Splash Damage are a team with some great games behind them. From their much loved Enemy Territory series to the work they did with Batman Arkham Origins. It’s a shame then, that some time back in 2011 the team hit a large bump in the road when they released Brink, which for all intents and purposes was a complete lemon.
It was exploding with new ideas that the shooter genre really could have used to create something spectacular but try as it might, it just wasn't a fun experience and ended up in the bargain bin of CEX quicker than the last Iron Man or Narnia games.
Fast forward to today and Splash Damage have been squirrelled away, working hard on their next team based shooter that, while still trying to utilise some of the great ideas that failed to start in Brink, has gone entirely back to its roots. The team are doing what they do best, with a slight twist.
Enter, Dirty Bomb.
After spending an afternoon with Splash Damages new venture, I can tell you they're onto a winner. It’s fast, it’s frantic and it’s challenging! If Brink threw everything you knew about the genre into a recycle bin, then Dirty Bomb claws it all back but not before rearranging the furniture.
Dirty Bomb is a simple enough premise. Set in a near-future London which has been evacuated and some what devastated after a currently unknown disaster, the capital has now become a battle ground for mercenaries and private military groups. Lucky for us that translates into a five vs five game of death.
Now, I’m a sucker for any game that’s set in my home city so it’s no surprise I was filled with joy when my eyes were allowed to feast on the games surroundings, but that’s mostly thanks to the art style which is pleasantly colourful and vibrant, brimming with chunky and entertaining characters. Balancing along that fine line of outlandish cartoon imagery and realism, everything really pops!
There’s an emphasis on choosing the right mercenary for the right job, taking a leaf from the Team Fortress bible as each offers their own unique fighting style along with class, personality, race and back story. I’d be exaggerating if I said Splash Damage had made a group of characters as memorable as Valves seminal shooter but in all honesty, they're not far off. From Nader, with her grenade launching special, to Phoenix, a battle medic who can revive at speed and even auto-revive himself to tip the tide of battle.
Once you’re dropped into battle, you’ll quickly understand just how slick Dirty Bomb is. Every one of the mercenaries available is nimble on their toes, even Rhino! A heavy machine gunner, toting a Gatling-Gun that would make Rambo himself hit the deck and throw a tantrum out of jealousy.
The combat isn't as over the top and bombastic as say, Battlefield but it’s quick, to the point and keeps you itching to revive and come back for more!
Weapons sound beefy and have a satisfying kick to them, while grenades deliver a satisfying explosion of fire and dirt as the screen informs you just how many of your enemy team have been dismembered. A rather nice touch when cooking your grenades, is seeing your mercy throw out his hand and count up to 3, letting you choose how well done you like your grenades cooked before serving.
While each map is entirely suitable for a tight death match, they're in fact so much more. Brimming with a series of objectives, these can be played out in a round by round basis, switching from attack to defend or in a much more refreshing and enjoyable take on the system with ‘Stopwatch’. A mode that sees one team complete said objectives within a certain time, while their opponents try to beat the clock and win the game.
Bridge for example, one of the two maps I had the chance to thoroughly explore, saw my team defending an armoured car as our opponents strived to repair it and travel to the next objective. As the battle raged on, one minute you could be way behind, as your enemies roll to victory, then in a split second their vehicle could break down leaving the team to fall apart under pressure, as they struggle to defend and repair their objective. Even as the timer ticked into the last few seconds, it was always entirely possible to steal a last minute win, meaning you always had to be on your a game, even if you thought it was in the bag.
While Dirty Bomb is Splash Damage treading familiar ground, they're doing it with style and taking it seriously, delivering an explosive little package of fast, frantic gameplay!