I’ve had the opportunity to observe Dirty Bomb’s development from the very first alpha, and in that time the game has gone through quite a few changes. At the start of 2015 the game launched on Steam, which was an extremely wise move because Nexon’s own launcher was a right pain in the backside to use. Plus, let’s face it, it’s near essential for PC-only titles to be on Valve’s service, whether they like it or not.

Dirty Bomb is now open beta, and while we don’t make a habit of reviewing games in a beta state here at PC Invasion, we have been informed that this beta will be the same as the final release version. As such, we can post our verdict. How nice.

Shooter fans will know developers Splash Damage from classics such as Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory and my favourite all-time shooter Quake Wars: Enemy Territory. That gives them quite some pedigree (especially in my eyes,) but it’s only fair to mention the rather more disastrous mark on their record: Brink. I actually didn’t mind Brink too much, but the gameplay, speed, and controls were ‘consolised’ in the worst possible sense of that word, hampering the game’s full potential. The title didn’t last long. Players abandoned it in their droves extremely quickly.

With Brink being the most recent PC shooter from Splash Damage I’ll admit that I didn’t hold out much hope for Dirty Bomb. Splash Damage appeared to have lost their way, along with the magic which made games like Quake Wars such excellent squad based shooters.

Unlike previous titles from Splash Damage, Dirty Bomb is free to play. That means it’ll cost you nothing to get started, but as with every free to play game the developer has to make cash somehow. In Dirty Bomb’s case that means paying for more characters, and items such as Loadout cards, which I’ll get to in the course of the review.

Dirty Bomb

Bushwhacker drops a turret. I like turrets.

From the start there are three characters available, with more being unlocked when you spend some cash or earn game credits by playing. When I say playing I do of course mean ‘giving up your day job and just playing this instead.’ Characters can cost up to £7.99 apiece, so if you want the whole roster it will set you back quite a few pennies with the additional 9 available for purchase. Play reasonably well in a match and you’ll probably earn about 170ish credits on average per game. Games vary in time, but can last quarter of an hour. To buy a character with credits, you need 50,000. That’s an awful lot of play. About 55-60 hours, based on those numbers.

Dirty Bomb is purely multiplayer. Aside from the short training mission at the start of the game, there’s no single player aspect. Disappointingly, there are no bot matches either; so if you’re new to the game then it’s going to be harder to learn the maps and get to grips with some of the more challenging movement mechanics. You can wall jump, crouch jump and long jump, but these are not easy to execute, and it’s probably wise to revisit the key configs to map the keys a little better until it becomes second nature. Spend too much time trying to practice and perfect these jump in real games, and you’ll just be picked off.

Dirty Bomb

Do the bloody objectives!

The premise in Dirty Bomb is simple. Two teams go head to head to complete multiple objectives. One team carries out the objective, the other tries to stop them. This type of gameplay is what you’d expect from Splash Damage, all their previous shooters have followed the same premise. It’s not original, but when done well it’s extremely entertaining and history tells us that Splash Damage are more than capable of pulling it off.

Each mission has multiple objectives, one minute you’ll need to repair and escort an EV (a tank like vehicle), then, once that’s complete, you may need to set charges or carry an item to the objective. The EV also comes with a mounted gun, but it’s almost completely pointless because you make for a prime target with your head sticking out the top. It’s nothing like the MCV in Quake Wars where you were well protected from enemy fire. Actually, I’m not sure why they even added the turret to the EV other than to confuse or trap new players.

Currently the game only features a handful maps. I’ve so far experienced five in this open beta, and some maps that were playable in the closed alpha have not made an appearance. Ones like Dome are not available, which is a shame because it was one of the more open maps and it made the gameplay a little more interesting. Whether it will eventually re-enter the map roster remains to be seen.

The included maps are quite well designed, but some, such as Bridge, have really annoying choke points. If other members of your team decide to treat the game like a fragathon instead of the intended team game then there’s little chance of success. The tightness of the maps tends to favour those with superb aim; which is, perhaps, Splash Damage’s  cunning way of forcing average players (like, I admit, me) to concentrate on objectives instead.

Dirty Bomb

I am escorting the EV. That is what you are supposed to do

Getting constantly shot to pieces can be somewhat frustrating, but it’s nothing compared to watching players who are still having a hard time understanding what Dirty Bomb is actually about. I’ve spent hours screaming at the screen, watching my team run about shooting each other like headless chickens, as they completely ignore the objectives to win the match. It’s become slightly less of a problem as the open beta has progressed, but it’s still very much in evidence. The longer it remains, the more likely it is that better players (and people bored of just shooting each other) down their mice and move on to something else.

That’s a real problem for Dirty Bomb. It’s not that the game is lacking excitement, but how your other team members play is crucial. While this is always something of an issue in games that rely on team-play to win, the problem appears to be more prevalent here. This could be because of the maps, the choke points, and the fact that the action is really fast (tacitly encouraging everybody to treat it like regular deathmatch.) There may also be something to the fact that everyone is playing as an individual “character,” subconsciously nudging players towards more of a lone wolf type role.

If you want to play a little more strategically, Dirty Bomb won’t really help you out. There are very few places on maps to hide a sneaky gun turret or shoot from distance with a sniper rifle. Not a problem if you just like blasting everything at a billion miles per hour with lightning reflexes, but it means the game is specifically failing some of the classes they’ve provided.

Dirty Bomb

This tunnel on the map Bridge is a great example of annoying level design.

Objectives are important, and the “dicks” (as Splash Damage quite literally warns people not to be in the loading screens) need to pay attention. I died 28 times in one match, and only had two kills; but still came out second on the leaderboard because I actually carried out the objectives to help win the match. That demonstrates how little the dreaded ‘kill death ratio’ should matter in this title. For Dirty Bomb to really succeed, the majority of players need to start thinking (or be further guided towards thinking) about the game objectives, and not just how many kills they have at the end.

Playing well is already incentivised, because it reaps rewards. These come in the form of cases containing “Loadout” cards for each of the game’s 15 characters. Said cards slightly change the characteristics of each of the fifteen characters, and also provide passive abilities such as more health on specific objects like turrets, better cooldowns, or even an extra jump step. How useful each one is depends on your play style, and not all cards rolled will be for a character you own. Cards that are not used can be traded up for others of a higher value that are of use to characters in your roster but you need to collect and play a lot to do this. Loadout cards are unsurprisingly available for purchase for 1000 game credits, or through the purchase of an “Elite case” for £3.99. Yep, it’s free to play so you know there’s going to be a shop lurking in that menu system.

I decided to purchase ten cases with credits to see what would be randomly generated and out of ten cards I received six cards of Lead value, three of Iron and one of Bronze. There are a further three levels above bronze which makes for a lot of collecting or buying.

All the purchasable versions of the items such as credit boosters, cards and Loadout packs feel overpriced. A Loadout Pack for one character alone will cost a whopping £15.99 which is the full price of some indie games. Considering the Loadout cards are going to add some small ability enhancements and statistial perks it all seems a bit pointless and costly. Would you really keep playing Dirty Bomb rotating through the same few maps just to earn cards? I would hope not.

Dirty Bomb

It’s all available for a price or credits.

The characters are varied, and they all follow quite typical shooter stereotypes. The engineer, the medic, the heavy, you get the picture. There are few twists such as Arty, who can call in artillery fire, or Kira who can call down a guidable laser from the sky. All the characters look brilliant, which is no huge surprise considering how good the game looks overall, and the audio is spot-on with quirky character comments that managed not to annoy me.

Each of the fifteen characters currently in the game are selected at the start of each match, and up to three can be taken into a match from the player’s roster (two of the twelve characters are also in constant free random rotation). Each time a player dies they can switch to any of the three they started the match with. This works well because it means a team can adapt to the changing objectives (if they’re actually pursuing them) as the mission progresses. The UI at the start of the match isn’t brilliant though, and it’s hard to spot who’s playing what so you can determine quickly if there’s a specific class of character that would be useful to the whole team for the specific mission. In fact, all of the menus are a bit annoying to some degree.

To be frank, this has been a really hard game to review. Splash Damage have been creating this type of game for such a long time now that it feels like a missed opportunity to create something super special. Instead, it’s a bit of an Enemy Territory/Brink rehash with some of the better bits missing. It’s also free to play, complete with the ‘buy this!’ on everything you might want. Though there’s no doubting that it brings in players, it is still disappointing to see Splash Damage go the F2P route with Dirty Bomb. A one-off purchase option with everything included (even if it was just an option in the wider free to play model) would have felt so much better.

Dirty Bimb

Canary Wharf tube station becomes a battleground.

If Dirty Bomb was a complete Quake Wars: ET style reboot it would probably be brilliant. Larger maps to cater for all skill levels, vehicles for some variety, and defined classes where everyone is on an equal playing field without having to mess about with tweaks via Loadout cards. That may sound a little dull for FPS players raised on fancy class systems, but it’s a tried and tested formula that’s worked to great effect for Splash Damage before.

Dirty Bomb is a solid shooter, but it’s not much more than that. The free to play shooter market has seen many titles come and go in the past few years and though the zero cost entry always guarantees a player-base, it tends to take something truly remarkable to hold that audience. That’s the Catch-22. The game’s success won’t be completely determined by the gameplay and new content additions. Players have to make it work too.

Sadly, I doubt this will happen. The small maps have made the gameplay feel extremely repetitive; so much so, that after two weeks of playing it every night for a couple of hours I have become rather bored by it. And that’s coming from someone who actually backed the game when Splash Damage were crowdfunding it prior to securing a publisher.

Whether there’s enough variety in Dirty Bomb to keep players engaged for the next twelve months is looking doubtful; but it is free, so there’s at least very little harm in giving it a go.

Paul Younger


  1. bad business model even by F2P standards and a mediocare game but a good review

  2. After Brink I wouldn’t trust this studio to wipe my arse let alone make a decent multiplayer game.

  3. A fair score considering all the points raised.

    Small maps, no vehicles and the loadout system are deal breakers for me. I have played it for about 4 or 5 hours now and that’s it done for me.

    I don’t think the devs can salvage Dirty Bomb.

  4. The pay element of this game does appear to be quite stingy and has put me off. The screenshots I’ve seen also remind me of Warface, particularly due to how the weapon models look.

  5. “Unlike previous titles from Splash Damage, Dirty Bomb is free to play”

    Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory was free from the start, even though it was initially intended as a paid expansion.

  6. ” Play reasonably well in a match and you’ll probably earn about 170ish credits on average per game. Games vary in time, but can last quarter of an hour. To buy a character with credits, you need 50,000. That’s an awful lot of play. About 55-60 hours, based on those numbers.”

    This is inaccurate. There are four characters that ‘only’ cost 30,000 credits. Also, there are ‘missions’ you can complete by earning a certain amount of XP, playing certain game modes or playing with a specific character in your roster that pay between 250 and 1000 credits.

    It took me 17 hours to get 50,000 credits which puts hourly earnings closer to 3000 credits. I think missions are designed to get you to 30,000 quickly because if i remember correctly it took me around 8 hours to get there.

  7. Knowing Pauls habits hes probably hurting with this review however i can see him playing this time and time again.I have had nothing but a lot of fun with dirty bomb. The game when out of beta will have 8 maps and also will have all the mercs released. Dirty Bomb has to be played with friends thats when it becomes magical. The loadout system seems to be a sticky point with a lot of people but if you play regularly enough you are rewarded so many cases and Space cash as P4km said the review is inaccurate regarding the route to grind. if you want to buy elite cases here is my fav quote “We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like.”
    once you get to grips with the crafting you cannot get any better than bronze so the the rest is just skins.Back to the gamplay the maps are important you need to remember spots and play as a team. its also important that you bring the right mercs to the fight dont bring a arty merc to medic,engineer,fragger fight. anyone wanting more info or play with other guys contact me via OCB-Gaming.Com .working to get Paul on our teamspeak and change this 5 to 10. you up for the challenge Paul?

    1. Is that a challenge Ads? I would be up for it. At least the OCB guys will know how to actually play the game as a team 🙂 Had great times in Quake Wars with OCB!

  8. Sounds aweful.

  9. The reviewer got quite a few points wrong sadly. First off, they try to tell you how many credits you’ll be making by credits per game only. They completely missed talking about the extremely prevalent and important mission system where you gain thousands of credits by completely these fairly quick to complete missions (that refill every 3 hours). Also, there is credit bonuses of 250 per for first objective match of the day, first stopwatch and first win. How or why this was left out I don’t know but they are definitely incorrect with how fast you can gain credits (it’s pretty fast).

    Second, again with credits, the review talks about how you can buy Loadouts. They specifically state your two options are 1,000 credit cases or Elite cases that you use real money to pay with. What the reviewer for some reason did not mention is you get a case drop once every 2-3 Objectives matches so buying cases isn’t good since it’s RNG. You can use your dropped cases that are free for trade-ups that cost very little. You can also buy THE EXACT bronze loadout card you want for 17k credits or $3.00US. 17k credits takes very little time to get. The Elite cases are cosmetic only for those who don’t mind throwing money at the devs for purely cosmetic RNG cards. It’s basically a slot machine for people who don’t mind spending money. There is no reason to spend money if you just want to play the game unless you feel like supporting the devs.

    Most everything else in the review is simply opinion of the reviewer and they can have that. But I’d definitely like to see the issues I noted corrected and the review updated (even if the score doesn’t change). This games worst enemy is the misinformation surrounding how you buy stuff and this review, much like Angry Joe’s stream/rant, was full of it.

    1. Agreed, you don’t need to buy anything at all but it’s pretty in your face and even Nexon use the word “grind” in their PR materials. Grinding is exactly what it is and the game really doesn’t need it at all. What it does need is everything I mention is missing from the game in the review. Adding things like “credits” and XP that rolls on doesn’t make for a great experience but that’s modern day shooters for you.

      The bottom line is, you have to play a lot and the levels are cramped and small so it gets repetitive fast which means it’s harder to stick with it.

      1. It’s a F2P game. You’re supposed to play it to unlock things. That’s kind of the point. And $60 titles require you to play hours on end to unlock even basic abilities (BF series) or perks (CoD). You can point out that you don’t like the pace of the grind but misinforming people by omitting key information and basing your score off of that isn’t very good. You make it sounds like you’d have to play hundreds of matches to buy a Merc when that simply isn’t true. You would have play a week or so to get a new merc. But most people won’t use more than a few anyway. It’s like berating LoL for it’s model pretty much. Which you can do but at least be accurate with how fast it is to acquire new champions.

        You really should update your review to be accurate. Keep your score and your opinion but don’t misinform people by omission. Also, you might mention that they are constantly evaluating it. They actually changed a few things to where you gain credits even faster now (all the daily 1sts were updated from 250 to 500 credits).

  10. Why no discussion of the mission system that gives you 3 missions ranging from 500 to 1000 credits each? Why no mention of the daily play mode bonus and daily win bonus? That’s 500 credits to play a game in stopwatch, 500 more for objective, 500 for execution, and 500 more if you win one of those games.

    The 55-60 hours you came up with is really, really farfeched. I guess that’s how many hours it’ll take if you were AFK?

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