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  • Breaking News

    Dirty Bomb: Preview

    Ow would we sum up Dirty Bomb in a word ? Fast. OK, maybe one word isn’t enough. How about five words? Unrelentingly fast, old school shooter. How unrelenting? Liam Neeson on your arse because you kidnapped his daughter unrelenting. How damned fast ? It's quicker than a newly single Ryan Gosling pulling at a bar. How Old School is it ? About as Old School as Will Ferrell drunk streaking his way to KFC. Yep, it doesn't get more Old School than that.

    Dirty Bomb is setting itself up to be the game Splash Damage was destined to make. It takes the developer’s well known pedigree for creating hardcore multiplayer first-person shooters, such as Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory and Enemy Territory: Quake Wars, tosses in the loud character designs and personalities of Brink and dumps it all in a Free-to-Play model to maximise exposure and get it out to the masses. It’s a classic shooter designed for the modern gamer and is an amalgamation of everything Splash Damage has done successfully over the decades.


    The studio’s last IP, Brink, was met with a mixed response. Some of us loved it, like really really loved it. Others, not so much. This was partly due to players expecting a more robust single player experience, troubling latency issues online when teaming up and a misrepresentation of what the game was. It should have been billed as an objective based multiplayer shooter alone. Soon enough, to the writer of this piece’s chagrin, the servers dried up and Splash Damage went back to what it does best, nailing a multiplayer component for top tier titles and has since been responsible for the super fun asymmetrical multiplayer of Batman: Arkham Origins, but the desire for creating an FPS to challenge the elite remained.

    Splash Damage’s CEO, the enigmatic Paul Wedgewood, candidly explained how Dirty Bomb came to life. “For us, the goal was to generate enough money through working on world famous IPs so we can invest the profits we make from that into things we really really want to make ourselves, which wouldn't typically be commissioned by publishers because of the kind of games our hardcore fan base want. The kinds of games that really hardcore shooter players want typically don’t sell in large enough numbers to invest 10 or 15 million dollars in a game. We made the investment anyway because this really isn’t for us about simply making money. It’s first and foremost about creating a spiritual successor to those Enemy Territory games which have had more than 30 million players worldwide.

    You know, for more than a decade we’ve been in the top three most played shooters worldwide with the games we made when we were just making what we wanted, not trying to be commercially savvy, not trying to think about what the industry was going to pay for two years from now, or something like that.”

    It almost sounds like Splash Damage is that Hollywood big name celebrity who does the mega budget Michael Bay project to get enough cashola to fund the smaller indie project closer to its heart, and it is clear that redefining multiplayer is something very close to everyone’s hearts at Splash Damage. It's why it has adopted the Free-to-Play model. It’s why it doesn't have a single-player campaign, controller support or plans for a port to console. This is a PC-only thrill ride where you’ll need to adapt, improvise and most importantly, play the objective. You’re going to have to
    slot in and fulfil your role if your team is going to come out on top.

    GAMES AS GAMES
    Dirty Bomb’s setting is London. We had the chance to play two maps based on The Underground and Whitechapel, both named accordingly, and a singular game mode called Stopwatch. In this mode two teams of five take on a series of objectives as attackers or defenders with back to back rounds counting overall. The team with the fastest completion time wins. Simple enough, and simplicity is what the developer’s going for.
    Redefining multiplayer is something very close to everyone’s hearts at Splash Damage
    Forget about story. The detonation of a dirty bomb has flooded the city with radioactive particles, so that neatly explains the lack of civilians. Story check, done and dusted. The rest of the game is all about doing what your paid for. In Whitechapel you’ve got a three tiered objective to complete as an attacker repair an EV (Electric Vehicle), escort it to a drop point and then deliver two EMP charges to a short out a server. Underground has you needing to take charge of the extractor fan controls and then destroy the pump controls. In both cases defenders merely need to seek the enemy out and destroy. Sounds like your typical objective-based shooter scenario, right? Well here’s where everything else changes.

     There’s no traditional character progression where you’ll be working for a month unlocking a shiny new arsenal and abilities. Instead of focusing on one character Dirty Bomb gives you access to nearly two dozen, each with a specific skill set, weapon loadout and perks, all of which you'll have complete access to within an hour of playing the character.

    You play as one of many unique international mercenaries. Each has a single primary and secondary weapon as well as a melee, our favourite easily demolitions expert Proxy and her cricket bat (howzat!). It should also be noted that grenades are not a given and only available to certain mercenaries.

    On top of this you have perks, which are are three passive boosts you'll earn fairly quickly offering a slight damage increase or health buff, but nothing too earth shattering. The real strategy comes from picking your mercenaries and working out how best they fit in with your teammates. You see, this
    isn't a game for solo warriors and those looking to pad their Kill/Death ratio. Taking down the competition is still an element of Dirty Bomb, but a crew of five lone wolves all looking to be the hero will not succeed against an organised wolf-pack all playing their part. The game is all about looking at your Swiss Army Knife of Operators and getting the balance right.

    For each match you can pick three mercs as your “squad” and respawn as any of the three depending on what tool you need for the current situation. It is best to cover a broad spectrum and stay in constant contact with your teammates so you all know who’s doing/spawning as what. Most characters have two special abilities, though the more firepower oriented tend to get just the one, such as sniper Vassili who drops a heartbeat sensor pinging enemies on the mini-map or the tankiest of tanks Rhino, who sports a beast of a mini-gun for those looking to live out their Jesse ‘The Body’ Venture in Predator fantasies.

    Support roles can literally be game changers and are quite varied. There are at least three different healers, Sawbonez, Aura and Phoenix, who each perform wildly differently, with the common thread binding them, Defibrillators. Sawbonez is a more traditional medic who distributes med-packs. Aura drops a pulsating health station and Phoenix, as his name suggests, is for more aggressive players, rising from the ashes with a self-reviving syringe. Healers are an essential component to ensure you’re constantly advancing and keeping the pressure on. That said, anyone can revive downed teammates, it just takes a non-healer considerably longer.

    Visually Dirty Bomb takes its cues from Brink infusing its vibrant character designs and mannerisms with its distilled essence. It’s got Splash Damage’s in your face, none too serious attitude stamped all over it from the names to the almost cartoonish trash talk of the mercenaries. The gameplay may be serious business, but the mercs you control aren't. Here’s a roll call of a few who caught our eye and always got us out of a pinch.

    There’s Fragger, the beefcake from the US of A, spamming grenades and ammo packs like they’re going out of fashion. His counterpart is the Aryan queen, Nader, unleashing hell with her grenade launcher and sporting Martyrdom abilities that ensure if she dies in close quarters, she’s taking you with her. Aussie Redeye deploys smoke bombs to disorient and picks off his enemies with an infra-red scope as they try to get their bearings and then there’s Stoker. His napalm grenades are particularly vicious in enclosed areas and make it rather hard to take objectives when you’re sizzling like a shrimp on a barbie.

    RUN AND GUN
    When it comes to the gameplay, it is fast, furious and frenzied. It's one of those rare games where you're encouraged not to aim down sights. You just don’t have the time. Hip fire your way to victory. The key is getting into a groove and twitch shooting. You’re going to die. A lot. But a quick respawn and you’re only seconds away from jumping right back into the action. It’s frantic. It’s adrenaline charged. Coordinating attacks is essential, as is constant communication. Splash Damage has really nailed the intensity. Mini tugs of war erupt as you contest and combat over zones and you can really feel the ebb and flow of it all. You’ll immediately recognise what element your team is lacking and adjust accordingly. It’s a brilliant throwback to a simpler time where ability and map knowledge actually counted for something, rather than unlocking the top weapons available and exploiting them.

    Savvy players might find a more vertical route by wall-running and jumping to hard to reach areas. Rhino, in particular, can be a massive thorn in your side at height. Secondary objectives also present themselves opening or closing alternate pathways so you don't always have to be on the frontlines to make a difference. If you’re not getting kills for your team switch to a healer and feed a tank first-aid packs while he decimates the opposition. Block off a secondary route with a sneaky turret to dissuade those taking the road less travelled or make a statement with a wall of fire or exclamation point with an air strike if you’re outdoors.

    MIX AND MATCH
    The best way to balance out your three person squad, we found, was to have one tank a healer and one support character, much like the Holy Trinity in MMOs. Then you’re ready for anything. For example, our go to medic was Sawbonez, littering the battlefield with first-aid kits and revived like a champ. Nader packed an explosive punch in all areas and kept the opposition on the back foot and Russian behemoth Thunder’s massive LMG and steady stream of concussion grenades softened up any and everything in the immediate vicinity.

    As a recent newcomer to PC gaming (though a veteran of consoles and FPS) it was quite the daunting challenge to face off against PC elite brethren and the Splash Damage developers While the KD (Kill/Death ratio) earned was not even close to impressive, the SPM (Score Per Minute) achieved was right up there with the best. Once you find your slot, anyone, ANYONE, can have an impact, which is what we suspect was Splash Damage’s game plan all along. Singular heroes are all well and good,
    but surviving as a team by working together as one cohesive unit is another thing altogether and infinitely more satisfying.

    Splash Damage may say Dirty Bomb caters for the more hardcore PC gamers out there, but we beg to differ. It’s for hardcore objective-based gamers who prefer to attack and defend with a purpose, support their teammates and win as a group, not strive for personal glory. Fun, fast and unforgiving,
    it demands you think before you act. It is a throwback to a simpler era of gaming, updated for an audience tired of tea-baggers and KD braggers. Still in beta and being polished to a high sheen we expect to continue to be wowed by Dirty Bomb in the lead up to its release next year. Kick it old school and man-up to the challenge. Trust us, it’s worth it.

    WHAT’S IN A NAME?
    Those of you who have been following Dirty Bomb more closely may have noticed a complete 360 degree switch to the IP’s name. Initially dubbed Dirty Bomb, it was changed to Extraction and now comes full-circle. The reasoning behind this is simple. Splash Damage initially wasn’t sure it could get a worldwide trademark on Dirty Bomb so it made the switch, but then felt Extraction didn’t quite capture the essence of the shooter, sounding more like a game mode than title, and switched back. Dirty Bomb is easily more memorable and fits the shooter like a glove.

    That said, it does make the task of navigating UK Immigration a lot more challenging for overseas writers. “So why are you here? To preview a video game. Which game? Umm. Errr. Probably best to whisper it to you, getting detained isn’t how we’d like to end our 22 hour journey.” Pro-tip: Call it Extraction at the airport.

    SO… CRATES?
    With any Free-to-Play model the concern of monetisation, or rather unfair player boosts due to monetisation, is bound to crop up. Splash Damage’s tack is more of a lucky lottery than a guaranteed ace in the hole for those looking to fork out. The only real progression rewards you’ll earn, at least at this point since the development is still in flux, are crates and keys. These unlock modified characters with perhaps different weapon loadouts or perks. These are completely randomised so it’s not like you can buy a super weapon to pimp out your healer or get the most coveted tank to soak up and deal immense damage. It might sound crazy, but it’s apparent the developer is far more concerned with creating a benchmark FPS to rival its past glories than line its pockets with quick fixes for players after a leg up. If you want to succeed in Dirty Bomb, you’re going to have to put in the work.

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