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    Dirty Bomb: The development hell is complete.

    Dirty Bomb is the latest of multiplayer shooter specialist Splash Damage’s multiplayer shooters. It has a plot, but it’s about as relevant as the plot of Heidi. Near-future London has been evacuated because of the titular explosion. Large piles of abandoned money apparently make mercenaries immune to radiation, so they’re fighting in the deserted streets.

    The setting has almost nothing to do with the game. This is a skinned-up Unreal engine Enemy Territory-style shooter. It’s about 8v8 team combat, hip-firing, rapid movement and wall-jumping, not bobbies on the beat. It’s about picking the right character, staying close to your teammates, and focusing on your objectives, not navigating the Circle Line.

    The two modes are fairly similar a series of linked objectives that move the combat zone. Firefights are fast and agile, flowing back and forth as the respawn timers hit. Once one side has been the attackers, the other side has their turn.

    London Weighting
    Dirty Bomb is currently in closed beta, which you can buy into for £15 on Steam. The pack includes seven Team Fortressy starting characters, and 35,000 credits of currency. You can also go to Nexon’s site and sign up for free, but you’ll have access to just two rotating characters at a time.

    Some of the nominatively-determined characters fit classes. Sawbones and Aura are medics, but operate slightly differently: Sawbones throws health packs, Aura drops a healing station, but both rez. Many others, like glass-cannon speed-runner Proxy or minigunner Rhino, are currently one-offs. In-game, you choose three characters and their loadouts, and those are the only ones available for that match.

    Sadly, the starting pack characters don’t include any of my favourites the self-resurrecting medic Phoenix, the martyring Nader and the minigun-toting Rhino. My utter favourite character is Bushwhacker, who lets me slip back into my comfortable Team Fortress engineer shoes. But he illustrates how Nexon plans to make money. He costs £7 or 50,000 credits. To be clear, each time you play a game, you’ll normally win 100-200 credits, and games aren’t short. So getting a single character this way will take a long time.

    You’ll also need those credits for buying the crucial randomised loadouts cards. These are different weapon and perk sets for each mercenary. Perks are crucial to this game and some of the loadout perk combinations are really not that useful I’ll take treble jump or an AoE damage increase over slightly-quieter foot sounds any day.

    Being a beta, there are still lots of balance issues. Certain classes seem overpowered and the fast, hip-fire-heavy combat favours fast, close classes like Proxy. Most maps are well-designed with several flanking options and unblockable pathways, but there were a few places where I’ve been spawn-camped to death or that were just straight corridors.

    Despite those issues, Dirty Bomb looks good, runs well, and is solid fun. This game isn’t fundamentally flawed. It’s just another iteration, albeit slightly more agile, on Splash Damage’s special template. It’s not particularly innovative but it’s free.

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