E3 2014: Destiny Hands-On Preview


I’m an interesting test case for Destiny, Bungie’s highly anticipated upcoming titles that combines classic first-person shooter gameplay with some elements from MMOs. I say that because I rarely touch shooters, having been traumatized one too many times back in the Halo 2 days by young gamers cursing at me for my severe lack of skill.

Yet there I was on Wednesday at E3, getting some hands-on time with Destiny alongside a developer excited to share what he had been working on since 2011 and a young man who assured the dev he had been playing some of the alpha. The weak link in our three-man strike team was easy to figure out.

Strikes are designed to take about 30 minutes to complete, and ours involved several steps, one of which had us holding off waves of alien attackers. Their leaders had a shield ability of some sort and could teleport, which proved to be a gigantic pain. I did manage to contribute by firing on enemies already distracted by one of my teammates, and I revived the other games journalist once when he was down to zero health. Otherwise I mainly tried not to get myself killed and experimented with my Warlock’s super ability.

Despite what it may sound like, this is good news for all of you who love shooters. In case you were wondering where Destiny came down on the FPS/MMO divide, it’s first and foremost a great-looking shooter with what appeared to my admittedly non-expert eyes to have tight controls. Everyone knows that Bungie has this genre, especially with sci-fi trappings down pat.

What isn’t as clear is how the open world multiplayer elements will all play out, because unless you’ve participated in the alpha — something everyone with a PS4 will be able to do starting today and running through Sunday, June 15 — those parts of the game have been spoken of more than they’ve actually been shown. My play session included a quick glimpse at the City, the last safe place left on Earth, where the view changes to third-person and many of the facets of cities in regular MMOs take place. I saw that you could get different kinds of ships that take you into orbit before the action begins.

One of the game’s public events popped up while we were on our way to the strike instance, where we could team with other players outside our team to try eliminating a specific, very difficult enemy before a timer counted down to zero. Alas, we didn’t have time to finish it because the hands-on demos could only go on for so long.

The developer shared some of the details of Destiny‘s PvP, which will come in 3v3 and 6v6 flavors. He described 3v3 as more tactical and team-focused and explained how matchmaking was skill-based. The game equalizes health and damage based on level but still allows for different weapons to deal different amounts of damage.

And after a last-minute discussion about the three available classes, we were ushered out for the next group of attendees to get their own chance to play. Right now I feel pretty confident saying that Destiny will be an excellent shooter and will appeal to people who enjoy that type of game. It’s too soon to tell whether it will have something special to offer people like me who wouldn’t normally be inclined to play an FPS. That might indeed turn out to be the case, but so far, and with knowledge of my own preferences very much out in the open, it feels evolutionary rather than revolutionary.