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Demo Impressions: DUST 514 Beta
First-person shooters tend to be games that I take a lot of enjoyment in playing, so a large-scale FPS sounds like it is right up my street. Not only is this shooter a large-scale game, but it can actually have an effect on parts of the game Eve Online; and vice versa. Not only that, but the game would be free to play!
Okay, so let me just prefix this entire write-up by saying that I have never played Eve Online. Make of that what you will, but I think that this gives me the ability to talk about the game from a fairly interesting perspective. Remember, Dust 514 is not a PC-based game, and is a PS3 exclusive, so there might not be as large a cross-section of users from Eve as you would think. This could potentially mean that a large number of players will be coming to the game in the same state as I am.
So, what did I actually think of the game? Read on and find out, and please bear in mind that the game is still in beta, and is subject to change.
After the game loads up you are asked to create a character from one of three available slots. There are a lot of options to choose, from character race to appearance and skills. However, without any knowledge of what any of this means I was reduced to randomly choosing what I thought looked and sounded the coolest.
There are four base classes in the game: heavy, assault, scout and logistics. Nothing new here; heavy class carries larger weapons, assault class carries a machine gun, scout class carries a sniper rifle to stay away from danger and the logistics class can help revive downed players.
With your freshly-designed character you are taken to a command centre where you control a character in the third person, and have access to various different computers. This is a representation of your character aboard a ship, a feature which I was assured by Eve players I had spoken to was found in that game too.
From here you can start new matches, upgrade your character, view the star map and change all of your options. The same effect can be attained by pressing L1, but you lose the flashy third-person mode in favour of a menu system. I opted to use the quicker method of the menu rather than the command centre view as I found the walking around to be rather laborious and slow, which despite the short distances you have to move can still become frustrating.
Improving your character is as easy as purchasing new skill sets, weapons and modifications; new skills will cost you XP, which you will gain during matches. I say it’s easy, but there are so many options and different things to change that it can be quite overwhelming. Despite the fact you might find it difficult to figure everything out about the changes at first, it soon becomes apparent where everything is and how the system works. You have a number value for your class of character, which is created by the equipment that you have them carry. This means that overpowered players are less of an issue.
The difference for me in this upgrade mechanic is that when you buy a weapon, you only buy one weapon; once your character is killed with that weapon you can no longer spawn with them. A clever concept as it means that you will be all the more cautious about the way you play in an attempt to maintain your equipment. You can stock up your character so that you have multiple copies of that particular load out, but that will cost you ISK, the in-game currency which it shares with Eve.
Dust 514 is an Unreal Engine game, which from the start should give you an idea about what you are going to be experiencing in terms of control. As a result of this, Dust 514 feels pretty much like any old shooter when you are running around and shooting. There is very little in the way of originality with the control scheme, which is nothing new as most shooters today have a standardised control scheme.
More worrying was that I found there to be a number of issues with the way the game plays. There are a couple of things that just grate on you after a little while; the first being the inability to reload while running. Now, that is forgivable as many FPS games don’t allow you to do that.
Secondly, you can lose all of your stamina by jumping, which means you then can’t run. Again, it makes sense that you make it so that people can’t just jump around all the time, because that is irritating. However, would it not have made more sense to distinguish between jumping and running? There have been plenty of occasions where I have jumped to get out of the way, tried to run, ran out of stamina and was shot dead a few metres later.
My final grievance is with switching weapons in combat. Despite the fact that you are offered either a radial menu, or one tap of L2 to quick select a weapon I find it to be too slow. Admittedly, it could be a lot worse, but I have lost many a life being unable to change weapon quickly enough. Call of Duty always taught me that it was quicker to change weapon than to reload, but in Dust 514 the quickest option is to be dead.
Now I can hear you all saying, “you probably just aren’t very good at the game.” You are completely right; I am not the best of players, and I could probably do a better job of making my bullets count. Nevertheless, I still think this is something that will need resolvingbefore final release.
I should say that I am unfamiliar with using a PS3 controller for a first-person shooter, and a lot of my difficulty playing the game could be in part caused by this. That being said, if you thought I was bad with the typical Dualshock, wait until you read about my other control-type experience.
Another little extra that has been included in the game is that it supports the Move control. I have one kicking around my place at the moment so I decided it would be a good idea to try it. I had been told that for other shooters, the Move control was really fun and interesting. However, I found it to be impossible to enjoy here as I was too busy being killed as soon as I spawned. Despite the Move controls being fun to use in a single-player FPS, there is no way you can use them to compete against other players. I find it a little strange that they went to the effort of supporting Move controls, especially in a multiplayer shooter.
If there is another part of the game that I would quite happily avoid, it’s driving the vehicles. I have only managed to take control of a jeep with a mounted gun thus far, but I can already say that I would rather not drive (or, insert a hyperbolic statement about all the stuff I would rather do than drive) anything else in the game if it controls in a similar way. You only use the left analogue stick to move the vehicle, even although your natural instinct is to use the right analogue to move left and right. This way of manoeuvring seems to be reminiscent of the way vehicles move in PC games.
When it comes to weapons, Dust 514 continues its trend of blending into the background. All of the weapons I used within the game were just standard combat weapons that could have been from any game. To an extent this makes sense, as you don’t want to make any weapons seem out of place in the universe. Although, it certainly would have been nice to see something new and creative as the weapons all look and feel the same; explosions lack boom, bullets lack impact.
The first game type, Ambush is essentially a team death match where the end game is either to run down the clock with the most kills, or to deplete the enemy team’s clones. The clones are used to represent a life, which each team starts with sixty of. It is a standard death match format on a cut-down version of the larger levels used. Not specific to this gametype is that you can have someone pick you up if you are downed. However, it must be a logistics class that picks you up, so you have to wait until one gets close. If you are left waiting too long then you will die.
The second game type is again a team-based game, except this time the object is to capture and hold different points on the map. This is the only game mode where I really felt the sense of scale in terms of the large number of players involved and the vast map area that could be traversed. I would have found it more enjoyable if I didn’t need to drive to cover large distances, but nonetheless, this was by far the most enjoyable experience. The main aim is to hold on to the most areas on the map, and these will begin to fire at the enemy’s ship.
The ability to directly affect a player in Eve and the fact that the battles all take place on planets within that game’s star map is nothing short of awesome. This comes with an inherent sense of scale, which is portrayed in the game’s vast maps. Unfortunately, Dust 514 is not a lot of fun. Despite all of the extra things that go into the make up of the game, I think it is basically a mediocre first-person shooter. I had originally thought that playing in this beta would get me pumped up for making my day one purchase, but instead it served as a very real wake up call.
Like I said at the start of this, Dust 514 is still in beta, and as a result things are going to change. However, as someone who plays a lot of first-person shooters, I probably wouldn’t consider this a purchase from what I have seen and I think it will be a hard sell to non-Eve players. At the end of the day, they are the people who will get the most out of the game. It begs the question: why would they make this a PS3 exclusive, and not bring it to PC where the fans of the series already reside?