Sunday, 27 July 2014

Destiny Beta Impressions

Well, after much waiting I finally managed to have a good old go on the Destiny beta. It had an absurdly low level cap of eight that I reached within a few hours, but I was greeted with a game that I can say without doubt I’m beyond excited for. From the moment Peter Dinklage’s soft tones emit forth from the super-cute and ultra-cool Ghost, to the error message that booted me off the beta in the early hours of the morning, I don’t think I’ve sat and stared in awe at a game’s vista like I have at the Last City – not in a long time.

Bungie have said that Destiny will usher in a more idealistic story than we might expect in this modern age of cynical, self-piteous drivel. One of the major themes I got straight off the bat was holding on to hope in the face of everything having gone really, really bad – and you can’t help but feel patriotic for the Guardians’ cause, doomed though it may appear. When Ghost excitedly encourages you that when he decided to wake you up he chose well, I actually smiled and nodded bashfully – that’s the power rumbling at the core of Destiny.

The Beta - which, technically, should really be called ‘Gamma’ or something, given the amount that can change in the four weeks until release – took me on a brief journey around what was Russia, with some exploration mixed in. It’s all very much in the tradition of Halo – to the extent that I get the feeling this might have been Halo 4 if Microsoft had played their cards a little differently. Ghost is a dead ringer for 343 Guilty Spark, the Guardians could easily have been Spartans – and yet Destiny still forges its own identity. That’s a paradox, isn’t it?

There’s also a bit of Borderlands and World of Warcraft strewn about, as Bungie take the first-person shooter, the role-playing game and the massively-multiplayer online game and rearrange their acronyms into something so beautifully readable. Loot peppers the battlefield, and fellow Guardians fight alongside you in three-man fireteams, which can result in your merry trio facing off against mighty raid bosses and legions of armoured foes!

It’s pretty awesome.

However, since this is a beta test, I do have some minor suggestions. Stop me if they’re too nitpicky!

  • Could the spawn time on Sparrows be reduced slightly? When I want to summon a jetbike, I have to tap the touchpad and then hold Square for two seconds – which is not that inconvenient, but since I’ve already brought up Ghost, a simple tap of Square would get me moving more quickly with less standing around!
  • Could we either unify the ammo types, or properly separate them? It was a smart move to lump ammo together into just Primary, Special and Heavy. It minimises stress on a hectic battlefield, and avoids me holding on to redundant types. But if you swap out your Special or Heavy Weapon, you instantly lose all the ammo you had for it – ammo that doesn’t come back if you re-equip the original gun, which isn’t fun.
  • Could there be more ammo in general? Towards the end of the Beta, I found myself regularly running dry of ammunition, and in several cases it was actually advantageous to die, since resurrecting restocks you! I would suggest making ammo drop more regularly from enemies, and/or maybe make primary ammunition infinite to always provide a way out, but also encourage the use of heavier weapons when it counts? (Plus, there’s something badass about having a battle rifle as a sidearm.)
  • Could we swap to first-person when at the Tower? Third person is a nice option, but I’d prefer to explore the hub in first-person if that were an option.

And that’s it. Aside from those slight requests, Destiny rules. I’m excited beyond reason.


Sunday, 20 July 2014

Destiny Awaits

Ah, Destiny. It’s been on the cards for such a long time, hasn’t it? I remember playing Halo 3: ODST in 2009 and being slightly perplexed by a curiously…grandiose poster:

Does it now? I wondered what that could mean, and five years later here I am waiting for the beta to download. I’ve always been a fan of the Halo series, and Destiny looks at first glance to be, essentially, Halo, but with a co-operative tilt evocative of Borderlands and a shared world with raids and random events that wouldn’t be too out of place in World of Warcraft. It’s essentially, on paper, a game I’d have for breakfast. And lunch. And dinner. I have a soft spot for any game that allows you to drive up to a location, shoot your way through a cadre of enemies and work together to take down an astonishingly epic boss, before going on the road again to seek out new frontiers. What can I say? It feels awesome to be awesome!

I’ll have to let you know when I actually play it if it lives up to such an interesting premise. As it stands, my utterly atrocious home internet (0.05 megabytes a second for a twelve gigabyte installation) is struggling to drag and pull every texture, model and gun-bang sound from Activision to me. And the beta goes down for maintenance tomorrow and the day after – just my luck, isn’t it? Perhaps I’ll be online to get the special emblem on the second-to-last day, if things get into gear. I wonder what it’ll be – the small ship from the actual BETA logo, maybe? Or perhaps a rooster wearing a sombrero. You never can tell with Bungie, particularly when the landing page for the beta says “Pardon our dust” instead of the usual politically correct warnings and paraphernalia.

Perhaps one day I’ll play Destiny. But it looks like when I do, it’ll be completely amazing.


Friday, 11 July 2014

Three-Sixty No-Scope

I was the Captain of my school shooting team when I was younger, did you know? It’s always a bizarre thing to mention at parties, which is usually why I don’t mention it at parties, really. Everyone within a ten metre radius of you instantly either 1) assumes you are some sort of crazed gun-toting lunatic and backs away, limiting your conversation options, 2) proceeds to attempt to one-up you with increasingly worryingly in-depth knowledge of firearms, moreso than you might expect them to have, or 3) says “Oh, you must love to be the sniper in shooter games!”

They’re half-right on that last one; I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with sniper rifles in video games. More specifically, I’ve always hated when other people have sniper rifles in video games - my jaunty stroll around the map cut short by a completely unavoidable thwip noise from the backside end of nowhere - but I loved using the things; lining up the perfect shot, controlling your breath, forgetting everything else and losing yourself in the moment as the bullet sails through the air into the head of some poor unfortunate so-and-so.

I just don’t appreciate it when that so-and-so is me.

You don’t need me to tell you that that’s the Dragunov from Call of Duty 4, do you? I had the Gold one; I was fantastic with the thing and I’m pretty sure I was fantastically annoying to each and every one of the people who lost their lives in the pursuit of all the sniper rifle challenges. But – and this is what helps me sleep at night – at least I was actually using the thing properly, darting from sniping position to sniping position, setting up my little hidey hole and relocating after a few shots. Nowadays the stupid kids in Call of Duty think that a shotgun is the weapon to do that with, and a sniper rifle is like a sort of elephant gun you shoot people with at close range.

Morons. Can you imagine if they grow up to serve in the actual military and the face of modern warfare is changed by their stupid sniping tactics? Things were better back in my day…at least if I’m allowed to say that at the age of twenty-one.

But whether I was using my Dragunov to pick off targets at a distance – where the only way for them to counter me was to snipe me back – or the idiots were using theirs just…just wrongly, it dawned on me that it just isn’t enjoyable to fight against a sniper. There’s at least a certain honourable elegance to fighting someone one-on-one, when you can see them – and not just deciding to embrace the sweet release of death just because someone, somewhere, pressed the right trigger. If only there was a game in which you could fight AI enemies as a powerful sniper, providing all the thrills of that gameplay without causing anyone any undue upset.

Oh, hello, Sniper Elite III. Hi. I’m Kit. I didn’t notice you standing there.

This game isn’t high on my “To Buy” list. PS4 games are expensive for a recently graduated student, you know! But I’ve had a go at the first level, and I can safely report that, when I have the funds and time, this game shall receive both. It accurately captures the tense stealth and precision targeting a sniper has to manage, along with obliterating any annoyance that your enemies might have - or, at the very least, not irritating any humans. And, what’s more, you are rewarded for that perfect shot not just with a bang noise and a few experience points, but with an utterly epic, slowed down, X-ray powered, medical-degree-level, in-depth examination of just how rubbish you’ve made this Nazi’s day.

Poor sod.

Sniper Elite lets you enjoy the glorious overpowered fun of being a sniper, with none of the death glares over Xbox LIVE! What’s not to love?