It's a bit odd to think that an accessible first-person shooter could be one of the most interesting games at E3 2012, but that's Dust 514 for you. After all, it's hardly trying to reinvent the wheel. Dust 514's controls work like most first-person shooters on the market, with melee and sprint buttons mapped to either analog stick like in Call of Duty, and vehicle controls very much in the style of Halo. But it's when you dig deeper into the universe this game takes place in that you realize this is one of the craziest first-person shooters on the PS3.
Dust 514 is a sister game to the legendarily hardcore massively multiplayer online game EVE Online, a game of interstellar politics and corporate warfare. EVE has earned a reputation as a game that's incredibly deep and engrossing, but with a learning curve the size of Mt. Everest. Dust 514, on the other hand, is one of the first free-to-play shooters on the PlayStation 3 and provides almost no barrier for entry when you first grab a dual shock and drop into a match.
So there's a surface level of ease and accessibility that Dust 514 offers, and its lack of a price tag certainly makes it that much more simple for PlayStation 3 owners to get into. But it's kind of a rabbit-hole type of game when you start getting into the in-game economy and the politics of planetary control.
The battles take place on planets that exist in the EVE universe, which are constantly being fought over by warring corporations. When you call in an air strike in Dust, a player in EVE piloting a ship has to decide whether it's worth his while to accept that request depending on how heated that warzone is. It's all connected.
On top of that, the currency you earn in the game, ISK, is the same as that of EVE Online. You can either carry that currency over into EVE or use it to dig into the game's extensive customization system that lets you equip your characters with a litany of class-flexible equipment and granular skill upgrades. So if you want to really take your character to its competitive limits, you'll need to become intimately familiar with the very same economy that drives so much of the corporate intrigue of EVE.
When you think about the whole thing, Dust 514 is a pretty brilliant move by developer CCP Games. EVE is a popular and longstanding MMO game with players who are firmly entrenched in the goings-on of the gameworld, but it's not exactly an easy game for newcomers to get into. Dust 514, on the other hand, is a free-to-play console shooter that doesn't deviate much from the popular games on the market in terms of its core gameplay, but layers in EVE's universe and economy on top of that to let you explore at their own pace. It's not much of a stretch to see Dust 514 becoming a sort of gateway drug for EVE Online.
And that's what makes Dust 514 so compelling. Sure, it's a sci-fi first-person shooter that doesn't exactly feel worlds apart from something like Halo. But it's a game that exists in a lived-in universe, where the stakes are high and the players care deeply about their place in the universe. Peel away the accessible wrapping, and Dust 514 is a very interesting proposition for fans of first-person shooters.'