Destiny – Preview

Title   Destiny
Developer  Bungie
Publisher  Activision
Platform  Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PS3, Xbox 360
Genre  FPS
Release Date  September 9th, 2014
Official Site

I hate the Halo series. Now that I’ve made that clear we can proceed with a look at Bungie’s latest title, Destiny, without fear that I’m some massively biased fanboy. Destiny is a first-person shooter role-playing game set seven hundred years in the future where mankind has all but been wiped out, despite successful expansion into our solar system. The player will take on the role of the Guardians – a group tasked with investigating ‘The Collapse’, which is the name given to the event that nearly saw mankind destroyed. The Guardians and what is left of humanity exist in the last city on earth in a place called The Tower, which acts as the player’s home in the game. There is certainly plenty of detail within Destiny’s story, and the brief explanation above only scratches the surface as to what is going on and what will be required of the player.

The hands-on I got with Destiny was a six versus six multiplayer match spread over two rounds, where controlling points and getting player kills amounted to an overall score that would determine the victor. Prior to starting the game, we were shown a very brief example of how the character creator and inventory screens operated. The character creator was particularly impressive, due to the large amount of options available. Bungie showed off some of the many combinations you could use for your particular Guardian, and the results were quite impressive, with each one looking very unique and cool in equal measure. The character inventory interface was incredibly slick and easy to use, even if there wasn’t a whole lot to change on offer.

The game began on the first map, which was very reminiscent of a couple of Halo multiplayer maps I’d seen in the past, although much smaller by some degree. It was full of sand dunes and small buildings that acted as little pillboxes. The second map was far less Halo and generally more enjoyable, featuring ruined buildings and walkways overrun by plants and weeds. I was running around equipped with an assault rifle and a shotgun, complimented with a couple of powers that I’ll come back to shortly. It wasn’t long before it all kicked off, with grenades and bullets flying all over the place. The combat is so much better than Halo, first and foremost because it’s not fucking awful, and secondly because it actually feels like a proper, solid shooter. Halo suffered from feeling like every battle was taking place in zero gravity with people using paintball guns and peashooters as weapons.

Destiny avoids this issue by having weapons that feel weighty and powerful. The assault rifle may clearly be a standard weapon that anyone can use, but still came across as a decent gun with which to cause damage and harass people. It requires aiming down the sight, as hip-firing from any sort of range seems rather inaccurate but, other than that, it’s a good all-round weapon. Better still is the shotgun, which packs one hell of a punch even if it isn’t worth a bucket of piss at range. Up close and personal, however, it’s deadly, and the reloading function is very cool, with individual shells being dropped into a spring-loaded mechanism in the chamber.

Both weapons were used multiple times, due to having to get so close the capture points in the relevant zones. This made it difficult for anyone to hide or ‘camp’ near the capture points because each one has at least two routes in and you have to be stood pretty much next to the flag to grab it. I’m all for exterminating camping or sitting behind corners waiting for people, so this is a smart move by Bungie to attempt to eliminate these problems. If it wasn’t to be my guns then there were two other weapons I could use to cause some damage, although I never actually found out what they were called. One acted as a force push of sorts, although it seemed to behave as more of shield-draining tool than anything else. The second, or so I first thought, was a plasma grenade, but instead turned out to be a projectile that sticks to a surface and then creates a vortex that causes damage to whatever poor soul wanders into its reaches – I claimed my first triple kill this way.

There was also an opportunity to use vehicles on the first map, although of the two on offer I only had the opportunity to try out one. The one that escaped my grasp was a fairly sprightly tank vehicle that caught me out on a number of occasions and proved to be quite dangerous. The vehicle I did get my hands on was a disappointment in as much that it was basically the Ghost from Halo but with new skin and weapons. Bungie, listen up: you clearly possess some talent, I don’t want Halo 2.0 – Destiny seems pretty cool, so stop making stuff similar to the shit you’ve been punting out since 2001. It was shit then and it’s ageing about as well as Madonna is. Stick with the originality, it’s working.

As the battle waged on, players slowly gained what the developers called a ‘supercharge’ – a one-off power that could be utilised to inflict massive amounts of damage. It seems that, along with everything else, this power can be customised by each player. For the demo, however, using the supercharge released a huge ball of energy that acted like a grenade, wiping out everyone caught in the blast zone. I wouldn’t call it a game changer as such but it was certainly an interesting spectacle.

Over the two rounds each team picked up a win each. On both occasions it seemed that once you slipped behind it was very difficult to retake the lead, bringing me to question the balancing of the point allocation for the three capture points on the map. Of course, this is largely speculation at this point; the game was being played by twelve strangers and only just went to closed alpha, meaning there is still a great deal of tweaking to be done. Graphically, Destiny is looking very impressive and I don’t have a single complaint because it looks that gorgeous from start to finish – even the damn loading screen had a lovely theme, with spaceships flying to the planet on which we were about to do battle.

As I finished up and began to leave, I mentioned to one of the senior producers that I’d actually hated the Halo series and only found some minor enjoyment playing Halo 3:ODST . He was surprised that he’d found someone who disliked Halo but who had turned up to play Destiny, and quickly followed it up by asking me what I thought. It was now my chance to be surprised when I said it was actually pretty good and, like a carpenter admiring a fine bit of workmanship, his smile indicated he had every faith in his product to convert even the strongest of anti-Halo protesters.

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