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What is Destiny’s destiny? A review of Bungie’s latest

Title: Destiny
Genre: First-person “persistent online shooter”
Platform Reviewed On: Playstation 4
Developer: Bungie
Publisher: Activision
Release Date: Sept. 9, 2014

Researchers have established a link between visual cues and chemical responses in certain areas of a gamer's brain. It's these reactions that make us sign up for another round of Call of Duty multiplayer, just to unlock that next killstreak or weapon. The release of endorphins causes the Halo: Combat Evolved player to risk close-quarter dismemberment simply to run up behind an unsuspecting opponent and strike them in the back of the head with a satisfying, one-hit-kill “thwack” from the pistol, and there is science behind that giddy squeal that jumps from your lips when you open a chest of rarefied loot in the Borderlands series.

Destiny, Halo-creator Bungie's latest foray into console gaming, succeeds in lighting up these areas of the brain with spectacular frequency and diversity. But much like an 8th-grade science project, chemical reactions alone does not a winning, AAA-title make.

While the gameplay is simple to pick up for anyone who's jumped into a console first-person shooter in the past 15 years, Destiny promises you more from the outset. You're constantly online, tasked in the campaign with protecting Earth from encroaching alien threats as a “Guardian,” a futuristic space marine powered by the presence of light. That's about all the exposition you're going to get. You have a fine robotic companion voiced by Peter Dinklage to give you the nuts and bolts of why you're shooting a particular set of enemies. But really, the rinse-and-repeat level design and addictive pursuit of better weapons and armor will keep you slogging forward, rather than a great narrative experience from Bungie.

The world is populated by other human-controlled characters in deference to the game's massively multiplayer online game aspirations. These are the most thrilling moments of Destiny. Even if you haven't got friends to play with, you'll be thrown into the same overworld map (confined currently to Earth, the Moon, Venus, Mars and an asteroid field) with other human-controlled characters and occasionally you'll be thrown together to fight a common, massive and bullet-munching boss. These random encounters cause organic moments of teamwork and strategy that elevate Destiny above its bare-bones presentation and oft-repetitive gameplay.

Character advancement screen
Expect constant updates on your character's progress as Destiny plays out.

The most important parts of Destiny are great. Gunplay is satisfying and diverse. Despite the open-world setting, enemies will react intelligently to your tactics and you never feel as though you're an overpowered god on the battlefield, in spite of constant loot drops and character upgrades. The tight gameplay begs additional playthroughs as each of the game's three classes, which only slightly change the way you'll play the game.

The multiplayer suite is robust, as you'd expect in an online game, but those looking for a Halo-like competitive experience will be disappointed. The Crucible, Destiny's form of player v. player (PVP) combat, is woefully lacking in options at present and doesn't allow private lobbies for friends to team up. The map selection is also currently scant. If you play for more than an hour, you're going to be repeating maps several times. It's a testament to Bungie's longstanding expertise in crafting solid multiplayer maps that this repetition does not significantly detract from the experience.

In short, Destiny is going to scratch your first-person shooting, role-playing-game and massive-multiplayer-online gaming itches. But for how long, and to what extent, largely depends on your expectations and Bungie's continued commitment to adding new content.

Verdict: 3.5/5 stars

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