Dust 514 attempts to break barriers in multiple ways when it releases on the PlayStation Network later this year.  Created by CCP to work in concert with their long-standing MMO, EVE Online, Dust 514 appears to be the micromanagement to EVE’s large-scale interactions.  I was able to jump into the closed beta to provide you a preview of this upcoming free-to-play first person shooter.

All in all, the concept itself is extraordinary.  Players in EVE Online can hire the mercenaries of Dust 514 to contest planets, wage battles and conduct missions on their behalf – all in the name of accumulating wealth and power.  CCP has plans for live game-to-game interaction where EVE Online players can bombard their Dust 514 opponents on the ground at the same time that the ground troops retaliate – thereby affecting the larger EVE Online universe.

Dust 514 is not the typical shoot to earn levels to unlock the next gun. It is chocked full of role playing elements you can affect – from your abilities with weapons to the efficiency of your armor.  Using your accumulated skill points will unlock new weapons, armor and abilities to further tweak your character to suit your needs.  Thankfully, the menu system is fairly easy to navigate and explanations of skills and abilities are prolific.

In this beta, CCP is currently showing off two of the four game modes: Skirmish (Objective Based) and Ambush (Team Deathmatch).   Ambush showed off small maps that really brought the in-your-face firefight to the forefront.  I preferred the Skirmish mode.  Each side has a large control ship in the sky above the battlefield.  The object for the troops on the ground is to capture control points that then fire upon the opponent’s command ship.  With maps that are more sprawled out, it emphasizes the different classes in the game and allows for use of vehicles.  The downside of Skirmish mode is firing at guys really far away.

I was able to play a few different maps in both modes, and in all cases, the maps themselves are designed very well.  While I appreciated the maps, I wasn’t quite as in love with the weapons themselves.  Granted, I was only using the stock, starter weapons, mainly because I needed to upgrade certain weapon skills more; so it is possible that continuing to play would allow me to perform better as I raised my skill and procured better weapons.

That’s probably my biggest concern for Dust 514.  My fear is that as the game releases, a large barrier to entry will develop.  I worry that a small group of players will up their skills and weapons and any new players with starter weapons will not have the patience or the aptitude to reach the heights of the core group of players.  I did notice that in between matches, while looking at my skills, I was slowly accumulating more skill points, just being in the game.  I hope that will combat some of the dissonance that will be in play.

It’s still too early to say whether or not Dust 514 will be a success.  I like what I’ve seen so far and I’m looking forward to the game getting the final polish.  The game’s concept and planned integration make this a must-watch title and being free-to-play only enhances my respect for what CCP is trying to do.  Stay tuned to COIN-OP TV for more on Dust 514 as we get closer to the release date later in the year. (We’ve provided sample gameplay from the Dust 514 Beta by Robert Welkner)

Related Videos:

Official E3 Trailer – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ep1P-5e9dQA

New Eden Dev Diary 1 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LC5FlahffVY

New Eden Dev Diary 2 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KgzZof5ZUqM

Official Cinematic Trailer – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=riXXXVX2Omc