Review: Dirty Bomb (PC)

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Developer: Splash Damage
Publisher: Nexon America
Genre: FPS 
ESRB: n/a
Price: Free2Play
Dirty Bomb is an online free to play, blindingly fast-paced, class-based, team-driven shooter. While some may liken it to a mixture of Call of Duty and Team Fortress 2, there are a few things here that make it stand out from the likes of other games in the FPS genre. I’ve put about 30 hours by Steam’s count into the game, and I still feel as if I’ve barely scratched the surface.
Dirty Bomb also takes the first of several influences from Counter-Strike by encouraging players to shoot from the hip, especially when running and gunning. That’s not to say you can’t aim down-sights, like many modern shooters, but Dirty Bomb discourages always going for pin-point accuracy. I toyed around with this in-game and noticed my score improved when following this advice. In short, don’t expect any “MLG 360 NO-SCOPE 420 BLAZE ET” here, thank goodness! I shudder at that mentality in the FPS genre… It’s a poison. But, I digress.

Content Guide

The characters a bunch of salty mercenaries with equally colorful personalities. The occasional swear is dropped, upwards of f–k and related euphemisms. Character dialogue involving such language is infrequent, however, and is usually prompted by players in the taunting system. There are guns, violence, blood, death, and while there is currently no ESRB rating, it would more than qualify for an M-rating. Player discretion is advised.

Gameplay

Like the trailer says, “Difficult to learn, impossible to master.” One of the many positives this unique shooter has going for it is team play. The running advertisement even in early beta was Don’t be a D!*K!,” and I have to say, this caught my attention. Many shooters have a very lone-wolf mentality going for them, like Battlefield or even my personal favorite, Halo, encouraging individual performance such as rewards for killstreaks. Not Dirty Bomb: You actually have to work as a team to accomplish any objective, be it defending a position, repairing a vehicle and moving it from point A to B, or destroying a [insert important object here]. If you’re not a team player and you’re looking to troll or solo it, expect to die repeatedly and witness your K/D ratio or your overall score suffer. (One or the other matters depending on your class, never both.) I kid you not—9 out of every 10 games I play, a team will lose because one or two individuals thought they could tryhard it themselves. Casual servers are a nightmare because of this.
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Don’t adjust your screens, folks. His anatomy was regretfully rearranged. Get good, or get wrecked.

 
When you start Dirty Bomb, you are given two characters (or mercenaries): Skyhammer, a beefy bald soldier wielding an assault rifle and a Desert Eagle with the ability to mark a target for an airstrike and support teammates with ammunition, and Aura, a fast shotgunner medic with the ability to drop health stations and defib fallen teammates. Note that only the medic class has the ability to defib a teammate by default, whereas other classes can help up a teammate that has been wounded, restoring them to about half health. Speaking of health, allow me to describe that briefly: every merc has varying health bars. Some are much squishier than others; for example, a full-health Proxy player is likely to drop faster than a mid-health Rhino player. There are a total of 18 mercs as of this writing in Dirty Bomb’s available roster of characters (Which actually have character! The dialogue is fantastic!), with two more confirmed on the way. You also have access to an additional merc at the start of your time in Dirty Bomb, and which one depends on whoever is going through “Free Rotation” at your current time of login. This kind of sampling serves as  incentive to purchase their services with either in-game credits that are awarded at the end of every game, or real-life cash.
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Each character is completely unique and is their own brand of cool.

The kinds of guns and abilities you use are based on what merc you choose, as well as separate “Loadout Cards” for specified characters. Loadout cards come in 6 rarities, and are found by cases dropped through gameplay, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive-style, minus the microtransaction to open them. That’s right, kids! Cases are 100% free to open! Just cross your fingers and hope you get a platinum loadout! 

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The six rarities I mentioned are Lead, Iron, Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Cobalt. There’s also one more rarity, but these aren’t really worth mentioning as they were a one-time promotional card for the supporters of the game. Perhaps they’ll have other events someday, and that last, secret rarity is Obsidian. Unfortunately, you can’t trade them with other players, but you can trade up 3 of one lower rarity card, plus an in-game currency fee, for one card of the next highest rarity for a mercenary of your choosing.
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Oh, oh, oh..! AWH, COME ON! Loadout Cards will often give you the short end of the stick. It’s worse than a Yu-Gi-Oh! booster pack.

Developed a favorite merc? Get rid of a few Lead Skyhammers, Bushwackers, or Auras for an Iron Vassili! And the system repeats. Earn a couple more Irons, and you can afford a Bronze, and so on. Different rarity Loadouts offer different guns, and minor abilities known as Augments that are similar to perks in CoD. This is part of what makes the game balanced so that no one player has an advantage. In a nutshell, Dirty Bomb rewards continued play, teamwork, being a generally nice person, as well as working with your team’s build at the start of your matches.

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New mercs can be purchased for your use for 30 and 50,000 credits, depending on the merc. If it’s a standard merc, you’ll pay 30,000. But if he or she has a pretty swanky ability or weaponry, expect to pay 50,000 in-game currency. These costs translate to $5.99 and $9.99, and cases can be purchased for 1,000 in-game currency. After that, there are a few paid-for cases that amount to nothing more than better rarities and bling, strictly cosmetic. 
Note that those who choose to pay for their mercs or cases are not progressing faster than anyone else, for the game has no real progression other than your own skill, amassing of credits, and user level. There are also credit boosters available in the store, which, when purchased, provide a temporary boost to your credits earned. Everything can be earned through gameplay, but the grind is no more lessened by dropping cash. It boils down to a matter of instant gratification vs. patience. Unless you feel invested enough to purchase the DLC, save your money and just enjoy playing. More “oomph” means more credits spent on your Merc of choice. So far, there’s been a new merc with every update, and they’ll typically give you a taste of him or her in free rotation for about a month before putting someone else through. You could think of the free merc rotation like the weekly free champion rotation in League of Legends. This gives you incentive to grind! Unfortunately, the roster hasn’t changed since November 2015 of last year.

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For all the gunplay involved, the one thing Dirty Bomb wants you to do as a player is recognize your class and use your abilities. The five classes in Dirty Bomb can be divided into combat and support. The following is a brief description of each class of merc and what their role is—essentially how to play that class. I encourage you to play around in-game and ask other players of a higher level what characters belong in which class. The classes function roughly as such: Assault mercs are at the front leading the charge, while the Medics back them up. The Engineers dash to the objective, Recon and Fire Support flank and provide covering fire, and in the case of Fire Support; provide Ammunition.
17845fad40edd23f6b7912f83113f022Game Modes
Dirty Bomb‘s game modes consist of Stopwatch, Objective, and Elimination, hosted through casual servers. It is also possible to host a private match with friends, (currently in open Alpha testing) given that you have enough people to play with.
Objective’s gameplay is one of my favorites, as it consists of one team seeking to complete an objective that changes based on the map, while the other team seeks to thwart them. There are no rounds, and no switching sides. The game ends when either the attacking team succeeds, or the defending team holds out.
Stopwatch functions like Objective mode, with the exception that one team must accomplish the designated goal(s) faster than the other to secure a victory. This is the one you want for longer sessions, as the average game time is 30 minutes.
Execution is the game mode best suited for when you want to play but don’t have much time. It consists of one team defending pylons while another tries to plant C4 at sites A or B. The inspiration from Counter-Strike here is strong, and if you die, you’re out of the game until the next round. This is a 10-round game mode, but it goes by quickly. Both teams switch sides at halftime.

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All game modes have potential to go into “Overtime” if things haven’t been ultimately decided. It’s also possible in each game mode for teams to match each other into a draw. Objective and Stopwatch modes also come in 6v6, 7v7, and 8v8 variants. The more players, the harder it is. Execution comes in only one team size, 7v7. The last to mention here is Competitive servers, accessible at player level 7. You are randomly matched by skill level, and friendly fire is ON. You can injure and kill your teammates in this mode, and the only game mode available as of this writing is Stopwatch. Ranked season 1 just began on the week of 2/21/16, so get on the ball if you’re interested. 

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The maps in Dirty Bomb are specific to the game mode, in that they’re built especially for each one. The number of maps in the game is currently 8, with two more in development. Players got a sneak peek at them last month in January 2016, I regret to say I missed out! In addition, there’s also a focus on navigating the map quickly, and to this end there is a feature in navigation that allows you a brief wall jump that can also be used cleverly to get the drop on the enemy. Crouch jumping from the Source engine is also incorporated into gameplay but is extremely tricky. Experiment and practice your parkour. (Preferably when you’re ahead of the other team or in a private match with friends.)
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Conclusion

Dirty Bomb reminds me of a game I played in my mid-teens: Brink. It makes sense that I’m reminded of that as developer Splash Damage worked on Brink. Don’t get me wrong, Brink by itself wasn’t bad—it’s just not as good as it could have been. I’m beginning to think that Dirty Bomb is their apology for the poor execution of Brink.                      
By now, I’m sure you’ve noticed that I haven’t exactly been raving over any story, and that’s because what story there is amounts to only a backdrop—a setting, really. Dirty Bomb briefly explains in its trailer (above) that London has been bombed with the titular dirty bomb, and mercenaries with unique skillsets have been hired to harvest or recover resources and territory to outside countries willing to pay for their services. As Phantom says in the trailers, “After all, what’s a little radiation sickness when there’s money to be made?” Furthermore, the game emphasizes “playing dirty” against the other team, which is why the mercs all have some pretty boss abilities. There’s your “aha!” moment for why Dirty Bomb is called…Dirty Bomb. The game’s primary focus is teamwork and competitive multiplayer action, and it delivers. Dirty Bomb is doing for shooters what League did for MOBAS: Re-imagine them. So grab some friends, form a team, and start playing dirty!

Drew Koehler

Founder and writer for Geeks Under Grace. Christian, Husband, Father, Sailor and Geek!

1 Comment

  1. silver+ Aura on March 10, 2016 at 1:30 am

    I would heavily relate dirty bomb as the League of Legends of FPS. It’s a decent title with its weakest point being its community. I don’t feel like the review stressed this enough. The whole game is objective oriented. So just like league, your focus is pushing down towers. If you approach this game purely from the point of getting as many kills as possible you will lose. Also like league, most of your teams have a bronze level understanding of the game meaning, more often than not you will have a team of feeders who have no idea what’s going on.
    Side points
    -The game modes are all the same, they just differ slightly in time limits, friendly fire and whether or not you can respawn. Otherwise you’re doing the exact same thing in each.
    -There’s really only 4 classes and all of them are fairly capable of wrecking. I play a medic and I get more kills than a lot of assaults. It’s how you play.
    -Upgrade cards are a nice touch to the game however I would relate them to mastery’s in league of legends. While they do give a “slight” boost in performance, they’re no substitute for raw player ability. I’ve killed plenty of obsidian cards as a basic lead.
    TL:DR- It’s a decent FPS title with an extremely high emphasis on “on the fly” teamwork.

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