Dust 514 Hands-on Preview Part 1 -- Did Someone Order an Orbital Strike?By Sophie Prell - Posted Mar 23, 2012
Dust 514, the upcoming freeo-to-play PlayStation 3 title by CCP Games, creators of EVE Online, isn't the type of game to sit around and tell you what it can do. It doesn't boast or aggrandize, and it doesn't showboat. Neither do its creators, for that matter. Here at CCP Fanfest in Iceland, you'd expect developers, PR consultants, and more to harp endlessly on about how great Dust 514 is or will be. But they don't. After all, why stand up for the game when it stands so well on its own?
Why tell players they should be excited when you can show ground forces in Dust 514 call in an orbital strike, not from a radial menu or NPC-controlled ship, but from real, live players in EVE Online and sit back as the fireworks seamlessly transfer from one game to another?
Dust 514 is an ambitious project, and not one without its hiccups, to be sure. For one, it's another first-person shooter entering a market practically flooded with the genre. Secondly, the developers have consistently labeled it as a triple-A title, yet EVE Online – the game and universe in which Dust 514 takes place – hasn't yet breached the half-million subscriber mark. Third, and perhaps most importantly, hardly anyone even knew how the game felt to play.
That is, until today, March 22, 2012.
In my first match against fellow journalists, I chose the outfit optimized for sniping. It featured armor enhancements that allowed me to move quicker, jump higher, and recharge my shields faster. Unfortunately, it left me pretty soft and vulnerable as a balance. In this 4v4 match, I definitely got a Team Fortress 2 vibe from the gunplay, mixed with a healthy does of Call of Duty and Halo. Every time I died, I could re-assign myself an outfit, which in turn gave me access to different weapon loadouts and armor. These will be customizable in the final game, but for the demo we fell in line with what the devs had given us.
I swapped out my configuration a couple times but never felt satisfied with the mobility provided from my first choice, and so I always found myself returning to that fitting. There's vehicular combat as well, and each unit is delivered via shuttles to the battlefield. In other words, tanks are delivered; they don't materialize out of thin air.
It was impressive to see the sheer number of options that will be available to players in terms of playstyle. With so much choice and the possibility for gamers to play the way they want, it'll take coordination and leadership to rally them into an effective fighting force. Who knows? Maybe you could be that leader.
Having spent some time with Dust 514, and a brief, if not altogether pitiful existence, as a mercenary in EVE Online back in 2004, I can safely say the universe CCP has created with these two games is one of the most coherent, well-designed, and intriguing I've ever seen. I can also say that CCP definitely has something magical on their hands.
You may think I'm being overly praiseful. But hey, I'm just as surprised as you. As I said, I picked up EVE Online for the first time back in 2004, and played the game for a grand total of about five days. I have since watched its development from afar, never truly finding too much enjoyment in actually playing the game.
Now enters Dust 514, a game which takes place in the EVE universe, and suddenly I'm giddy. Why? Because while EVE Online never really appealed to my gamer needs, Dust 514 is hitting all the right buttons. It has fast, action-packed, and in-your-face combat. It has customization with thoroughly mapped-out options. It includes, perhaps even relies on, social interaction and integration more than virtually anything I've ever seen.
Every play session I've been to, I've been excited to put my hands on the controller. Every match, I'm feeling my heart jump and pound against the back of my neck. Every victory is a joy. Every time I'm ranked first on my team is a moment in the spotlight. And while I can clearly tell that I am playing a game, with pre-set conditions and pre-generated maps, not unlike every other first-person shooter on the market, this one feels so much more...real.
I can't properly describe how utterly grin-inducing it was to watch Dust 514 players call out to EVE Online players for an orbital strike, and then to see that action play out in both games: seamlessly, simultaneously. Splendidly.
It wasn't the graphics. It wasn't even the idea of an orbital strike as an option to players. Because let's admit it: there are better-looking games than Dust 514, and we've seen aerial strikes in other titles. No, what made this special was that it wasn't scripted. It all just sort of... happened. That may seem like a small detail, but what it shows is the power of a sandbox design. When you have sandbox done right and done well – and CCP has done well – you introduce an asset no other game can even touch: human imagination and ingenuity.
And with that design philosophy in mind, CCP has proven that they don't just have a game; they have a universe. One you can join right now in EVE Online, or later this year when Dust 514 launches for free on PS3.