When we last played DUST 514, CCP's intriguing PS3 FPS, we were absolutely amazed by the ambitious concepts fueling the free-to-play shooter. The way it connects to MMO EVE Online is brilliant - players can interact between the two games, both indirectly by exchanging money and goods, and directly by EVE players bombing DUST arenas (you can read more about it in our original preview) - but there was a problem: it wasn't fun. At all. The actual act of playing the game wasn't enjoyable, which kneecapped any awesomeness the concepts behind the game might have had. So after showing the game off before, the developers went to work attempting to fix the problem, and finally, at E3 2012, we had a chance to see if their work was fruitful. What a difference a few months can make.
It's still not amazing. If you head into DUST expecting to get the same experience as you'd get from a game like Call of Duty or Battlefield you're going to be very disappointed. But it doesn't have to match those AAA games - it's free to play, and as long as it's good enough, the other cool elements can make up for the gameplay shortcomings. Now, it has hit that (admittedly low) bar; DUST 514 went from bad to exactly as good enough as it needs to be.
The gameplay has been tightened up significantly, and there's a definite feeling of satisfaction that was missing when we played it a few months back. Spraying bullets at enemies (or firing rockets at their vehicles) has the kick it needs, and taking down foes is rewarding and enjoyable. We found that we were actually enjoying playing the game as we hacked an enemy turret and unleashed a barrage of missiles on their unprotected flank, and started to see the pieces come together in a way that could make for interesting battles when the game actually comes out later this year.
DUST is full of so many great ideas, and we're happy to see the gameplay finally (start to) catch up to them. There's still work to be done, though. Even with graphical updates it's not a very good looking game, and while the CCP's shooter has stumbled over the "good enough" level it needed reach, we'd still like to see more improvements made to the controls and overall feel of the shooting to continue making things better.