The Beta Test – Dust 514
Dust 514 was announced way back in 2009 for the PlayStation 3 and for the last few weeks has been available to play in beta form via invite, purchase from the PlayStation store and for PS Plus members. Besides the fact it was a first person multiplayer shooter and connected to CCP’s other game, EVE Online, I had no real idea what to expect. While I’ve enjoyed playing the game for the most part in this time there have been quite a few problems with the game. After hearing all the positive feedback of the game from the most recent Gamescom, I questioned if this was the same game, turns out that this wasn’t entirely incorrect. A rather substantial version 2.01 update has improved not only the look of the game but helped greatly with the online stability.
The first day I signed into Dust 514 was an entirely new venture for me, entering the space of a free-to-play game for the very first time. First thing to mention is that the entry barrier to get into the action is rather high – about half a dozen text heavy menus make up the process for creating your character. You can however coast through these if you’re not au fait with the EVE universe, much like myself.
Initially the visual flair didn’t appear to live up to the likes of other titles created on the same Unreal Engine, but this is still very much a beta, for a free-to-play title on consoles this is a leap forward. Since the massive two gigabyte update that I mentioned the game has been polished up massively. The Merc Quarters you once inhabited between missions, enabling you to improve your skills and create loadouts, has transformed from a small side room to an actual living quarters, helping build some authenticity to this segment of the world.
While everything to do with searching for matches and the like can be done from the monitors scattered around your virtual pad, you can bringing up a side menu to do the exact same options. It’s a nice touch to have everything in one place or to take part in the complete immersion that is offered. These menus are not always the clearest to understand unfortunately, when purchasing weapons it will indicate which will work with your skillset, but knowing which skills you need to improve is another matter. This maybe something I skipped over in the initial start-up, but once again the new update makes the process notably easier.
On to the main part of Dust 514 – taking the fight online. On my first few attempts the game was ridden with lag, shots wouldn’t register, players jumped around before my eyes and matches would occasionally drop out. This may sound incredibly disheartening to hear but when everything ran smoothly it was an incredibly fun experience. Version 2.01 fixes all the previous issues however, building on something that was already going to be a solid experience for the most part. Maps take place on a varied battlefields throughout the EVE starmap, from building complexes, open desert style areas and everything inbetween.
Loadouts are handled rather differently to what you’d expect from the usual style in Call of Duty or Battlefield. Swapping out weapons is still the norm for your custom classes, but you’ll have to maintain these, everytime you die in battle you will lose the items you purchased. Stocking up can only be done during your downtime back at the Merc Quarters, just simply select your class and hit that resupply button. All is not lost if you’re a pick up and play enthusiast though, the standard Assault, Scout, Heavy and Logistics class are present and can be used an infinite amount of time without putting a strain on your in-game wallet.
As this is free-to-play there is the problem of players forking out the cash for the better weapons and armour enhancements – making some of them somewhat more difficult to deal with, though at present I’ve had no problem with this. The main issue I’ve found with current matches is that spawn points put you in some inconvenient places, finding myself instantly in the path of enemies bullets multiple times. This might only be a handful of times and has not halted my determination to jump back into the match just moments later. Another grievance that some players might find is the inability to easily add friends to your game, mainly as you have to set a unique name for your character. This doesn’t appear against your those on your friend list or within the game itself. Some additional coordination will be required if you want to play online with your friends.
While some technical aspects have held Dust 514 back in its early stages, pretty much everything has been tightened up and tweaked in preparation for release to the general public. I’m not a big fan of using the term “Halo killer”, the last game I heard referred to as this was Haze for the PS3, and that is certainly a game people would rather forget, but I think Dust 514 might be worthy of this title. It’s a shame that something as good as this is coming out so near the possible end of the consoles life cycle, hopefully it will make the transition to the next iteration of Sony’s home console. If you’re a big fan of FPS multiplayer, then be sure to pick up Dust 514 when it becomes available to the public.