At first, Dirty Bomb definitely seemed like a very difficult game to jump into. While the difficulty is definitely a huge factor in this game and may be more of draw to players looking for a challenge, I found that over a few hours I was able to perform better than I have in past online PvP shooters. The premise of Dirty Bomb is that years after a mysterious disaster has left London abandoned, mercenaries are hired by various shady organizations to return to certain areas and either recover high-profile items and information or destroy them.
It is a free-to-play game but the Splash Damage team is dedicated to creating a free-to-win environment that may have more items and mercs available for paying customers, but free-to-play players will still have access to some cool content. Two mercs, Aura and Skyhammer, will be available to all players with an additional character being rotated in for free every month. This will enable players playing for free to have a chance to try out various merc combos almost as much as the paying players. Dirty Bomb isn’t so much about who can identify the best parts of the map and set up camp so much as it is about mastering the tactics of different mercs.
The character designs are diverse and include a fair ratio of men and women as well as a good selection of character archetypes, an added bonus being that you select three characters to bring into each match. During death screens, you can switch out which character you want to utilize upon returning to the match depending on what the scenario calls for.
This forces players to think more tactically and play around with other mercs because each one has a different set of weapons and attributes that work in their favor as well as attributes that work against them. You may pick someone who is very tech-savvy and can spawn a turret or plant land mines, but is it equipped with a heart-rate sensor that can detect approaching enemies or deploy a health regeneration field? No? Well, then maybe you need to have a healer as a part of your group as well as a badass commando.
Initially the concept of character-switching wasn’t easy to get a handle for me, because in other online multiplayer scenarios I usually find a character I love and stick to them like in the Borderlands series where I like playing as the Mechromancer or Athena. You get used to a character's skill sets so it's difficult to give it up. In Dirty Bomb you have to force yourself to play with multiple characters or else you will end up doing what the trailer implies and get the shit kicked out of you constantly. If you see that a character is sniping from across the map, you can switch to a sniper character and snipe them right back upon returning to the game, but you have to have one in your trio in the first place. If not, you’ll have to figure out a way to make do with one of your other characters.
In order to upgrade your mercs' loadout you will have to purchase cases which will select a character loadout card at random for you. There are different tiers of loadout cars (different loadout types); obviously, gold is the set of more powerful loadout weapons and perks. The cool thing about the loadout cards is that, if you get a bunch for a merc you never play as, you can trade up to a card for a character you do want to play as, which requires a certain number of cards from the previous tier in order to unlock. When you get a loadout card you like, you can then switch the loadout for your mercs when locking in your roster before an online match.
The online matches aren’t just your run-of-the-mill deathmatches. You will find yourself on the defensive side trying to protect an objective, or on the offensive side, trying to destroy an objective. The amount of kills your team gets is not the deciding factor on who wins because the competitive maps are built around time-based scenarios. You can play 5v5 or 8v8 in the two main game modes. Stop-Watch mode has each team take turns defending and attacking an asset as a timer counts down. Objective mode is the more involved competitive mode with different phases, like repairing a vehicle while on the defensive and then having to escort the vehicle through the map to the next objective without it being destroyed.
Okay, time for some microtransaction numbers. If you purchase The Merc Starter Pack for $19.99, it permanently unlocks five additional mercs in addition to the two already available for free and you will also receive 35,000 in-game credits. Free-to-play players will be able to purchase additional characters with earned in-game credits or normal currency. Tier 1 mercs are available for 30,000 credits or $6, Tier 2 mercs for 50,000 or $10, and Tier 3 mercs for 70,000 credits or $14. The cases that allow you to customize loadouts can only be obtained with in-game credits or the occasional drop during a multiplayer match. You can get 1 case for 1,000 credits, 5 cases for 4,750 credits, or 10 cases for 9,500 credits. Whew!
Dirty Bomb is exclusively available on PC and I highly recommend any of you hardcore competitive multiplayer enthusiasts to check it out. Although Splash Damage is definitely marketing to the more serious FPS crowd, this game still has an appeal for a wider audience, especially if you prefer FPS multiplayer games that aren’t solely about wartime scenarios. Dirty Bomb has done a good job of creating a unique environment and characters who are interesting, made more notable by how they operate individually in battle.