Dirty Bomb: The clock is ticking…

A PC-only shooter built with the intention of bringing the genre back to its hardcore roots. That’s the concept behind Dirty Bomb (the latest effort from Splash Damage), one designed for those underwhelmed by the mass-market offerings of COD and Battlefield. Oh, and it’s free-to-play, so you’ve got little excuse not to at least give it a test drive.

Teamwork is the key to victory, with the skilled integration of various classes producing the best results. The lightning fast Proxy excels in close combat, and comes loaded with proximity mines that are perfect for blocking off various routes and creating traps. Vassili, the sniper, is the opposite helpless in confined spaces but potentially deadly if overlooking the wider arena. Grenade and heavy weapon specialist Fragger and medic Aura round out the basic and most easily digestible cast, but some 12 characters are available in all.
Each character has a distinct signature skill but they frequently get rotated in free-to-play, so don’t get too attached.
Eventually available, at least. As a free-to-play proposition, Dirty Bomb will be rotating its available characters on a regular basis unless you decide to pay to permanently unlock them. Multiple choices will always be offered, so there’s no risk of you playing a match where everyone is packing the exact same skills. In-game currency earned for completing and winning matches can be used to buy your favourite character, but that represents the long road compared to simply parting with real cash.

The other way to spend your money is through the obtaining of equipment cases containers of loadout cards that alter the abilities of your mercenary. These range from iron-grade cards through bronze, silver and gold the higher up the order you go the rarer they become. Should you be stuck with too many cards of a certain level you can trade them in for something better. For instance, three bronze cards can be turned into a silver worth doing if you own a load of cards for characters that you don’t enjoy using.
“Teamwork is the key to victory, with the skilled integration of classes producing the best results”
It pays to only keep the cards you want to use given how relentless the action in Dirty Bomb is. If you haven’t mastered the abilities and quirks of your chosen soldier then you’re letting the rest of your team down in a serious way, meaning it’s smart to concentrate your efforts on a few characters rather than trying to learn them all. This largely comes down to the structure of the objective-based matches that are at the game’s core, making cooperation and constant communication an essential element rather than an optional one.

Stop-Watch tasks one team with destroying one or more targets while the other defends. The time it takes for the destruction to occur is recorded, the sides are switched and the second lot tries to complete the same objective more quickly. The other mode, Objective, is slightly more complicated and features multiple tasks within a single match. First you might be asked to repair a damaged vehicle, after which you need to escort it to a specific point on the map before, as a finale, you need to figure out a way to smuggle a set of items into a waiting truck. All while the opposition is trying to stop you from doing so.

Throughout both game types there exists a level of tension thanks to the shifting scenarios, enticing you to constantly change tactics to stay ahead of your enemies. Should you not be prepared to wildly alter your course in the heat of the moment you’re dooming yourself to failure, with your adversaries celebrating your lack of innovation.

That tension is enhanced by a movement speed that is relentlessly frenetic, and it’s here that Dirty Bomb harks most obviously back to the shooters of old. Running, jumping, strafing and reloading are all performed at a pace that is superhuman. Simply put, if you stand still you’re going to be very quickly overrun.

Further game modes are due to be released down the line, supporting both 5v5 and 8v8 matches. The extreme level of competition means that the top teams are going to be those that play together on a very regular basis, learning the maps and working out exactly how the respective classes best fit alongside one another. Frankly, if you’re not prepared to put the time in don’t expect to see the victory screen very often.

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