Published on September 9th, 2014 | by IceCube
Summary: It’s no secret that I hate Halo. So when tasked with writing this review for Bungie’s next game, Destiny, it’s probably gonna be the only different review you’ll find on the planet, as this online, first-person shooter is one of the most highly sought-after games of 2014. Armed with a marketing budget that could trump Donald Trump, a couple of public Beta tests and casual deadline – this game has been bolstered with every advantage a developer could dream of. But is this new IP good enough to make a notorious Halo-hater like me jump on the Bungie bandwagon? The answer is a resounding “hrmmm…pfff…yyyeah…kinda”.
Concept: You are a Guardian, defending the last city of Earth against an onslaught of alien enemies. You create your own Guardian character, and even though the customizable options are few, it’s good to finally be able to give your character some identity, rather than running around like the plastic action figures seen in Halo. There’s enough options to customize a unique base look, with optional class (Hunter, Warlock, Titan), race (Human, Awoken and Exo), sex and several facial aesthetics. Once you hit the road, however, it becomes redundant as the armour sets and masks (which are all too small for their heads) look virtually identical, and turns the game into Clone Wars.
Rather than being a true open-world game, players congregate on “The Traveler” a white, spherical orb that sits above the Earth, serving as a central hub for the Guardians. Here, the game switches to third-person (which is a great idea) and you can manage quests, buy and sell at shops, and more. On the field, the missions are generally the same: follow the nav marker, shoot some things, push a button, kill a tough guy and go home.
Graphics: I like the smoothness of Destiny, as the frame rate is top class and it runs like a dream. When I played online, I suffered no lag. Bungie are also great at creating beautiful skies, particularly clouds, stars and sunsets. The UI and menus have a very ambient and subtle sci-fi tone, with a strong focus on simplicity and order – and I like that. Where I start to lose interest, once again, is with the drab structural interiors and endless shades of dull grey and poo brown coloured walls. Drab is cool in the right setting, but here, I’m not picking up the vibe, just getting bored with all the ugh…
Gameplay: This is where the game becomes woefully Halo-like and my head starts to explode with rage-infused question marks. Why do Bungie games get a free pass for consistently terrible gameplay? If you need to digest that statement with an explanation, you can find it here. But in fairness, on most levels, Destiny’s gameplay is improved over Halo. I give it credit for finally letting us aim with the left trigger (*claps slowly*) and removing some of the gimmicky, cartoon-like enemies that once stole any sense of thrill from the action. But we’re still faced with gameplay that hates the concept of cover (no breakable walls, standard-issue, heat-seeking bullets, lol) and encourages ludicrous swerving and bouncing around to dodge incoming enemy fire. Even the enemies zig-zag around like Looney Tunes characters hopping on hot coals. It’s a playable shooter, but at its core, it’s incredibly generic.
Sound: The music is excellent overall with very high production values. It’s mostly very subtle and eerie, ambient but not emotional. Sometimes it felt misplaced. There were moments when I was playing then the score broke into a distracting, adrenaline-pumping beat… unnecessarily. Great music, timed poorly. Meanwhile, gunfire sounds much better than in Halo, which used to sound like a Nerf gun battle. All the enemies have intimidating roars, which this game needs (again, unlike the stupid squawks and fart noises of the smaller Halo enemies). Voice acting of the main cast is clear and feels quite scripted, but hell, it’ll do.
Multiplayer: Co-op play is one of the better things about Destiny. It’s best teaming up in threes – one of each class – and working together to clear out an area. It adds a sense of tactical teamwork to the game, and it doesn’t matter if you’re stuck on a team with a douchebag who runs ahead and draws the bad guy – ‘cos hiding isn’t much of an option anyway. Competitive multiplayer takes a few hours of campaign play to become accessible, but places everyone on a level playing field. It turns a game that finally seems quite focused into an arcade accessory, where players are running, gunning and scrambling for pickups. In my opinion it takes the game backwards, to a sadly-essential, done-to-death bunch of modes that some of you will probably play on rinse-and-repeat for hours. I don’t rate it, but I’ll let the kids play.
Awesomeness: Halo’s dirty fingerprints are stamped throughout Destiny and it’s a shame that Bungie wasn’t able to wash their hands of it entirely. But I’m pleased to see that some of the miscues of the past (presented earlier) have been corrected along the way. This game is a nice first-person shooter that is interesting enough to delve into and enjoy. But any review scores on par with deep masterpieces like The Last of Us needs a serious, Halo-fanboy ball-kicking.
Final Word: Destiny is mega-budget hype machine that is far better than Halo ever was. I can actually play this game happily and have fun engaging in combat, with incentive that my character was getting better for it. Gameplay is still Bungie’s biggest weakness as it suffers from the monotonous, shooting-gallery antics of an extremely generic shooter. The soft story doesn’t present you with much drive to fight hard and survive, despite a strong premise to go on. But the RPG and MMO elements add the tools Bungie needed to finally give one of their games a boost into worthy relevancy. I’m not sure how long my engagement will last with Destiny, but at least we have a game that warrants some of the hype it’s due to receive.
Score out of 5 bugs
Summary: 1 = Poor, 2 = Average, 3 = Good, 4 = Great, 5 = Amazing