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Dirty Bomb

Platform(s): PC
Genre: Action
Publisher: Nexon America
Developer: Splash Damage
Release Date: 2015

About Tony "OUberLord" Mitera

I've been entrenched in the world of game reviews for almost a decade, and I've been playing them for even longer. I'm primarily a PC gamer, though I own and play pretty much all modern platforms. When I'm not shooting up the place in the online arena, I can be found working in the IT field, which has just as many computers but far less shooting. Usually.


PC Preview - 'Dirty Bomb'

by Tony "OUberLord" Mitera on April 6, 2015 @ 1:45 a.m. PDT

Dirty Bomb is an Unreal Engine 3-powered free-to-play competitive/multiplayer shooter set in 2020 London during the aftermath of a mysterious disaster.

Just about anyone can make a fast-paced first-person shooter, but it takes a lot more work to make it well-rounded enough to keep players coming back for more. The gameplay in Dirty Bomb hearkens back to the gameplay dynamics of titles like Team Fortress 2 in the sense that teamwork is incredibly important and the action comes at a rapid-fire pace. Just as interesting is how the game is holds your attention with its persistent progression mechanics.

The backdrop wasn't exactly drilled home in the preview build we played, but there was enough dressing to set the stage. London has been turned into a postapocalyptic, colorful wasteland by a titular dirty bomb. Among the fallout, two factions duke it out and hire mercenaries to fight for their cause. Let's face it; plot isn't the reason most people are interested in this type of game, so let's get down to brass tacks.

The preview build showcased 8v8 action that's primarily set in the framework of attack and defend, though the actual goals differ from match to match. Each map has a set of three objectives that must be completed by the attacking team. The style of each one can differ wildly; one checkpoint might require the attackers to blow up a cache, while another might require that the attackers bring an object to it. My favorite mirrored the style of TF2's Payload game mode, but instead of escorting a bomb cart, you are escorting an automated vehicle with a mountable machine gun on its roof.

There are no classes in Dirty Bomb. Instead, you play as a set of mercenaries (mercs, in the game's parlance) that each have their own abilities and armament. Between games, you can "equip" three merc cards, which essentially lets you switch between those three within a game when you respawn. Team has too many medic-type mercs? Play as a more assault-oriented one until another change-up is needed. There is some strategy in which three you want to bring into a match, but it mainly boils down to personal preference.

Each merc has a general set of weapons, such as Skyhammer's love of automatic weapons and Aura's more close-quarters style. Each merc has two available skills, which include airstrikes, artillery beacons, healing fields, and shock paddles. When a merc goes down, a teammate can revive him by holding a button and filling a bar, but that puts the would-be savior at risk. Meanwhile, a medic with shock paddles can charge them to revive a teammate. These skills are unlimited but are governed by individual cooldown timers, so you still have to put some thought into how and when you use them. Additionally, some skills are governed by whether you're fighting outdoors, as an airstrike is pretty useless indoors.

The game advertises that running and gunning should be your default tactic, and it's certainly not wrong. While there is also much to be said about aiming down the sights, you usually want to do so at range. Most of the guns can be fired from the hip in close quarters, so the two styles of play are equally viable, but their effectiveness depends on your distance to the target.

Tactics still can factor in heavily either way, as there are often two or more ways to get across the map. Additionally, some maps feature objects that can be interacted with by one of the teams, such as pillboxes with mounted guns or gates to block access ways. The opposing team can blow them up, at which point other team members must rebuild them before they can be used again.

How you gain new mercs feels a lot like somebody took a lot of inspiration from MOBAs, and I'm on board with that. As you play, you gain in-game currency that can be spent to permanently unlock a new merc for your use. Additionally, a set of mercs is temporarily available without having to spend any currency to do so, but I suspect that this set will change regularly. You can also elect to spend real money to unlock a merc to the tune of $5.99 each, and the ones that are currently available can be unlocked via either means.

Additionally, you can get cases of unlocks which, among other things, have alternate cards for your mercs. One of Aura's cards equips her with a shotgun, while another card switches her to an SMG. These cards still follow the theme for the merc; you won't get a card that turns Aura into a sniper, but it lets you tailor that merc to a different gameplay style. Cards also have a rarity rating, so there is seemingly some CCG-style cross-pollination going on, though I didn't experience much of that in the preview.

It's pretty easy to see where Dirty Bomb intends to go. It's a fast-paced shooter that favors teamwork and personal ability, with high skill ceilings for both. It has clearly been inspired by other game genres in many of its mechanics. Its goofy-yet-grounded approach to the apocalypse provides plenty of hooks to make you want to keep playing. We'll keep tabs on this one as its development progresses.

Previewed on: Intel i5 2500k, 8gb RAM, nVidia GTX 660 Ti

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