Beta Day 5 – 23/07/2014 – Déjà Vu & Snake and Raiden Versus The Space Zombies
The Beta has been down for two days (I think technically it came back up on the night of Tuesday 22nd, due to the diligent wizards at Bungie getting their maintenance work done early) and now it’s time for the first full day in which Xbox owners can get a piece of the Destiny Beta action. Let’s fire up those Xbones and get stuck in.
This is a bit confusing for me; as you might imagine, as even though I knew it was coming, I was disappointed to not see my Titan and Warlock I’d made in the PlayStation 4 Beta not there and waiting for me at the main menu. Nevertheless, I quickly rustle up a new Titan at the character creation screen, trying to match the aesthetic design of my PS4 equivalent as closely as possible, before heading back out into Old Russia.
I play through the tutorial mission once more, and I still marvel at the fact that I’m playing through the same rusty yet atmospheric surroundings first shown off in the early E3 2013 hands-on demonstration. Although I’m not much of a graphics nut, to my eyes the game looks just as beautiful and detailed on the Xbox One as the PS4 version does, even though it’s quite a sore point of contention and disagreement on the internet. The Xbox One Beta runs at 900p, while the PS4 runs at 1080p, although Bungie has since confirmed that the final game will run natively at 1080p on both consoles, which will be sure to please those who are concerned about just how many garden peas…erm I mean pixels, they can cram onscreen and into their eyeballs.
Once back at the tower I meet my Xbox partner in crime, Joe (the Master Chief to my Arbiter, if you will). The finest sniper Blood Gulch has ever seen, Joe is my oldest and closest gaming buddy; we’ve been on countless adventures killing alien hordes, saving the universe on numerous occasions and ruthlessly teabagging the corpses of those who cross us for the last six years on Xbox Live. I feel honoured to have him alongside me in my quest. Joe playing as a sharp-shooting Hunter (everybody certainly does seem to love that Hunter class), and me playing as my armoured beefcake of a Titan, we set out on the story missions together.
What I’m starting to see that is fantastic about Destiny is that you can have very different experiences every time you play it. How many people are in your fireteam, what sort of play styles your teammates have, how many other people are in the surrounding area etc. are all contributing and differing variables that play into how your play experience will unfold. The following experience we went through felt incredibly special and yet totally unscripted, and cemented for me in my mind the full next-gen potential Destiny has to wow gamers when it finally hits in September.
Early on in one of the first available missions, we reach the dark and damp Hive (remember, think space zombies) nest, and we slowly but cautiously make our way inside, climbing a set of stairs to advance. Even though I’d seen this area and roughly knew what enemies would be up ahead, this time going through this area felt incredibly tense and significantly more nerve-wracking than my first exploration of this area. We reach the top of the stairs, and the pitch-black room stretches out before us. Joe and I have our ghosts out as light sources, and we scan the room carefully.
“Which way do you want to go?”, I ask, whilst darting my eyes around the shadows at the corners of my vision.
“Let’s go right”, says Joe assertively, and we begin to make our way round the room’s rusty pillars to the right.
Joe takes point, and makes his way further into the darkness ahead, whilst I fall in behind and back up in formation, hoping to catch anything come up behind us for a surprise attack. Together, back to back, with our careful and considered teamwork and tactics in this moment makes the situation feel electrifying and tense. It’s what we like to call a ‘Snake and Raiden’ moment; meaning of course Solid Snake and Raiden from Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. Towards the end of the game, there’s a scene in which Solid Snake and Raiden are fighting their way through a horde of soldiers to escape, only to find themselves eventually surrounded on all sides. In a tense Sergio Leone-inspired cutscene that Metal Gear creator Hideo Kojima is famous for, the two agents slowly go back-to-back, raise their weapons and wait, poised for the action to commence. This felt like the beginning of a similar moment; the eye of the storm before an electrifying jolt of action.
“Stop – I can see one” Joe whispers, as he peers down his sniper scope. I shuffle round to his right, and get a bead on the rough shape in the darkness Joe has pointed out. Bang! Joe fires off an opening round, and then the room explodes with a flurry of activity. Hive enemies then drop down from the ceiling and flood into the room from the far doors, and it’s all go. They are absolutely everywhere, and right up in your face; unlike the Fallen, which behave in a similarly evasive manner to the Elites and Jackals from Bungie’s other sci-fi universe Halo, the Hive just straight up bolt towards you ready to punch/stab/bite, you name it.
Instinctively, we spring into action. I start throwing grenades out and pounding the floor with my good ol’ Fist of Havoc, whilst Joe fires up his super powerful golden gun ability to whittle down the heavy Hive knights that hang back towards the exit door. The combat is fast and brutal, with grenades exploding and Hive enemies roaring in both agony and anger.
Almost as soon as it begins, the battle is over, and the room is silent once more. It’s a tad lighter though now, thanks to the slightly luminescent and perforated Hive corpses that line the floors and walkways. Joe and I pace around the room, collecting any dropped Glimmer and loot left by the slain mob, and with a final glance around, we file out of the exit and make our way to the throng of enemies waiting for us upstairs near the mission goal.
This was such a small but powerful moment, that it will no doubt spring to mind whenever I come back to this environment, and will probably still think about it when playing through the final build of the game when it comes out in just under two months time.
Once again, Destiny is really impressing me with these little moments of character and story outside of the cutscenes and scripted action setpieces; these little emergent storytelling sections feel genuine and exciting, and perhaps most importantly not forced. The actual room where this ruckus took place is itself pretty nondescript and drab in design, and the Hive themselves aren’t particularly frightening or shocking in their appearance. It just so happened that this epic little moment of tactics and teamwork, which spontaneously emerged and played out in a satisfying and improvised manner, is a strong sign of incredibly good things to come in Bungie’s brave new world.