District 187 Open Beta Preview

Counter Strike, from Valve, is probably the best known online shooter on the planet. In recent years, the Call of Duty franchise has skyrocketed forward, becoming a competitive alternative to the online shooter forum, but it’s not alone. Seemingly in the shadows, a spattering of free to play alternatives have arisen over the years, and if this year’s E3 and Gamescom are anything to go by, then you can expect a lot more in the months to come.

One of these upcoming shooters is District 187 from CJ Games – a free to play title that’s similar to Counter Strike both in terms of graphics and gameplay. It follows the traditional ‘Cops vs Robbers’ mentality, pitting 2 teams of players, the Gangsters and SWAT, against each other in fully-automatic urban warfare. The game’s backstory loosely explains the situation with the world falling into turmoil, and with it an uprising in gangs looking to take control of the economy.

Currently in Open Beta, many of the planned features are yet to be implemented, which makes it difficult to review. At present, the only available game type is Deathmatch – which again, follows dangerously close to the gamestyle offered in Counter Strike and several other F2P games in its likeness. It’s those modes not yet offered that seem most exciting, including modes that allow clans to take control over territory (maps), giving them bonuses while playing.

Speaking of clans, there’s a bunch of clan-based features in D187 that are shaping up to make a decent impact. With the current rise in F2P eSports titles, it’s really no surprise that D187 is focusing heavily on this aspect. Again, there’s not a lot of these options available in the beta, but we’ll be sure to review them in full com release.

One of the most prominent features in D187 is the ability to not only purchase new weapons, avatar skins and items, but also, to customise them individually based on your own personal play preference. While not an overwhelmingly innovative feature, it’s one that we feel is often overlooked. Sadly, the open beta only offers a handful of weapons and customisations, so again, we’ll need to wait until release to offer a comprehensive review.

Perhaps the most exciting element promised in D187 are the weekend events, that will be fully moderated by the GMs. Basically, they’ll be coming up with a bunch of cool and interesting ways to make this mostly typical room-based shooter more compelling: we heard a bit about Headshot Saturdays at Gamescom, but there are plans for a lot more on the horizon.

Furthermore, the idea that alongside these typical shooter matches, there will be persistent, growing factions that players can join in order to help increase their influence over particular section of territory, is really exciting. This part frustrates me some, because it feels a little like a cop-out – don’t get me wrong, these features sound great, and I can’t wait to give them a try myself once they’ve been added to the current build, but it’s 2012 – if you’re going to add persistent elements to a genre that’s been around for more than a decade, you might aswell just add a proper persistent world. That’d have me a lot more excited, but still, some persistence is better than nothing.

But, these topics are best left for the future, once they’ve been properly tested and released. For now, District 187 is a competent, if traditional, free to play shooter that shouldn’t be missed by fans of the genre that are looking for something new, or don’t have the cash required to buy Counter Strike. Stay tuned for the full review on release, or join the beta now on our District 187 Game Page.

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