How do you take on the mighty big guns of Call of Duty or Battlefield? Giving your game away for free isn’t a bad place to start. We’ve seen the free-to-play market really boom this year, a trend further enforced by the large presence of many free-to-play titles at this years’ Gamescom Expo in Germany.
To be honest though, those hungering for ‘proper’ games haven’t had anything to match the core experience offered by bigger premium games. CCP would like to change that attitude though with their new PS3 title, Dust 514, an MMO first-person shooter.
They’re not just breaking the rules with their pricing though; they’re putting PS3 gamers into new territory by forming an alliance with PC players. Dust 514 belongs to the game universe of EVE Online, a very different experience featuring orbital spaceships far above the planets in space. EVE Online is huge too. It’s set in the galaxy of Eden with seven thousand solar systems and fifty-sixty thousand planets.
Admittedly, not much of that scale has an impact on the PS3 game, as the warzone planets for the console experience require more than a randomly named ball in space on a map. With a parent game boasting such big numbers though, we’re hoping at least for varied looking environments to battle in.
These two games exist on the same servers and your battles against different corporations (think Guilds) will affect the standings in the PC game as the two are closely tied as a persistent universe. The most direct connection between the two is naturally one of violence. PS3 players will be able to call in orbital strikes from the PC players resulting in devastating barrages from these huge space ships far above the battlefield. In the favour of balance, PS3 players can use orbital artillery to blast these epic vessels out of the sky. Apparently, we can’t all get along after all.
The match type I tried during the developer session was Ambush, a team deathmatch. Seemingly based at some sort of loading station the action varied between open spaces and close encounters around corners and large cargo containers. I was never far from a firefight as the radar highlights players on both sides and icons even appear onscreen indicating moving players, which meant I was never accidentally running away from the action after respawning.
Weapon handling is quite a handful as the assault rifles like to kick back a lot, but that is the sort of thing you’ll be able to upgrade to improve. Pistol fire is much more accurate though, with headshots over long distances being a pleasant reoccurrence after thundering through a clip of assault rifle fire to no avail before desperately switching to my sidearm.
The rocket launcher was complete pap though against infantry with direct shots rarely leading to a kill. No, these massive misfires work much better against vehicles thanks to a handy lock-on feature that works at close or long-range.
Vehicles consist of the usual APCs and the like, but I was more impressed with the flying gunships. If one of your squad is flying one of these, you can respawn in one of the spare seats, preferably one with a turret to rain down missile fire. You need to be close to get turret kills, as the missiles seem to lose power over greater distances. To be honest I probably got more kill assists with this weapon as the missiles are quite dodgeable. This isn’t a problem though as nobody likes it when aerial vehicles are ridiculously dominant over the battlefield. Yes, Call of Duty, we’re talking to you.
Completing objectives, killing, assisting and so on all rewards you with ISK, Dust’s in-game currency that you’ll use to purchase better weapons, better vehicles and modules that allow you to bump the stats for your character and equipment. Aurum (AUR) is the currency you’ll be able to buy on the PlayStation Network. With this effectively real-world currency, you’ll be able to buy the same things you would with ISK, but there will also be a few unique AUR-only items. Hopefully these will be more for visual customisation or slightly varied weapons rather than cheaty pay-to-win items that screw over anyone unwilling to splash the cash. CCP seem to have their heads screwed on though and they’ve been keen to reassure us that this will not be the case when the full version of the game goes live.
Enter The War Room
Rather than use a bland menu with a list of names, the lobby will be a real place situated in the War Room of a War Barge orbiting the battlefield. Players can wonder around in third-person and chat with fellow players while waiting for a match or setting up their gear. CCP are keen to aim for a more social experience and give proceedings a dash of realism.
The battle finder console will help you jump into the nearest action available, but there will also be matchmaking options to play with players more in sync with your own abilities and preferences. Leaderboards will go into more specifics than usual with the added bonus of being able to hire other players to fight for your squad.
Suit Fittings is the gear customisation area. These Suits are like loadouts that will help you define your role on the battlefield. These different setups can host one of the fourteen different classes with different specialisations. I tried a few of them out; scouts are really nimble and fast, but not able to take much damage, while heavies are capable of wielding large guns, but at a cost of low mobility. To be honest, there are many familiar setups available, but it’s going to take a while to open up the unlocks system. For example, you’ll need to buy the skills to be able to use certain weapons; even the shotgun isn’t available from the start. Sure, you could try to create a jack-of-all-trades soldier, but being master of none could prove to be your demise on the battlefield, so it may be worth trying to fashion some unique suits.