Dust 514 is an upcoming free-to-play massively multiplayer online first-person-shooter exclusive to the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita. One of the biggest attractive features of the impending game is that it boasts a substantial connection to uber PC MMORPG EVE Online, supplementing the story built within the universe of EVE. Just like its predecessor, Dust 514 is incredibly daunting. Those who have played EVE Online know just how complex the MMORPG is, and Dust is in the same boat. Fans excited to play the game should keep this in mind, as Dust 514 is a console shooter in name only. In reality, it’s a hardcore PC class based FPS akin to Counter-Strike, which will chew unprepared newcomers up and spit them out mercilessly.
The second you turn Dust on and sit through its ridiculously long booting and install process, you are asked to customize your character. You are given four different corporate and class affiliations to choose from, which are pretty standard fare for most shooters of this nature. You have the slow, heavy weapon totting troops, the general issue infantrymen that are proficient with assault rifles, spry snipers that are good with…sniper rifles, and the speedy little hackers that no one ever wants to be.
From there you are dropped into your hub/command center. It consists of a small room with different terminals where you can access server lists for battles, a marketplace where you can use the same in-game and real money purchased currency present in EVE Online to procure weapon upgrades, suit upgrades, skill boosts, and the like, and a suit modifier.
The suit modifier (dropsuit loadout) is the first place that console experienced shooters are going to get overwhelmed. This customization menu allows players to switch up the different stats and modifiers in their dropsuit such as shield regeneration, what weapons you have on you, health regeneration units, and equipment to pack along. As you level up and purchase different gear from the market, you are able to fine tune nearly every detail about the performance of your suit for fighting and create something that is unique to the player. It is very intimidating, and not something that has been seen on such a level in a console FPS. Gamers that aren’t used to such complex customization will likely stare at their TV, wide-eyed.
Once you’re finished detailing your character, it is time to fight. The beta offers two battle modes: Skirmish, where you have to complete different objectives as a team, and Ambush, which is pretty much your standard death match, where the goal is to kill the opposing team. You can either access the server lists to find the type of battle that sounds good to you, or you can choose quick battle and the beta immediately finds a game and matches you. It should be noted as well, that I tried easily a dozen times to access a game on the server lists, and each time every battle that was picked had a full server. So, the entirety of my play experience was done using the quick battle option.
Once you find a battle, you are dropped into a sort of pre battle lobby, where you’re given two minutes or so to make any final adjustments to your dropsuit and prepare for battle, which is a bit frustrating if you don’t need to prepare or have no clue what you’re doing. Soon the prepare time is over though, and you pick a spawning point and are placed into battle. You get no clue or direction as to what you’re doing, and are pretty much forced to swim or drown. And drown I did.
It’s easy to tell the game is still in beta, because there are enormous frame rate issues. There were times while chugging along, trying to find an enemy, that my character would just randomly glitch forward 20 feet and I would get picked off by a stray bullet. The battles, though exactly what you’d expect out of a death match or objective quest, are lifeless. It’s a beta, so stuff like this is kind of expected, but I spent nearly five minutes of my first battle wandering in and around featureless bunkers and vehicles (which is no doubt due to final environments not being finished yet) trying to find another player to shoot at. When other players were found, it became apparent the game currently suffers from shooting woes. There were times when bullets fired point-blank at enemies just went straight through them or veered off to the right, causing no damage at all.
That being said though, the battles are very action packed. Each of the different classes has widely different weapons that have varying strengths and weaknesses, and each is relevant to different tasks. The heavy troops pack a large rocket launcher that is glorious for taking out tanks, and the infantrymen pack a machine gun that is perfect for getting the jump on flanking enemies and taking them out. Finding your niche is all a matter of experimentation.
The developers are onto something outstanding with Dust 514, as a seamless transition between PC shooters and console shooters has never really been done properly. They are two very different beasts. They have a clear mountain to climb when it comes to making the average console gamer appreciate the depth that Dust offers, but if CCP Games can sharpen the different aspects of the game that are clearly lacking in the beta, PS3 owner are in for a treat that will change the way the world looks at free-to-play console games.