As far as competitive shooters go, this one does have some interesting features. The multiplayer aspect requires you balance clone reserves, holding checkpoints, and bringing the right tools for the job. Need a place to spawn closer to the action? Set up an uplink where players can respawn. A troublesome tank the opposing team has deployed? Respawn as a missile launcher unit. Snipers causing problems from the ridge? Grab a sniper yourself and take them out. Your team running low on reserves? Bring a medic and make sure you pick up your fallen comrades. All of this is hosted on dedicated servers and while the framerate of the game may present issues many a time as the PS3 struggles to keep the game above single digits at times, you won't have to fiddle with any serious issues of lag.
All of this shows a lot of promise, and the metagame will be appealing and enthralling to a certain kind of person. However, all of this fun sits behind clunky shooting mechanics and a grindy pay or grind to win structure. Players can level up and obtain access to better guns and increase their armor, shields, damage, and nearly every aspect of warfare. It reminds me bit of Battlefield 3 except where the shooting mechanics are not as good and players can earn much higher DPS by unlocking better skills and weapons. New players can pay to purchase consumable dropsuits and weapons to try and reduce their disadvantages as a new player, but even then, veterans with more skills unlocked with dominate matches simply because they deal more damage, take less damage, have better accuracy, and more tools at their disposal. Given two players of equal skill, the one who has played longer or purchased better weapons will come out on top.
As a new player, this is extremely frustrating because you will die over and over to players carrying weapons you can only dream of wielding once you've also played hundreds of hours, and though smart play and skill will sometimes allow you to prevail, the disadvantage you have will make you grit your teeth many a time. Still, this game is all about teamwork, and as a lone ranger, you will die. Smart play and a good squad mean more than the weapons you carry, but even then, you will run into squads all carrying the highest tier weapons, and you will face a severely uphill battle. Veteran players can call in air strikes which can take out an entire pack of clumped up players, and it is perks like these that reward those who have played longer heavily.
All dropsuits and vehicles are consumable which creates an interesting economy. Are you willing to risk deploying a tank to salvage this losing battle? Each action you take carries a real cost, and that cost will make you think twice about what weapons you're willing to take at each respawn.
All of this said, the game becomes more fun as you unlock the skills and weapons that had you at a disadvantage for so long. For example, unlocking the sniper proficiency will finally do away with the horrible weapon sway allowing you to consistently shoot targets. Unlocking a better dropsuit will allow you to have more armor, and better guns will let you take out two to three enemy players in a row. But the road to get there is long and difficult, and full of unfun experiences and frustrating defeat. And you may find yourself wanting to visit the cash shop so you can buy those better guns that everyone else seems to have, but you do not.
Dust 514 can be a blast with unlocked skills, good weapons, and a squad of friends, but until you reach that point, Dust 514 is a painful slog.