CCP Games are confident of breaking new ground with the forthcoming DUST 514, presenting the first videogame which connects two different universes together between PC and console. Many massively multiplayer online (MMO) videogames have released mobile apps and even the likes of Fable III have seen titles across multiple formats offer bonuses to one another, but the connection between DUST 514 and CCP Games’ EVE Online runs much deeper.
The developer has promised that events in DUST 514 will have a significant influence on the way players of EVE Online interact with their world; battles fought and won on PlayStation 3 will see a resulting affect on the economy of EVE Online. But this is just scratching the surface. CCP Games has this idea from the very start, and now that the technology to implement such features is here there are many who simply can’t wait to experience it first-hand. That wait may still be a little longer however, for while DUST 514 is about to receive another influx of players – launching open access today for PlayStation Plus subscribers – the connections to EVE Online will not be set in motion until the videogame’s official launch date.
What we have here then is a brand new first-person shooter (FPS). Ignoring all of the potentially groundbreaking cross-platform convergence altogether, DUST 514 is still a promisingly innovative title. A free-to-play title on exclusively PlayStation Network, DUST 514 could make waves simply by offering an alternative to the likes of MAG and Blacklight: Tango Down. That CCP Games has actually crafted an FPS capable of holding interest in its own right is almost enough to make Xbox 360 fanboys jump ship.
When playing DUST 514 for the very first time, after having validated your e-mail address, read the latest patch notes and installed the many updates, you will be given the chance to create your character. Four races are available at present: Caldari, Gallente, Amarr, Minmatar. Each has its own backstory, but on the battlefield the races are much the same. Each race has three potential bloodlines to choose from, which again has seemingly little impact on the way you play the videogame, but choosing your speciality most certainly does. For all the forward thinking that has gone into DUST 514’s development it’s a real shame that CCP Games has decided to force the player to choose between the grunt, heavy and sniper before even playing a single match. It’s true that most people have a favourite class type that they will dabble with in many different titles, but there’s also those standout videogame experiences which mixes everything-up; a sniper proficient player may well take on a melee approach in Halo: Reach, an aggressive shotgun runner may choose to play a support role in ShadowRun. Here in DUST 514 you can choose to enter a battle with a very different loadout to your speciality, but doing so isn’t exactly wise.
Sadly this isn’t the end of DUST 514 arrogant introduction, throwing all sorts of menus and information that the player before they’ve even held a firearm. Ignoring all this detail and heading straight into a battle. DUST 514 plays like many FPS titles you may have experienced before, with arguably the closet comparison being the underappreciated Section 8 (and not just due to the incredibly similar visual style). Team based matches presenting large scale warzones, players enter a tug-of-war which involves capturing points on the map to gain control. In order to get the upper hand players can call in vehicles to mobilise their allies as well as sabotaging enemy units and bases. At this point it may not sound as if – gameplay wise – DUST 514 is doing anything radically different. And that’s because it isn’t; but that doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t want to be a part of it.
DUST 514 is one of those splendid videogame experiences that is more than the sum of its parts. Every weapon, every vehicle, every objective and every inch of every map can be traced back to another videogame, but that’s not a bad thing. CCP Games has looked at the best the FPS genre has had to offer over the last ten years and stuck a pin in everything they like: DUST 514 is a collage made of all those ingredients. Any FPS fan will feel immediately at home on DUST 514’s barren wasteland battlefields, and also capable of tacking down at least one or two more skilled/experienced opponents during your first match; this is FPS gaming designed for FPS gamers. It’s a little rough around the edges at present, notably in the amount of drab textures that take far too long to load mere inches in front of you, but Electronic Theatre is confident these issues will be resolved before the final build opens to the public. Of greater importance is the balancing of server load, which it would appear CCP Games has handled masterfully.
While the arrival of a significant amount of new players is expected today, DUST 514 has been running for several weeks with a steady audience. During Electronic Theatre’s time with the beta build of the videogame not one single match was hampered by lag or connection issues. You may say that this is because of the lack of technical clout, or that CCP Games are hiding the limitations of the videogame by fogging out areas that are so far away it simply can’t monitor everything on the battlefield at once, but while both are true in terms of visual design neither seems to be an accurate portrayal of what’s going on under the hood. Electronic Theatre made a point of pushing these two theories to the limit, quickly launching across the battlefield at a distant opponent in a straight line while mounted on a two-man vehicle, and even then DUST 514 manages to perform just as well as when slowly moving across a jagged mountain range as a lone soldier. Quite simply, this is the experience every single online videogame should deliver, but so very few actually do.
At present, DUST 514 looks set to make more of an impact on videogame services and delivery than it does on the FPS genre, but that’s as it should be. Linking two platforms is no mean feat; linking two entirely different videogame experiences is practically unheard of. This is a videogame designed to break new ground on a scale far grander than adding a rocket-propelled grenade to an assault rifle or a new objective further complicating a capture-the-flag gameplay mode. Even then, with the foundations for their ambitions firmly in place CCP Games now have plenty of time to go back to the drawing board and make such adjustments should they wish; just make sure you sort out that first twenty minutes of techno babble, OK fellas?