and got the bigger gun. For a game whose developers want it to be in the competitive scene, this isn’t a good idea. SMGs are probably the worst offenders in this situation.
The weapons themselves, while fun to use, don’t really pack much of a punch. While they look and sound fantastic, my friends and I have agreed that most of them handle like cheap nerf guns. With virtually no weight or recoil to any of them–they just don’t have enough oomf. Not to mention, as compared to some guns you can find in cases, the starters are a complete joke. As I already said, the guns just need some balancing. Half of the guns are too weak, and half of the guns are too powerful. Nine times out of ten, it leads to a very one sided victory for one of the two teams.
While on the topic of weapons: Here’s a personal note from me directly to the developers. Please take this to heart, as I mean the best for you and your game…
For the love of Pete balance the sniper rifle. Please? The sniper class is basically one of the most overpowered things I’ve ever encountered in a multiplayer shooter. I think I’ve been killed by snipers more times than any other class combined. The sniper in Dirty Bomb could be compared to Counter Strike‘s AWP, except worse. At least in CS, you lose pretty much all accuracy if you so much as get breathed on by another player. In Dirty Bomb however, it appears as though the snipers stay 100% accurate no matter how much you’re moving. Not to mention, it seems like it can one-shot kill no matter where you hit someone. I’ve never survived a sniper shot, at least. This just doesn’t do. Add scope sway, a breathing in mechanic, at least make them do less damage–Just do something.
Most matches in Dirty Bomb consist of about 7v7, but honestly I prefer a lot less. I had an absolute blast in 3v3/4v4 games, but when it goes beyond four players per team, the game gets WAY too hectic and crazy. Unfortunately, there don’t appear to be servers specifically for less than 6v6 minimum, and I rarely get in a game with fewer people.
As I said before, there are currently ten mercs in the game. You only start out with three at your disposal, but you can buy the other mercs with in game currency, or cash. The game also cycles out two of the three starting mercs for different ones every once in a while, so you can get a taste of everything. Admirable choice, Splash Damage. I do have to say though, the cash prices for the mercs are a bit pricey. Some cost $6, and some others cost $10. For one single class, that’s a bit expensive, considering I could buy another game for the same price. I wouldn’t mind paying $2 or $3 for a class, but $6 and $10 seem steep. I realize the developers have to make money somehow, yes yes, I know. It’s just a simple observation. Even so, you can still buy these with in game currency, and it doesn’t really take that long to get enough to do so.
The maps in Dirty Bomb are excellent. There’s currently five to choose from, and they’re all very diverse. Examples are abandoned railyard, a once bustling downtown area, or an underground metro station. Most of the maps are fairly easy to navigate, but I did find a few a bit confusing at times, and some of them are very difficult to push through for attacking teams.
I think the developers should also make objectives a tiny bit more clear, rather than telling you to do everything in an opening cinematic. True there are markings on the hud that direct you to objectives, but there are also smaller side objectives that you can fulfill to make things easier for your team, which could get confusing, as they all look similar. While I don’t have any trouble figuring out what to do, it seems as though many players get confused as to what’s going on. Either that or they don’t care–take your pick.
Finally, I must comment on the game’s community, as a F2P game’s community often defines it. Unfortunately, the community so far in Dirty Bomb is less than desirable. Now this is no fault of the developers, and I don’t blame them for this–I just thought I’d talk about it for people interested in the game as a bit of a warning.
Ironically, the opening cinematic you get on your first startup tells players to be team oriented, and not to be d*cks. Exact word they used. They said “Don’t be a d*ck” at least three times. Revive your teammates, support your teammates, stick with your teammates, work towards objectives with your teammates. 75% of Dirty Bomb‘s community completely disregard these words of wisdom, and in fact are exactly that. Big old fat Richards. Medics never revive, Skyhammer (support type class that can drop ammo and call airstrikes) never drops ammo for anyone, etc. etc. You don’t even have to be a bloody medic to revive people in this game, too! It just takes longer with other classes, and yet people still don’t bother. Now I do believe, however, that the time it takes to revive someone as a non-medic class is way too long, and could be shortened by a few seconds and still stay balanced, considering the medic revive is instant.
So to those who are interested in this game, I say this: Play with friends. Dirty Bomb is a total blast with friends, and it could really use a party system to make it easier to do so. Currently, when I play with my friends, we usually end up getting teamswapped after one match, which isn’t fun. Seriously consider adding a party system, Splash Damage.
So far, Dirty Bomb has wonderful, wonderful potential. I love it to death, and I’ve only played it for two days–but it needs some ironing out before it can be released for everyone. There are some MAJOR balancing issues that need to be addressed with the weapons, fellow players can be kind of a pain to play with too (most of the time I ended up stuck with a team that was more focused on doing everything but trying to win), and the guns themselves could use more weight to them, but those are the only real drawbacks. So far my time playing the game has been 90% pure fun, and relatively bugless. The only bug I encountered was a strange issue I had on one specific map. Anytime I’d look towards a certain spot in the enemy base, a huge black box would appear and impede my vision. At first I thought this may have been some kind of distortion perk a certain class can use, but it persisted throughout the match.
If you’re willing to deal with some of the annoyances of the game, I would highly recommend giving Dirty Bomb a try. You can sign up for the closed beta on the Dirty Bomb Site, or you can get instant access by supporting the developers and buying the starter kit for $20 on steam. Splash Damage has made a very good game here, so lets hope they can improve it, and keep it that way.
This preview was written with the use of beta codes provided by Nexon America Inc.