Evolving the FPS genre one franchise at a time.
I love Bungie. It was this team of talented developers that opened my eyes to the wonders of the first-person shooter genre. While titles like Goldeneye 007 and Perfect Dark managed to bring shooters to console, they didn't hold a candle to what was available on the PC at that time. Halo: Combat Evolved changed the landscape when it launched alongside the original Xbox, proving that the FPS genre has a place outside the PC market.
Now, more than ten years later, Bungie has moved on from the Microsoft-owned sci-fi shooter, to create a brand-new IP of their own with Activision. Instead of taking it easy and simply creating another single-player FPS with competitive multiplayer, the studio opted to craft Destiny, a shared-world shooter that takes elements from massively multiplayer online games and interweaves them with an engrossing science-fiction world.
I got the chance to see Destiny behind closed doors at Activision's booth, and as a huge fan of the studio, entered the developer demo with high expectations. The folks at Bungie managed to shatter just about every single one of them. First and foremost, this is an absolutely beautiful game. If you haven't yet seen the gameplay debut trailer, stop what you're doing at watch it now.
The game was shown running on next-gen hardware, and visual disparity between current-gen games and Destiny was surprisingly large. It does look strikingly similar to Halo (go figure) in style, but everything is super-crisp and detailed, with light reflecting off of Earth's surface in unbelievable fashion. Bungie clearly spent a lot of time fleshing out this futuristic take on Earth, a planet that has since been devastated where only a pocket of civilization remains alive underneath a massive structure known as the Traveller. Naturally, it's up to you and you buddies to serve as the last bastion of hope and save the human race. Epic.
Mechanically, the game plays a lot like your typical console shooter. Run-and-gun gameplay galore. However, there's also a magical element, allowing players to employ additional tactics beyond the standard shoot, grenade, and melee. As you can see in the screenshot above, the HUD is quite minimal, retaining an extremely cinematic presentation. During the demo, one of the developers—after providing a brief intro—took us through a section of the game, making it clear that every time they've gone through the demo, it renders a different experience.
Another Bungie staffer, controller in hand, jumped into the game and the two took off, chattering as they moved their way across the game's beautiful landscape. The subtle drum of the music in the background added a layer of atmosphere and tension that was so seamlessly integrated, it may have gone completely unnoticed to some. As a massive ship ripped through the sky above, my eardrums shook at its roar. From the light rushing of water from a nearby stream to the squawks of birds flying over head, there was clearly a lot of work put into the sound design.
The two then made their way through a dark structure, calling upon a floating mechanical companion to light up the way. Think Halo's 343 Guilty Spark with the humor and charm of Portal 2's Wheatley. Things took a dangerous turn when creatures called Fallen attacked the duo. The two worked together to take out the oncoming enemies, and when a larger foe entered the ring and took out one of the demonstrators, it was up to her companion to come to her aid and revive her fallen character. This mini-boss dropped some loot in the form of a very fancy new gun. It's clear that collecting new weapons (akin to Borderlands) will play a major role in the experience.
When the two managed to make it back outside, a notification that they were entering a Public Event popped up on the screen. Additional online players then started to spill into the game, as the oncoming attacks from enemy creatures cut through the air. Things then heated up when a massive foe known as a Fallen Devil Walker started to lay waste to your companions. Only after the slew of online companions were able to work together and concentrate their fire on the beast was it able to be destroyed.
Destiny is an incredibly ambitious experience for Xbox One, PS4, Xbox 360, and PS3, and if my early look at the game is any indication, this will be one of the many titles to look out for in 2014.