Dirty Bomb

Group mentality trumps all in Dirty Bomb.

By Daavpuke, Posted 01 Jun 2015

Free-to-play shooters are a dime a dozen by now, though not all can count on the pedigree of Dirty Bomb. Both marks of developer Splash Damage and publisher Nexon permeate through a tight and expansive, team-based effort. There’s also plenty of variation in design elements, which should fend off the heightened premium part of the game that’s currently laid out.

Dirty Bomb draws inspiration from Team Fortress 2, both in its fluffier presentation as in its design.  Heavily accentuated characters jump about in huge, multi-regional maps that go from linear undergrounds to maze-filled urban networks. Fighters and an announcer incessantly mouth off, as the surrounding chaos fills the screen with explosions and gunfire. Right off the bat, this cheery battlefield looks like it will be a hectic one.

Dirty Bomb,Preview,PC,Free-to-Play

There won’t be a lot of time to snipe in crow’s nests, though they are available as well. Dirty Bomb is all about forward momentum and any sitting ducks open themselves up to some heavy artillery shells. Level design deserves a big pat on the back to help counteract sniping fatigue so present in lesser shooters. It’s rare to see so many open routes, high and low, in such sprawling locations. As a plus, even choke points can be circumvented through some pinpointed attacks. Nothing is impossible with the right tactics.

Each class of soldier has two mercenaries; gunners, explosives, medics and so on. Each has special attacks, aside from their firearms. These specific actions can be healing supplies or an enormous airstrike that canvasses the map, for instance. After use, these specials will need to cool down, before becoming accessible again. Additionally, each death brings the killed unit in a pool for the next wave of reinforcements in their respective team. As such, time management also plays a large role in the chaotic gunfire. Know when to strike.

To respond accurately to match needs, it’s possible to switch between three mercenaries, chosen before the round. These units come in cards of several tiers that can have special traits, such as quicker reload. More importantly, changing a class midway allows for the needed roles on a team to be filled quickly through clever adjustments. For instance, it’s easier to quell a mob at the objective by launching an airstrike, though having a medic with instant revives can be handy to keep teammates close as well.

Dirty Bomb,Preview,PC,Free-to-Play
Prototype map is the best!

Dirty Bomb has a ton of finesse at any given time that make a victory solely reliant on good team efforts. Lone gunners won’t ever be able to make it through; there’s just too much death floating around to go it alone. Anyone running off alone will often be seen getting taken out nearly instantly. Especially since multiple objectives have to be reached to win a match, a team will need coordination to provide infiltration support, hold back the other team and so on. Failing to do so will just put another body in next wave limbo. It might sound like a reliance on team tactics is a downside, like in many arena games, but the effortless switching of roles actually makes that group effort one of the shooter’s biggest assets. It helps that each character serves a distinct purpose. Man, those medics; whenever they are just behind the frontline, their healing abilities make it hard for others to pierce through.

Adding more spice to the play, round objectives can vary from escorts to bombings to pickups and modes also toy with dynamics for speed or agility. In one mode, a character that goes down doesn’t come back in the next wave. This makes a tight team even more effective and forces participants to be careful with their assault. Running and gunning is the bread and butter of the game’s pace, but with no second chances, some restraint suddenly feels like a massive adjustment.

For another feather in its cap, Splash Damage has shown that it has good intentions for Dirty Bomb, wanting to build it from the ground up with its users in mind. Levels are thrown out for testing in their most prototype state, not even textured, purely prioritized on being playable. It’s hard to think of any other shooter that does the same. Again, on all fronts, this is one intelligently made game. One character can posthumously drop a grenade to kill cocky foes closing in. Who else has something that satisfying?

Sadly, the influence of free-to-play peddler Nexon creeps in prominently as well, since they’re providing the budget for this elaborate display. Currency is required to unlock half a dozen mercenaries and their toll is set to enormously high levels. Alternatively, it’s possible to buy each character separately for either €6 or €10 a pop. Essentially, without the slow grind, Dirty Bomb would be a full-priced release. In total, we counted €84 worth of unlocks. That’s without the store offering case purchases and booster packs that can go over €30.

Alternatively, currency trickles in as slow as possible. Making matters worse, the three missions that normally would net the most coins when completed would have a tendency to not refresh often. So, if one mission is missing, a game becomes much less desirable. If two goals are gone, it’d be foolish to continue. Without missions, Dirty Bomb simply is a waste of time. A match yields maybe a few hundred credits and tens of thousands are needed for a unit. That one class in free rotation would take a lifetime to acquire. In total, it took over 16 hours to unlock just one mercenary and that over a period of weeks, since objectives kept vanishing, though a new system has just now been put into place that may or may not remedy some of it. Still, those man-hours are with a sizable beginner’s head start in mind, so it’s more than likely that additional mercenaries would take even longer to get. It would take hundreds of hours over months and months to get the full roster, without cards, in Dirty Bomb. This pricing point is set to preposterous standards. It needs to be loosened significantly; there are no two ways about it.

Dirty Bomb,Preview,PC,Free-to-Play

Luckily, Dirty Bomb is an amazing team-based shooter with tons of versatility to make its free-to-play nonsense seem less icky. Giant, diverse levels and entertaining characters make the frantic pace in the game a joy. Now, if only the hindering wall of premium content would lower its barrier a little, it would be one hell of a ride, perhaps even competent to eSports grade. The team dynamics are that solid.

Daav Valentaten, NoobFeed (@Daavpuke)


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General Information

Platform(s): Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Publisher(s): Valve Software
Developer(s): Valve Software
Genres: First-Person Shooter
Themes: Action
Release Date: 2012-08-21

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