(PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PC)
Bungie, the celebrated development studio behind the “Halo” franchise and, many would argue, the architects behind the successful launch of Microsoft’s entire Xbox brand, is a game maker that I always enjoy watching.
Reason being: Bungie changed things. It was “Halo” that singlehandedly placed first-person shooters as the dominant genre of the last console generation. It was “Halo” that took online gaming out of a strictly PC domain and placed it onto the couch.
But after five Halo-centric releases for the Xbox and Xbox 360, Bungie entered a partnership in 2010 with publishing colossus Activision, and announced in late 2012 and early 2013 “Destiny,” an ambitious massively multiplayer shooter in a similar sci-fi vein as “Halo.” Having spent some time with the pre-release beta build of “Destiny” (open to anyone who pre-orders the game until July 27), I offer the following impressions.
First up, the action is more than comparable to “Halo,” but with a much more realized (and needed) sense of weight to the weapons. There’s a nice level of variety on display, even at this limited stage — players can get access to pistols, sniper rifles, devastating shotguns and explosive ordinance. The combat feels pretty great, and scoring a melee kill is a joyous event.
There’s just enough classic Bungie gameplay here to be instantly familiar, but with a satisfying new feel.
It’s early to judge, but with the new heft to the weapons, this could be the finest shooting the “Halo” team has crafted yet.
Along with the weapons, every corner of “Destiny” is stuffed with loot, and there’s a nice balance between rare items and forgettable sell bait.
The vendors always have at least a couple of new and useful pieces of kit, and the game features a great option to break down and sell equipment from anywhere in the world. It may not seem like much, but having watched friends march for 10 minutes across massive worlds in “World of Warcraft” and “Final Fantasy 14” and their ilk, I believe this will be a little twist that will be popping up in MMOs for years to come. This is something Bungie has always done well, added little, seemingly insignificant little variances to established formulas that just make the whole experience go smoother.
During the few hours I managed to clock into “Destiny,” I found that the difficulty scaled very well. The game takes great strides to mask the usual MMO clichés, and I must say that I was very impressed that it has held my attention. I don’t ever go in for the massively multiplayer experience anymore, but this is a game I could see myself playing for a while. Not once did I ever feel I was growing too powerful for a specific area, nor did I feel smothered by a blanket of players with higher levels and better gear and believe me, the game world was densely populated with players).
And good God, “Destiny” is gorgeous! My Beta access code was for the PS4 version, which made for a very visually pleasing title. I’d actually go so far as to say it is one of the best looking games I’ve seen yet on the PS4, having that perfect blend of fidelity with bright and bold colours that we rarely see anymore. Everything in “Destiny” just pops off the screen, and this isn’t even a finished prodect! The soundtrack is powerful and sweeping, and the cast thus far features recognizable talent like Bill Nighy and Peter Dinklage.
The Beta build allowed for an adequate amount of exploration, coupled with a handful of story missions (including some dungeons with their own lore and boss monsters), and limited access to the game’s multiplayer arena, The Crucible, which lets gamers take a break from the usual massively multiplayer business, and participate in gladiatorial games that are conveniently similar to first-person shooter multiplayer modes.
It’s all well and good to poke fun, but Bungie obviously knows what side of the bread to put the butter on, and one would be a fool to think shooter fans won’t be turning up in droves to play capture the Flag.
While this was obviously meant as a brief look at an unfinished version of a highly hyped fall release, I have to admit that things are shaping up in an absolutely huge manner for “Destiny.” It’s got a great space opera setting, and I’ve seen hints of an epic story. It’s got that signature Halo-esque gameplay, but evolved. We’ve only been given a small taste, and already I am hungry for more. Famished to more fully customize my character (I went with an Exo ... robots rule, dude), starved for another dungeon.
“Destiny” is not just going to be a big game, but I think it’s going to be another game changer, and we’re fated to soon see a new figure take a commanding slice of the online gaming pie. Destiny releases on Sept. 9.
Contact Jon Mercer at email@example.com.