Dirty Bomb, the long-in-development shooter from Splash Damage, gets an open beta this week.
The shooter, which I've been playing in closed beta for a week or so, blends the frantic action of Splash Damage's Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory with the pricing model of games like Dota 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.
The first-person game currently includes two modes. Objective has players either trying to achieve a number of objectives or trying to prevent that from happening. The other mode, Stopwatch, adds a half-time switch up that gives both teams a chance at offense and defense on a map. The team with the best time wins. The game also includes an option to play in casual or competitive matches.
The PC game embraces classic shooter skills and includes no aim assist or controller support.
While the gameplay should be familiar to anyone who plays shooters, the class system is a diabolical blend of MOBA heroes and Counter-Strike: GO unlockable weapon cases.
Instead of using classes, the game relies on mercenaries and loadout cards to offer players different weapons and skills to use in battle.
Currently there are a dozen mercs in the game sporting a variety of skills and playing styles from heavies to support classes, to scouts and snipers. Each of these mercs are also augmented with character-specific loadout cards which both change a merc's look and give them different weapons and specific perks. The randomized cards come in five levels of rarity: lead, bronze, silver, gold and cobalt.
Before starting a match, a player builds a team of three out of the roster of cards and mercs they have. Once the game starts, they can only choose between those three mercs when they start or are killed and have to respawn.
Gamers can play Dirty Bomb for free, but only have access to the two free launch mercs and whichever three mercs are temporarily unlocked for those two weeks. To permanently unlock any of the dozen mercs, a player has to either purchase them with cash or with credit earned during play. Currently the game sells mercs for $6 to $10 each.
Nexon tells me they are currently working on balancing the rate at which you earn credit to ensure paying players don't have an advantage.
Cases, each of which hold a single random card, can also be purchased for credit or cash. Those merc-modifying cards, though, can only be used on the mercs you either own or are unlocked that week. Other items for sale include credits and experience point boosters.
As of today, the game is also selling a starter kit for $20, which unlocks five mercs, grants 35,000 in-game credits and gives you access to the game immediately.
Forgoing a class system for specific characters gives Dirty Bomb a different feel than your typical shooter and allows the developers to constantly add new facets of play to the game simply by introducing new characters or even weapon loadouts.
I've spent a bulk of my time in the game playing as either Aura, a shotgun-wielding medic who can both revive the dead quickly and drop healing stations; and Skyhammer, an assault character who can call in airstrikes and drop ammo packs. Both completely change the way I play the game.
The free-to-play model initially put me off the idea of Dirty Bomb, but within a day, I found the shooter sucking up all of my gaming time.