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Destiny 2

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Bungie
Release Date: Sept. 6, 2017


PS4/XOne/PC Preview - 'Destiny 2'

by Thomas Wilde on July 21, 2017 @ 12:15 a.m. PDT

Destiny 2 is a first-person action game that takes the player on an epic journey to defend humanity from annihilation.

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I got to play Destiny 2 at E3 2017 for a while. I didn't write about it because the people I was playing against were already very good at the game, and I was atomized in seconds every time our paths crossed. I am certain there is footage of me on some TV station in China, looking increasingly frustrated as somebody shotguns my face off my head for the fourth time that round.

Playing the beta, however, is a better experience. Bungie, when it's on its game as a developer, makes some of the best-feeling gunplay in the games industry right now, and from the word "go" in Destiny 2, I felt immediately at home. The guns feel appropriately weighty, you move and fire smoothly and intuitively, and the enemies provide a balanced challenge. The environments all feel realistically lived-in, and the rain effects here are easily some of the best I've seen in this generation of hardware.

You get thrown right into the deep end from the start. A year after the events of Rise of Iron, a team of aliens called the Red Legion comes down on the Last City like a ton of bricks, affixing a giant machine of unknown purpose to the face of the Traveler. You're one of the Guardians who races back to defend against the Legion.

I played as a Titan and ended up with the Sentinel sub-class, which replaces the Defender. When my super came up, I turned into a Light-infused monster that's capable of slamming enemies to death with a couple of melee hits and shrugging off enemy fire. It felt like I'd turned into a superhero for a few seconds, with vastly improved damage output and a genuine sense of invincibility.

On the other side of the coin, the Warlock is a glass cannon but has an amazing grenade that parks a ball of plasma in a stationary location for a few seconds. My Warlock had the Dawnblade sub-class, and activating my super means I get to go nuts on people with a giant flaming sword for what's frankly not enough time. It even throws flaming sawblades at aliens, which is a sentence I don't get to type often enough.

Finally, the third class, the Hunter, feels a little weak. The Hunter I rolled uses the Arcstriker class, where your super equips you with a devastating electric-infused quarterstaff, and you're lethal at close range. The rest of her kit feels like it hits like a wet noodle, however, with a choice between a bunch of peashooter rifles and submachineguns or a couple of decent heavy-caliber pistols. The sniper rifle's great, but it (and the Titan's shotgun) are considered "heavy" weapons, ammo for which is difficult to come by.

All of that power you start with is a bit of a setup. The Red Legion is dangerous, particularly when they start besieging your position, but you're a kitted-out Guardian with free access to some really solid gear. I walked into the armory at the start of the opening section and was handed a legendary gun, a "kinetic weapon" — one of the three new weapon categories in Destiny 2, alongside Energy and Power — that turned out to be a vicious, surprisingly accurate minigun. I had some close calls as I plowed through the opening section, meeting up with the crew of Vanguards who'll be giving assistance and marching orders (once again voiced by Nathan Fillion, Lance Reddick and Gina Torres), but I made it to the end.

After sabotaging the enemy flagship's shield generator — which was probably the hardest part of the whole sequence, as it took a second to figure out what I needed to do, followed by some careful use of my jetpack to get into a position to do it — my Guardian walked out into open air and got kicked in the face by the Red Legion's commander, General Ghaul. I got to greet the title screen of the game with my character lying in a muddy ditch, depowered and alone.

I've played a lot of sequels where they found a reason between games — or didn't bother to find a reason — to make the protagonist begin a brand-new adventure with no resources to his name. This is the first one I can think of where they actually made it the focus of the plot. Ghaul is specifically here to steal all your toys, rob you of your Light, and force the Guardians to start over from square one.

I didn't play a lot of the first Destiny. This one seems more focused right off the bat, and it lets you jump straight into an established world, with much less of the original's initial messianic overtones. (Well, from the opening level, anyway.) The beta's left me a lot more interested in Destiny 2 than I was before, which is about as ringing an endorsement as I can offer. I'm still a free kill in multiplayer, though.

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