Have You Played… Dystopia?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

If I’m mentioning NeoTokyo, I have to ask about Dystopia [official site] too. If the two Source mods could be combined in some kind of magical combine-o-tron, I’d be so happy. NeoTokyo has the style but Dystopia has the guts. It’s a multiplayer cyberpunk FPS with implants, mechsuits, zapguns, and an actual flipping cyberspace for deckers to jack in and zip around hacking servers to help teamies in meatspace. Gosh!

Dystopia has the setup of cyberpunk dreams. Levels have a series of objectives in a Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory way, with one team pushing forward and the other trying to hold them back (it’s punks vs. The Man, obvs). You might need to destroy a reactor, blow open a barrier, escort a hostage, or hack something.

That last bit is really great. Alongside meatspace, each level has cyberspace for specially-equipped deckers to jack into. They zip around as an avatar, trying to breach security and take down enemy deckers. Hacking is vital for some objectives, and can provide handy little meatspace benefits like capturing sentry turrets. Oh, and of course people in meatspace need to defend deckers’ bodies as they stand zoned-out at jacking-in points, and meaties can secure more terminals for extra deckers. Meatspace and cyberspace complement each other just as you’d dream.

I remember a lot of spammy chokepoints and a lot of waiting. A lot of uncoordinated teams. A lot of frustration. A lot of nobbers running around cloaked swinging cyberswords then detonating their cortex bombs (I played some dire rounds, okay). But when a team came together, it could be wonderful.

Dystopia is free to download on Steam, though for now you’ll need to follow a workaround too. Seems a few people still play, on and off.


  1. Lord_Mordja says:

    All these years later, Dystopia still has the most satisfying hit indicator sound of any FPS I’ve played.

    • CaptainHairy says:

      100% true. Nothing more satisfying than fisting something into the killplane on dys_silo, mostly because of the deep ‘bwoomp’ followed by the instant death noise ‘bwwwwwmp’.

      I loved Dys. So much. Even made a map for it (I think it got put into the community map pack a while after I stopped playing).

      Heavy all day.

  2. Leprikhan says:

    I wondered if you’d ever ask! Dystopia remains my favorite FPS of all time. One of the most fun to play with a coordinated team, and one of the most satisfying to improve at. Shame the game couldn’t be more accessible. Competitive format was great too.

    They’re making a sequel in UE4, by the way. Google “dystopia 2” if you’re interested, they have a patreon.

  3. unraveler says:

    Even if new Dystopia game will be just a HD update of the same maps, I would buy it!

  4. Aspirant_Fool says:

    The leg implants were also fantastic in this game – they could be toggled on or off, while off you ran and jumped normally, while on, you ran faster, but drained your batteries, and could hold down the jump key to charge up a higher jump. It was intuitive, and added so much more depth and flexibility to the way you moved through the maps.

    • Unruly says:

      I wanna say that version 1.2 broke that intuitiveness, and despite a lot of player backlash the devs were pretty steadfast about not changing it back. Which is when I quit. Maybe they did eventually change it back again, but by then I had moved on.

      Maybe I should give it another shot sometime, but unless there’s a decent playerbase I can’t see myself sticking around for long given my non-standard work schedule creating problems with finding populated servers even in popular games.

  5. Frank says:

    Yeah, it was pretty great. Wish Valve had hired that team.

  6. Mellifico says:

    I played once,and found it great too (William Gibson inside).
    For various reasons I played a lot more and had fun with other Source mods, especially those one:
    Have You Played #eternal-silence #bisounours-party #fistful-of-frags

  7. AlexW says:

    I played tons of Dystopia back in the day, so much fun. I think one of my favourite touches was the detailed stealth mechanics, between visual cloaking, IR cloaking, and sound suppression. It made for some really interesting play/counterplay, running Sound Wave Triangulator to track down would-be sneaky Lights trying to break through the back way, or just running sound suppression with no cloak and banking on there being no one to see you as you launch a surprise flank assault as a Medium. It was incredibly satisfying to hack from an enemy-guarded objective terminal by being careful, saving up your energy, and doing a frantic cloaked hack at the right time.

    The cyberspace bouncing was great, the weapons were pretty much all satisfying (I still have a soft spot for the Heavy’s sidearm SMG and fisticuffs), it became surprisingly pretty by about v1.2 or so, bioxeed’s soundtrack for it was quite nice too (although not quite Ed Harrison’s NeoTokyo tunes), and the community was great.

    I spent a lot of time ignoring homework/sports/the outdoors in favour of pushing objectives as a Medium with the grenade launcher and Mediplant. Dystopia was a real classic, and I miss it any time I think about it.

  8. April March says:

    Well, no! I didn’t know it existed. Thanks for bringing it to my attention!

  9. gabrielonuris says:

    Talking about cyberpunk games, does anyone here remember Neocron? I played it for the first time not too long ago, and it has some pretty ideas (never felt so immersed in a game’s apartment like in this one [ok, I confess, my apartment in Vampire Bloodlines is extremely immersive too]). Neocron was fun even just walking around.

    Damn, I would kill to have a new cyberpunk game with that UI again.

    • CMaster says:

      Hell, you can still play Neocron now – link to neocron-game.com . It’s being maintained by old players of the game.

      I’ll warn you, it isn’t a pretty or low on jank expereince (it wasn’t exactly a “good” game in 2003 at launch, and time hasn’t been any kinder. However, it still exists, is still going 13 years on, and many MMOs can’t say that.

  10. DavishBliff says:

    I don’t think it was my most played Source mod, but looking back on it Dystopia is definitely the one I look back on most fondly. Your description of it is spot on – it was often very disorganized, but when it worked oh boy did it ever work. I should pay more attention to the remake/sequel/whatever because the aesthetic and game design is almost all there already, and has the potential to be a good niche hit at least for a little while like Natural Selection 2 was.

  11. Syrion says:

    Dystopia has so, so much going for it, a wealth of innovative systems all working so well. That “sound visualizer” alone. I loved it.

    Dystopia was also the reason for a great disappointment for me. When it was released just a year or two after Half-Life 2, it seemed like a promise of extremely high quality, fun source mods yet to come, which would surely far surpass Dystopia with more time in development. And yet, to this day, this still stands as the very best of them in my opinion. There are lots of terrific mods by now, of course, but none have just been this fulfilling for me. A great achievement by an apparently very well organized development team.

    I still like listening to bioxeed’s soundtrack, good stuff! Also, apparently earlier this year a team named “Wetwired”, comprised of several original Dystopia developers, started developing an Unreal Engine sequel. Interesting!

    • haldolium says:

      True. There was a lot of promising mods that started along with Dystopia (and some where released as well, eons later) but at that point HL-modding became too much for most hobby developers.

      I would even say with it was with HL² when FPS-modding, or rather total conversions everbody was looking for (and which spawned some of the greates game memories and best known franchises), died out.

      That said, Dystopia was one majorly awesome mod and I am happy that Puny Human is still around, even though Blade Symphony sadly wasn’t as great.

  12. hamburger_cheesedoodle says:

    Dystopia is fantastic. I could write a short novel about it; it has better multiplayer balance than just about any FPS I have ever played to this day, and manages to do it on asymmetrical maps with an attack/defend game mode, which is even harder.

    The only real issue it has is the steep learning curve. Being new is not easy in this game, because everything has layers of nuance to learn, even things as basic as movement, and it makes it hard for new players to get into things. Most of the time the community is pretty welcoming, but even then it’s not always enough.

    Any fellow Dys Vets out there who haven’t heard somehow yet, check out link to dystopia2.com for progress on the sequel. Personally, I can’t wait!

  13. liquidsoap89 says:

    Indeed I have. This was one of the first modded games I got in to, along with CS, The Hidden, and GMod. I always loved the different classes as well, I remember the heavy character feeling particularly satisfying.

  14. Mirarii says:

    Spent tons of time in this and Eternal Silence! Free source mods were so much fun.

  15. CMaster says:

    Dystopia seemed brilliant on paper.

    Cybperpunk style, complex objectives, lots of different roles to fill and jobs to do. All in a pretty slick looking package.

    The reality of it seemed to be a confusing spamfest, filled with deaths that made no sense at all. It was still kinda fun, but I could never really get out of it what I wanted, or something really satisfying.

  16. TheRealHankHill says:

    This mod curb stomps NeoTokyo into the dust, nothing will ever touch this mod. Ever.

  17. horrorgasm says:

    Do people still play this? I used to play obsessively back in the pre-final-release days until the servers just kind of dried up and my cyber dreams were crushed. I was the king of stealth bolt-gunning and hacking. I’ve heard the population has risen and dropped again multiple times since and just haven’t wanted to chance it again for fear of getting hooked on it again just to end up in the same situation where everyone inevitably disappears and the game becomes unplayable. This amazing game basically drove me away from multiplayer shooters in that sense.

    • XX says:

      There was maybe a core of 50 or 60 players who filled a server every other night or so until recently. The fact it requires a workaround to play now has really reduced the number of new players passing through, so the servers have been pretty dead of late.

      I went back to it a year or so ago a break from other games and it pretty much became my goto multiplayer game since then. I think my sister’s Dota team got quite sick of her mic picking up the sound of the Laser Rifle charging/firing in the background… I think it might actually be my most played game on Steam besides TF2.

      Anyway, its a great game. I hope Dystopia 2 becomes a thing and the developers get the recognition they deserve. Neotokyo’s music is better though :)

  18. iviv says:

    You wrote a whole article without pointing out that they are working on Dystopia 2 using UE4? link to dystopia2.com with obligatory patreon crowdfunding.

    I don’t think I ever touched the medium class, I was 99% of the time the light decker for the team, making a beeline to the nearest JIP. Something between the cyberspace physics, the weapons and combat just felt so right. Even the little things like firing the projectiles while in the corridors to get the speed boost like rocket jumping, the little minigames to hack faster, it just clicked.
    And then when there wasn’t anything to hack, either running around as the invis light with a shotgun, or when needed switching to the ion cannon heavy. All the weapons felt right, the shotgun was loud and clunky while the sound and effect from vaporising someone with the ion cannon was just so satisfying.

    the one thing I miss most about Dystopia was stealing objectives from under people’s noses. Like obj1 on silo, managing to cloak in, jack the point while still cloaked and taking that objective while the enemy team are all outside defending the door not realising you’re already in there. The thrill that you could be found and killed at any second, trying to break through that ICE barrier to hit that button, no game has ever managed to match that for me.

    • horrorgasm says:

      Hell yeah. That was the way to play. For me when there was nothing to hack, I’d go heavy and try to shoot guided rockets into their spawn rooms. Good times.

    • Axt says:

      I made an account just because I loved Dystopia so much. The linear map progression, minigame-based point capture, and defenseless hackers added a ridiculous level of strategy. I have never since found multiplayer satisfaction as great as:
      1) EMP grenading the entire enemy hacking team, or
      2) back-hacking (sneaking past the team, capturing an earlier objective, and setting the whole enemy team back)

      Light + bolt-gun for (typically short) life!

  19. Unruly says:

    Loved me some Dystopia back in the day. The decking was an absolutely amazing feature. Gliding movement, subjective gravity, and what amounted to a rocket jump made maneuvering around a unique and somewhat disorienting experience. Then the actual hacking part was its own little minigame, with each program having bits of the screen to hit in proper order to make the hack go faster, or even stop an enemy hack. It was always a fun time in cyberspace.

  20. aethereal says:

    Dystopia is still hands-down my favorite team class based fps, even though I haven’t played in years. I still think it’s better than TF2 or overwatch. The game mechanics, weapons (Tesla gun and LR anyone?) are all so fluid and interesting (even though I was never a huge fan of cyberspace combat). There was a lot of depth too. I only lost interest when the player base shrank, and the only players left would all completely wreck me.