Having all but defined the sci-fi first-person shooter genre with Halo, Bungie are now trying to redefine it with Destiny, which they call a “shared world shooter.” But while the game — which Activision has released on the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360 — is far from perfect, especially if you’re not big on sharing, it does have some interesting new ideas, and is as engaging and fun as Bungie’s previous gun games.
Set hundreds of years in the future, Destiny casts you as a soldier in a war with alien invaders who’ve decimated Earth and our colonies on nearby planets. So it’s up to you to protect what’s left by, well, shooting anything that moves.
Of course, it should come as no surprise that the controls used to shoot said aliens in Destiny are intuitive and responsive. Or that you’re wearing a shield that recharges when you’re not being hit. Or that you’re be accompanied by a chatty computerized companion. This was made by Bungie, after all. But what might surprise you is that, unlike their Halo games, Destiny allows you to look down the barrel of your gun for added accuracy (something I hope the current Halo designers at 343 Industries take note of). Which really helps since the firefights in Destiny can be as harrowing and frantic as anything you might face in a Call Of Duty game.
Destiny also has a good mix of enemies, and ways to take them out. While many of the guns are more advanced versions of shotguns, machine guns, and other modern day weapons, there are also some special attacks that give this a Force-ful feel (nudge nudge, wink wink). Which is helpful since the aliens don’t just shoot you, they also attack with blades, use strong shields to repel your attacks, and rush at you like a pack of swarming zombies. Though it helps that your enemies are neither dumb nor easily distracted. While there are times when you’ll catch them unaware, they’re smart enough to know when to duck or get out of the way of your bullets.
What separates Destiny from Call Of Duty, Halo, and other first-person shooters, though, is that the worlds aren’t just populated by those aforementioned aliens, there’s other players running around them as well. Which isn’t to say Destiny is an MMO like World Of Warcraft; there aren’t enough people running around to really call this “massive.” (A faux-MO, perhaps?) Instead, Destiny actually plays more like Borderlands…if you played it with other people you didn’t know (and Borderlands looked more like Mass Effect). Especially since Destiny incorporates many of Borderlands’ and Mass Effect’s light role-playing elements, such as how you create a custom character who gains special abilities and skills as they level up, how enemies respawn after you leave an area, and how you’ll find new and hopefully useful weapons and armor as you go, which you can also level up.
The depth in Destiny doesn’t just apply to what you can do in a mission, but in the kinds of missions as well. Aside from objective-based ones that advance the story, there’s also “Patrol” missions, which take you back to areas you’ve been to before so you can either just run around and shoot things or do some side quests, while “Bounties” are objectives that run concurrent with your other missions. There’s even random encounters that you can engage in or ignore.
Destiny also let’s you have fun with friends. Not only can you play the story missions together, but there are dedicated co-op missions called “Strikes,” which are length, tough story-based encounters in which you and two other people have to fight your way to a serious boss battle.
Finally, there competitive multiplayer, which plays out in an area called The Crucible. Here, you can play six-player games of “Rumble” (a.k.a. “Deathmatch”), six-on-six rounds of “Clash” (“Team Deathmatch”) and “Control” (a capture three points game), or “Skirmish” (“Team Deathmatch,” only with two teams of three, and you can revive fallen comrades instead of letting them respawn somewhere else, which encourages you to stick together). All of which are held on elaborate maps that are perfectly sized for the player count, and not only have plenty of nooks and crannies, but lots of verticality as well.
Not surprisingly, these modes in Destiny play like their counterparts in Halo. Which means that “Rumble” is only fun if you’re good at this game, “Control” is only fun if people bother work together, while “Clash” and “Skirmish” is just fun.
Except that, unlike most games that have single-player, co-op, and multiplayer, Destiny lets you bring characters from one mode to the other. Which means you can play “Clash” or do a “Strike” mission with all of the weapons and armor you have from the campaign, and will level up across the board.
As great as Destiny may be, it’s not without its problems. For instance, because you visit the same locations over and over again, this can get a bit redundant. Navigating these areas is also problematic since you hit a button to find your next objective, but the marker disappears after a few moments. Sure, the radar still point the right way, more or less, but if you’re looking for a specific spot, you have to keep hitting the button to find it.
Destiny also has a rich world, and rich world history, but doesn’t always do a good job explaining it. This is especially true of its back-story. Though it is a credit to the world that Bungie have built, and the story this does tell, that you’ll want to know more about both.
Then there’s the tenets of Destiny that will only annoy those who don’t play well with others, ones that come from having multiple players in an area at the same time. Which you can’t avoid, since you not only can’t block people from coming into your game, you can’t even limit it to just your friends. Because of this, you can’t pause the game, not even when you go into the menu to turn off the music.
Not that it matters, since Destiny annoyingly won’t let you turn off the music. Or even turn it down. Which is a problem since while the music sometimes gets so loud that it overwhelms the sound effects.
But the really annoying thing about Destiny letting other people come into your game is how it screws things up. Not only can people jump into the middle of your battles, killing enemies you were trying to kill, but it also kills the vibe. Since most of the battles take place in large, barren, and often derelict-filled wastelands akin to those in Borderlands, Rage, and the less populated areas of Fallout: New Vegas, having other people running around ruins the game’s stark atmosphere. It’s hard to think humanity is on its last legs where there’s a bunch of people running around.
Admittedly, these issues kind of go against what Destiny is supposed to be about. It’s like ordering a cheeseburger and then complaining that it’s too cheesy. Except that Bungie always said this was a game you could play solo. And sure, you can, it’s just a little more annoying than it should be.
The thing is, the more I played Destiny, the less I got annoyed by these issues, and the more it became one of those games where you think you’re just going to play for twenty minutes…and the next thing you know it’s 2:29AM and where the heck are my pants? Which is why, even if you agree with Jean-Paul Satre that “Hell is other people,” you’ll still find yourself getting hooked. It doesn’t redefine the sci-fi first-person shooter like Bungie hoped — since it really is Halo crossed with Borderlands, Rage, and Mass Effect — but it as engrossing as anything they’ve done before.