One year ago Dirty Bomb launched on Steam and I did not expect to play it for such a long time. Most online multiplayer shooter are not able to keep their player base over a longer period of time. But to my surprise Dirty Bomb did. After twelve months it has more concurrent players than Battleborn merely weeks after its launch. And a game that has been around for such a long time and that has been giving me countless of hours of fun deserves a detailed review.
So, what is Dirty Bomb and what makes it special? Dirty Bomb is a free to play, objective and class based first person multiplayer shooter. It uses modern weapons similar to Counterstrike, it is almost as fast as Unreal Tournament and each character – known as merc in the game – has special abilities needed to support the team in carrying out the map’s objective. And it is its objective based focus and the special abilities each merc possesses that set Dirty Bomb apart from the rest of the first person shooters out there. To win a match or to be first on the leader board more that just killing enemy players is required. Supporting your team with ammunition, giving out health, reviving, doing reconnaissance or repairing / destroying the map objective are of equal importance.
Letˋs go into more detail.
Grafics, sound and connectivity
Dirty Bomb uses the slightly dusted Unreal 3 engine. The developers nonetheless managed to make a great looking game with beautiful explosions. Using the old Unreal 3 engine makes the game run smoothly on older PCs. Dirty Bomb does only run on Windows; there is neither a Mac nor a Linux version available.
Gun sounds are a mixed bag. While it is a pure joy listing to the recently released MK46 LMG spilling out 80 rounds, the Desert Eagle sounds rather pathetic. Assault rifles and SMGs in general have very good sound effects. Big explosions sound just awesome: Airstrikes, ordnance, grenades and molotov sounds are fantastic. And the comments the mercs give in certain situations make you grin. Throwing a molotiv will result your merc commenting “Love British barbecue” while the hit players scream. Every merc has his or her catch phrases and they are created with love to detail.
Dirty Bomb offers a large number of their own servers in North America and Europe to play on. The connectivity is most of the time okay. There is room for improvement but you will very rarely find unplayable matches due to bad connectivty. It is not as good as CS:GO but it is by no means as bad as COD games hosted on the players’ machines.
Objective based – what does that mean?
The core of Dirty Bomb is its objective based gameplay. Depending on the map you are playing on you have to escort an EV (big car with MG on top) from A to B or keep the other team from doing that. What sounds easy is a challlenge because in order to move the EV players have to be near it (the more players the faster). You also have to keep the EV intact to make it move; meaning if it is damaged it has to be repaired. And damaging the EV with grenades, airstrikes, orbital lasers or ordonance is pure joy. Maps also offer side objectives like destroying generators or repairing them. Not every map has an EV. Some maps just want you to destroy or repair things.
All maps provide progression; meaning there are different stages you can reach on the map. Each stage has to be finished to progess to the next stage. This provides the feeling of fighting your way through multiple maps although it is just one. – The map design for all but one (Dome) is fantastic and you can easily play those maps hundreds of times and still find some hidden passages or great sniping spots.
Classes and mercs
At the moment the game offers 19 different mercs to choose from; only 12 at launch a year ago. Mercs belong different classes: objective specialst that repair faster and deploy C4 faster; medics who revive and provide stationary or mobile health; fire support that provide stationary or mobile ammunition; recon that provide sniper coverarge and special mercs for aussault.
Each merc has at least one special ability. While Thunder can “only” throw a blinding concussion grenade, Skyhammer can drop ammunition and call in devastating airstrikes and Sparks can remote-revive downed players and heal team members by dropping healing packs. The variety of special abilities makes each match unique. And while some abilities seem more potent than others it all depends on good team composition and having the right merc for the right (part of) the map. Merc diversity is also worth mentioning. Currently there are six female mercs in the game. They have their own playstyle and advantages; they are not just cheap reskins of male mercs.
You can always take three mercs into a match and you can choose them the beginning of each match. Once in the match you can switch between your three mercs after dying.
What is the right merc for you? Just try each of them, play for them for a while and find those that fit your playstyle. Maybe you like fast mercs, or you like sneaky mercs or you just want to help your team. You will find your perfect team of mercs. I prefer a versatile team of one objective specialist, one fire support with the ability to drop ammo and one medic. But that does not mean I stick with the same three mercs all the time. The game rewards picking different mercs.
There is dying and there is dying
One thing that puts an interesting twist on matches is the the difference of getting downed and being dead. Shooting enemy players most of the time results in them being downed. That means they can be revived by any team mate or (much faster) by a medics. Additional shooting is needed to kill a downed player. To spice it even more up there is a merc that can self revive from the stage of getting downed, one merc that can provide a remote revive for downed players and one merc that can turn into a booby trap onced downed.
The most confusting part of Dirty Bomb is its loadout system. It is unique and it takes a while until you reach complete understanding. Each merc has a default loadout you can use. It consits of a primary, secondary and melee weapon. But there are also, depending on your merc, 8-10 other loadouts to choose from. Loadouts come in the form of card and only one can be equipped and taken into battle. Each loadout card has a combination of different primary, secondary and meelee weapon. So far so easy but then we have rarities of loadout cards: lead, iron, bronze, silver, gold and cobalt. The rarity defines the number of merc augments (like percs). Default cards have no augments, lead cards have one augment, iron cars have two augments and bronze cards have three augments. Rarities over bronze (silver, gold, cobalt) still have only three augments but they provide different merc skins. Low rarity cards can be traded up for higher rarity cards. There is a whole meta game about loadout cards.
Where do cards come from? Lets make this even more confusing: Cards come from different kind of cases that contain random cards for random mercs in random rarities. Some cases have a higher probability of giving you a rare card then others. And there are cases that only contain cards for some mercs.
While that may seem very much at first it will keep you engaged in the long term. And you can be a decent player without having the perfect augments loadout card at your disposal.
Player base and community
At launch the player base was about 12’000 players strong. After two months the numbers dropped to 2500-3000 average players but stayed on this level for the past 10 months. It is quite easy to find dozens of games on European or North American servers at any given time.
The community is most of the time helpful but I would advise to use reddit instead of steam forums. There are also a number of youtubers that offer good tutorials for Dirty Bomb noobs. Worth mentioning channels are: RpMPsy , kandyrew, CadGamings and Cliff Terios.
The skill gap for new players can be huge at the beginning. Once you leave your max-level-5 servers you will enter a world of pain. But be assured you will mature fast and develop great Dirty Bomb skills. If you have high level players in your team they will carry you most of the time and I suggest looking at what they are doing (while you are dead) and stay at their heels (while you are not dead). No matter what other players say you are allowed to make mistakes and forget things. If people in chat or via voice chat do annoy you just mute them.
Dirty Bomb can be really hectic at times and if you are coming from a slower games like CS:GO or COD you need some time adjusting. And dont’ forget Dirty Bomb is not only about gettting kills, it is about helping your team getting the objective done.
Free 2 play, open beta and monetizing
Two question come to mind when you see the Dirty Bomb Steam page: Why is this game in open beta and does free 2 play mean pay to win?
I start with the first question because tagging Dirty Bomb open beta is the only problem I have with the game. There is no reason why this game, twelve months after its initial launch on Steam is still in open beta. The game has a working cash shop therefore it should be a full release. The game runs stable, offers 19 mercs and 8 perfectly build maps and rarely has glitches. Why is it still open beta? No idea.
Is the game pay to win? Absolutely not! It is one of best examples how free 2 play should be integrated into a game. With real money you can buy mercs, every bronze card and cases. But you can an also buy mercs with the ingame currency; doing the daily missions will result in enough ingame currency to buy two mercs a month. In addition to three free mercs there are always three mercs in free rotation. Having not bought a merc will not put you at an disadvantage. Bronze cards also drop from the cases you get by playing matches or when you trade up unneeded low rarity loadout cards. Paying for mercs or bronze cards just provides a fast track and nothing more. Buying additional cases is actually just gambling for bling-bling loadout cards.
Current state and future of the game
Dirty Bomb has regular events that most of the time introduce new mercs. Occasionally there are some small weekend events that give extra credits or special discounts. The devs are still working on the game. Although long time players are upset by the lack of development speed the game has come a long way over the past 12 months. And even in its current state you can easily sink a few hundred hours into it before getting bored.
At the moment devs are working on a new trading system for the loadouts, they are working on at least one new map and one more merc.
It is very hard to compare Dirty Bomb to Counterstrike or Overwatch because it is neither of them. It is a mix of both with the speed of Unreal Tournament and an explosion overload. Dirty Bomb fills a niche. It provides Adrenaline-filled hours of crazy over-the-top gameplay. Its free 2 play implementation has found the perfect balance because the game never forces you to buy something. If you are in for some bling-bling or a quick route to a loadout card or a merc the store can provide it. I really hope that Dirty Bomb will be around another year because it is one of the rare games that gives me a hell of fun everytime I jump into it.
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