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Dust 514 Hands-On Preview: A Giant Leap Forward For Free-To-Play Shooters

Posted January 30, 2013 - By Alex Rubens


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Dust 514

When you’re doing something as revolutionary as CCP is with Dust 514, it can be easy to focus on the bigger aspects and forget about the basic gameplay mechanics that make modern shooters as popular as they are, but, thankfully, through the help of a year-long closed Beta, Dust 514 is continually getting closer to the standards set out by other heavy hitters in the genre while also creating new milestones along the way.

Dust 514 isn’t meant to be just another shooter, but rather, it takes a stance against stagnant innovation by turning the console shooter market on its head with a free-to-play, massively-multiplayer, first-person shooter available to anyone who has a PlayStation 3. That’s huge.

We went hands-on with Dust 514 multiplayer for the first time since Gamescom, and by all indications it has transformed from a neat idea into something that may change the console shooter market as we know it.

Sitting down with Dust 514, the first thing that caught our attention was its scale. It’s large, and not just in number of players (currently capped at 32) but also size of the environments. You can spawn at any number of captured points on the map, but you can also spawn out of a ship floating over the battlefield, allowing you to drop in a freefall and engage your Orbital Dampeners at the last second. It isn’t just a spawn point though, as you activate cannons around the map that actually fire upon the ship.

Dust 514 Closed Beta Sign-ups Open To EVE Online Players

The class customization system is improved with a slew of new options, most notably, a laser rifle. Yes, constant laser beams shooting from rifles. It’s incredible. We mostly stuck to this, as we had already played with the different classes before, and along the way we discovered just how versatile the weapon actually is.

We held the trigger and fired our laser at an enemy as they ran across the desert-like surface, doing damage, but not enough to take them down. That’s when Brandon Laurino, Executive Producer on Dust 514, leaned over and shared a little secret, “With the laser rifle, the longer you hold it down, the greater damage it does.” Turns out there’s a strategy to holding the trigger down and ‘pre-warming’ it before you actually attack someone. This worked all too well, simply aiming to the side for a few seconds before sweeping the reticule over the enemy’s head resulted in more kills than when using the traditional shooting method. But there’s also a downside to it, as your weapon can overheat quickly if you hold down the trigger for too long, dealing a devastating blow of self-inflicted damage and making it easy for enemies to pick you off.

There’s a tradeoff to everything in Dust 514. You want to run around with more armor on? You’re going to weigh more, and that’s going to slow down your movement. Run around with as little armor on as possible, and you can move more quickly. It’s up to you to choose how to play.

dust 514

We’ve seen Orbital Bombardments before, but we haven’t had the chance to call them in ourselves until now. Once your team is doing well enough, you have the ability to call in offsite support. It’s very similar to killstreaks in any other modern shooter, but with one distinct difference: your support can either be NPC controlled or provided by another player off in EVE Online. This was done to still allow tactical bonuses for players who might be new to the EVE community and don’t have anyone available for Orbital Bombardment. It isn’t as powerful as it is when done by another player, but it’ll still do plenty of damage. In any case, it doesn’t matter how many times we do it, it’s still incredibly cool to mark a spot and watch fire reign down from the sky.

The level of personal customization around playstyle is even more proof that Dust 514 is all about player choice. It’s up to you whether to call in an orbital bombardment with your friends from EVE or if you want to roll with a certain type of weaponry. Throughout, it's in the area of choice that Dust 514 excels most.

Over the last year and a half, we’ve seen more evolution out of Dust 514 than we originally thought possible. It went from a great idea with scattered execution that screamed free-to-play to something that changed the way we see console free-to-play titles. It’s one of the most ambitious games out there today, and one that we can’t wait to play more of.

Dust 514 Hands-On Preview: A Giant Leap Forward For Free-To-Play Shooters
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