Destiny 2 review for PS4, Xbox One, PC

Platform: PS4
Also On: Xbox One, PC
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Bungie
Medium: Digital/Disc
Players: Multi
Online: Yes

Destiny 2 is one of the most hyped games of the year with a massive advertising campaign that includes everything from live action trailers to tie-ins with food and drinks. Perhaps this shouldn?t come as too big of a surprise as the original game sold exceptionally well. However, soon after the first title launched some were left disappointed with a lack of content and a confusing story with huge plot holes. Has Bungie managed to solve these issues with this sequel? Luckily, for the most part, yes! There?s a lot to like in Destiny 2, chief among them the new narrative.

Those gamers that played the original game, but didn?t stick around for the expansions will find a whole new world of systems and innovations in Destiny 2. The diehard fans who played the game week in and week out over the past two years have seen how Bungie has kept massaging the base game via expansions, changing up key systems and gameplay loops as well as putting an increased effort toward weaving a compelling story. For those players, Destiny 2 will seem like less of a completely new game, and more of an evolution. That?s not to say there isn?t a ton of new stuff here, there is! But, if you strip away the layers of changes and improvements, the underlying foundation will be familiar to veterans. You?ll still go on missions where your Ghost must scan things and while that?s happening new wave of enemies will spawn in for you to kill. You still have things like Patrols and Strikes and Raids ? this is a sequel after all, not a completely new franchise. Still, somehow Bungie has managed to tweak just enough to make everything feel fresh and exciting again, and all the stuff that worked before (excellent gunplay, superb acting, amazing destinations) is still here, but so are all of the fantastic new ideas that contribute to a tantalizing shooter.

We all know the first game had many issues with its story, and the cinema scenes often didn?t add a whole lot to the experience. Destiny 2 ratchets up the experience with gorgeous cut scenes and in-game exposition in order to tell a really captivating tale. The game opens with The Tower, your home sanctuary and social space from the original game, coming under attack. As you race there to defend it, you soon realize that you?re vastly outnumbered and outgunned and everyone is ordered to evacuate. This isn?t just a CG video that you sit back and enjoy ? this is the opening level and it?s epic, with enemies everywhere and explosions going off all over the place. During your battles you will come across the main three Vanguard Leaders: Zavala, Ikora, and Cayde-6 ? each on the battlefield alongside you trying to take down as many alien invaders as possible.

You decide to take the battle to the enemy and hop on board one of their ships ? only to discover they?ve got an ace up their sleeves. You come face to face with Dominus Ghaul, the leader of the Red Legion, a faction of the Cabal. He captures the Traveler and disrupts its Light-giving powers, draining all Guardians and Ghosts of their regenerative magic. He proceeds to kick you off the ship, sending you to your presumed death. With their light drained and no longer immortal, the Vanguard leaders speed off to different areas of the solar system. It?s now up to you, to regain your Light and save the Traveler and all of humanity from utter destruction. No biggie, right?

After the initial beat down of your Guardian (which is once again either a Hunter, Warlock, or Titan), the game wastes no time in getting you back in shape as you visit a shard of the Traveler that has crashed to Earth. Here you regain your Light and you begin your character basically from scratch. You?ll once again need to level up via fighting bad guys and as you do so you?ll earn skill points that you can then use to unlock new abilities. Eventually you?ll gain access to a total of three subclasses, which are mostly the same as the last game, except one will have been completely revamped with a new Super power and the others will have slight variations as well. Even though I mostly played as a Sunsinger Warlock in the first game, his powers were changed and, although cool, I?ve really taken to the Titan this time around. There are once again three character slots so you can start one of each if you like to have some variety in your life.

One of the biggest differences in Destiny 2 is that there is now a Destination Map that can be pulled up at any time. This will show you where you are and also will display your current missions as well as Adventures. If you played the first title, you?ll remember that story missions were all displayed on the planet and you would have to select which one to play from orbit and fly down and play that level. Once it was complete, you?d fly back up to space and then rinse and repeat. This time around you can stay on the planet and select your quests, which will place a waypoint on your radar so you can make your way there and begin the various missions. The main story will progress with the campaign missions, however as you explore each planet you?ll come across an NPC that will dole out Adventures, which are side quests that have full voice acting and are somewhat lengthy excursions with rewards and loot. If you want to fully immerse yourself in the game, I heartily suggest taking these on as they appear. They are a really fun time and also serve to prolong the main game. I really like that you can tackle many of them in any order you see fit.

Also on the map are other areas of interest, such as golden treasure chests and Lost Sectors. These regional chests often contain some nice loot, and although they?re marked on your map, you usually have to do a little searching in order to locate them. Lost Sectors are smaller quests you can go on that will culminate in an area boss and a loot chest when he?s defeated. Neither of these things is necessary to complete the game, but it?s great the developers filled in the game world with extra stuff to do.

Public Events are also back this time around. The map shows where and when they?re going to pop, so you can always manage to find one near you. As you explore the planets, you?ll open up new landing zones that you can fast travel to, making it even easier to hop from one Public Event to another. These are often fun encounters to participate in, as they offer up some excellent experience points as well as the potential for some awesome loot. There are secret ways to turn them into Heroic Public Events, and you?ll have to partner up and find out what conditions are necessary to make them pop. If you?re successful the rewards are even better for you and your team.

Lots of small changes have been made to Destiny 2 in hopes of making it a better game. There are too many to list, but most have streamlined the experience. Some of them will be welcomed by all (leveling up rep on each planet), while some will be missed (leveling up weapons and armor). It?s obvious the designers of the worlds wanted them to be explored and for players to take their time to walk around ? hence no Sparrow for you until you hit level 20, and even then it might take some time before you own one. Shaders, which give you the ability to change the color of your equipment, are more useful now, but they are also consumable so you can?t reuse them. Although they do drop at a higher frequency once you hit the maximum level, there has been some backlash. Players who pay real money have the chance to get more of them and the cynics say Bungie is doing a cash grab. To me this isn?t a major issue, especially since you can still preview what the shader looks like on your equipment before you use it.

Some of the best improvements to Destiny 2 are found in its graphics and sound. Talk about an upgrade! We?re used to sequels looking nicer, but now that Bungie has taken the extra time to really push the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, it?s a real looker. Everything has been revamped and improved, from enemy models to environments to special effects. The creatures have new animations, as well as headshot deaths, which look amazing as always. The game runs in 4K on the PS4 Pro and looks stellar. It still maintains 30fps, like its predecessor, which I don?t personally mind, but some hardcore gamers may turn their noses up at. For them the PC version might be the better choice when it releases next month.

The various planets are breathtaking, with even the European Dead Zone on Earth looking so much better that Old Russia did in the original. The architecture of the buildings is beautiful and it only gets more impressive once you visit the other planets. Each destination has a unique look and the world design makes the areas much more fun to explore. Verticality plays a huge part this time around, and you?ll often be able to find winding paths into caves that then dive far underground into a network of tunnels that takes you below areas you just explored up above. One planet lets you even climb a huge network of trees that places you high above the cliffs you just navigated. Titan is covered with a vast and beautiful ocean, so you?d be forgiven for thinking it might be the most boring of the planets. Not so, there are some really cool zones to discover and there?s even a huge biodome that completely changes what you?d expect to see on the world. Every nook and cranny is filled with details that lead credence to a living, breathing ecosystem.

I don?t know how the team at Bungie does it, but Destiny 2 has the best soundtrack I?ve heard in a long time ? no matter the series. I could seriously listen to this music all day. The way the score subtly changes depending on the section of the game is masterful and a testament to the dedication of the sound design team. The songs vary from awe inspiring vocals to melancholy melodies all the way to electric guitar riffs and thumping drums. I especially love the electronic beeps and boops added into some of the tracks when the Vex are present, giving the music character to match the aliens we?re going up against. There?s so much to appreciate here, that I?m just astounded the team managed to pull everything together so perfectly. Of course the sound effects when you shoot your guns is amazing, with each one sounding unique and powerful. Grenade blasts are no longer whimpering sounds, resonating with deep bass that?s sure to test the best subwoofers out there. Of course the voice acting is spot-on with Cayde-6 and Failsafe being the standout performances.

Most of what I?ve discussed so far in the review could just pertain to the PvE modes, and that?s partly because that?s what I mostly play. I?m not much of a PvP player, but I do dabble in various games now and again. Obviously there are many gamers out there who will play PvP in Destiny 2, and there are some changes to Crucible this time around. The biggest is that the player count has been reduced to 4v4. This allows for a tighter group of people to battle it out, and could lead to even more competitive bouts. A new mode called Countdown has been added, where you can place bombs and defend them until the timer runs down. Other familiar modes return, including Control, Clash, Supremacy, and Survival.

At its core, Destiny 2 takes everything you loved about the original and cranked it up to 11. The graphics are flashier, the sound effects are louder, the content is meatier, and the overall experience is better. Plus, there is a ton of stuff to do after you see the game?s ending credits. Some nice surprises also await, but it?s the stuff we all know about: the Raid the Nightfall Strikes, and yes, even Xur, that will extend your play sessions throughout the next few months until the first expansion hits in December. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time with Destiny 2, and yet after playing for almost two weeks I still have much to discover. Bungie has delivered a feature-rich experience that?s not to be missed!

Grade: A