I was recently given the chance to try out Splash Damage’s upcoming free-to-play multiplayer shooter, Dirty Bomb, just in time for the beta that starts today. Set in the near future, a couple years after a radiological “dirty bomb” is set off in London, the country is evacuated, leaving several mercenaries to take care of unfinished business in the deserted region, and it’s practically classified as a war zone. This is the backdrop to how the players are introduced to special mercenaries from all over the world, giving different styles of play for players of various types. The game plays sort of like a mix of various modern military shooters like Call of Duty or Battlefield, combined with the team-based shenanigans of Team Fortress 2. The content I was given the chance to play will be available in the beta that releases today, giving players access to a fairly large amount of characters, as well as two maps, the Terminal and the Bridge.
There were several characters to choose from, each one having a unique personality and specific traits, usually ones that they were named after. Characters like Rhino, the minigun toting tank, or Aura, the speedy healer that can revive downed players with ease. I only managed to get some playtime with a few of the characters, but just from playing, one could see how this could become a very deep game. On top of the character selection, each character has various loadouts that can be earned and unlocked through playing, giving them different weapons, stats, and even special skills. These loadouts, which come in five tiers, basic, iron, bronze, silver, and gold, could be purchased with credits earned through playing, or even by trading in lower tier loadout cards. It’s also possible to earn a case with a loadout in it just from playing the game and reaching certain milestones. Rarities of the loadout purchased are chosen completely at random, so it’ll take a bit of time of playing to get a good selection of rare and powerful loadouts.
My personal favorite character to play was Bushwhacker, the engineer character that has a sentry turret that can be deployed to defend other team members or various objectives. At first glance, a character might look like they would be lacking compared to another, but there are a lot of hidden gems to each character that might only show itself through playtime. While playing as Bushwhacker, a player can complete most objectives three times faster than the other characters, making him a valuable asset to a team, one that players should probably try to keep under protection. Even though he would seem like a purely defensive character, he’s also no slouch in the offensive department, having a pretty useful assault rifle in his default loadout. It was quite fun being able to quickly complete objectives, as it made me feel like I was making a difference in the battle.
Another character I quite enjoyed playing with was Phoenix, another medic that has a special self-revive ability, hence the name, allowing him to get back up as long as the ability wasn’t on a cooldown timer. It made one-on-one encounters interesting as a player could put me down, only for me to get back up when they thought the deed was done, allowing me to run up and stab them in the back. Smart players were able to prevent this by running up to finish the job, but often times, so much would be going on that a player may easily prioritize other tasks. Besides being able to revive himself, Phoenix has other abilities that he shares with the medics, including a defibrillator that can be used to instantly revive an incapacitated teammate, rather than having to work on getting them up over a long charge time.
Even though I never played as her, the character Nader was a popular choice among the people I played with. As her name would suggest, she is a grenade specialist that was considered to be an all around balanced character for any task. I did manage to play as the sticky bomb user, Fletcher, but even though he was a good comparison to Team Fortress 2’s Demoman, he didn’t quite feel as natural to play as. Probably because he could only have two sticky bombs out at a time, which is a much smaller number than what I’m used to from Team Fortress 2. Regardless, it was with his default loadout so it may be better with a better loadout from him. Playing as Rhino, the minigun was very powerful, though it did leave Rhino a bit vulnerable as well considering his slow movement while firing, and any firefight against more than two enemies could prove to be a fatal mistake. What is interesting in Dirty Bomb is that players are given the choice of having up to three characters in their “squad” to take into a game. This means that they have to choose only three characters they can play as during the whole match, meaning players should find a good balance for the map as well as for the team. This is pretty different to other FPS titles, which typically allow players to change to any class for when they respawn.
Unlike Team Fortress 2, the game looks less stylized, taking a more realistic approach and looking more like Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare in terms of visuals. It does have very cool stylish effects however, as getting killed by a player prompts a red or blue colored silhouette to appear on the field and show a freeze frame of the event that just took place. Surprisingly it wasn’t very distracting to see that, though it was hard to be distracted while fighting against the clock, trying to complete the objective. The game mode, Stopwatch, typically had a side of attackers and defenders, as the attackers would do all they could to reach the objective within the time limit, and the defenders would try to prevent them from reaching it, waiting for the time to go out. It is an interesting game mode considering the score doesn’t really determine the outcome, and in order for one side to win, they have to wait for the time to go out. What makes it more unique is that the objectives are different in each map. The Bridge map required the attackers to repair an extraction vehicle to escort to a medical facility, using the equipped weapon to blow a hole in it to recover drug samples from the research vault. The Terminal map required that attackers destroy a wall with C4 and try to keep the defenders from destroying the bomb, and once the bomb blows, this allows the attackers to go after their real targets, attempting to destroy two containers inside the newly opened area. Even with the primary objective, there are secondary objectives that can make things more difficult for the attackers or even potentially the defenders. Once one side wins, the teams switch sides, and assuming the attackers win within the time limit, the new attackers have to attempt to beat their time to win the overall match. It’s nice to see that even using the same game mode has different opportunities for gameplay in a game like this.
Speaking of the gameplay, it feels pretty smooth for the most part, as players can maneuver around with pretty standard PC FPS controls. It only takes a little time to start sprinting, crouching, and begin finishing off players with a melee attack like a pro. Given the very class-based nature of the game, it would be advised that one would learn to quickly master their character’s special class ability, especially the healers like Aura or Phoenix. The game is always moving fairly fast and the action always constant, never a dull moment in the battlefield. Even though it takes little time to pick up, this game doesn’t hold back on casual players. If you play this like a Call of Duty game, you will likely end up dying repeatedly. Strategy is key and proper teamwork is necessary to complete the objective, so make wise use of healing fields, defensive turrets and quick-revives. Overall, the game is a lot of fun, and it will add a nice option to the free to play shooters currently on the market once it officially releases. The beauty of the title is that more mercenaries will be added over time, giving more options to players and giving more content during the lifespan of the game. Splash Damage seems fully focused on supporting the title and giving FPS fans a game that will earn their respect, even with the free-to-play style.