THE BLOG

Awaiting Destiny (The Story of a PS4 Owner)

25/08/2014 14:48 | Updated 18 October 2014

It was in a whirlwind of optimism that I pre-ordered my PS4. Imagining my decision would reunite me with old friend's, and new worlds, whilst flinging open the creaking doors of my perception like Huxley looking for his keys. I waited. Well, I tried to 'lurk', but I wasn't very good at lurking so I waited.

Some months later the glossy blue PS4 box arrived. I resisted selling on the sealed, factory fresh, specimen to that spiced sea dog dubbed Ebay despite his promise of doubloons. Instead I stared at it and hummed a long lustful note.

Online PS4 prices soared as Christmas drew near and parents cursed Sony to the snowy heavens whilst trying to pass a cardboard console as 'Santa's Playstation'.

I kept my PS4, deciding to savor its luxury like an advert mum does cheap confectionery, on big sofas, with an intensity that lands somewhere between a Buddhist appreciation of the now, and making too big a deal of Maltesers.

Unpacking the sleek black box my touch outlined the embossed PS4 logo. I slid off its thin protective bag and placed it on the shelf it would call home. I was struck by its uncanny resemblance to the Monolith of Kubrick's space odyssey. This monkey was ready to pound the black 'on' button - wherever it was.

I turned it on, played a few levels of Killzone, and switched it off. There is stayed, gathering dust as only the latest technology can. Friends would inquire about it asking: 'What's it like?', 'Do you like it?', 'Was it worth it?', My response was always: 'It has great Wi-Fi'.

On one particularly sad occasion a friend ventured over to my house. Upon seeing the mystery black box he played a level of Killzone, uninterested by The Zone of Killing, and lacking other options a... pinball game. The box was soon turned off to resume concentrating on collecting dust.

Now in the interest of fairness I should point out that having subscribed to the Playstation network (PSN) I have been treated to a monthly free game for my PS4, and that's great, but downloading a side-scrolling shooter does not scratch the itch a console that refers to itself as 'Next Gen' creates. Yes I played a few indy games, but in reality all it had that was 'next gen' was 'great Wi-Fi'.

The pressure mounted, soon the PS4 and I could not look eye to eye. It knew I was still hanging with old flames Spelunky and Titanfall on my PC. It knew I'd brought Super Time Force for my 360 because it's beauty makes my eyes warm. Heck, sometimes It caught me reading, or Playing 'catch the pen' whilst perusing the PS4's 'Coming soon' game listings.

Times were hard, fraught with broken promises and frosty shoulders, arms, and most importantly for gaming: thumbs. It was OK though, we could make it, because soon we had Destiny, and Bungie (makers of Halo) would bring us together to bond through hours of exquisite futuristic shooting with the nuance and custom-ability of an RPG. Graceful, intricate, cohesive as anything forged by a master should be.

In short I expected a lot from Destiny.

On Saturday I downloaded the Destiny Beta for my PS4. I watched the download bar and sipped my tea stroking my PlayStation as a veterinarian would coax a fowl although more casually (I was holding a mug). The sun slid down past my window winking to orange and velvet purples. I waited. Finally it was installed. I made another cup of tea and put my feet up. It was time to meet my Destiny.

Apparently my destiny is less exciting than I hoped, and whilst this is a good philosophical lesson I am unsure it makes the premise of a great video game. Undoubtedly with the stamp of Bungie, the push to offer the Beta on everything with a screen, and a marketing Budget to rival Nike it will sell well. Undoubtedly for some it will be the greatest game of all time, but for many like me it's the not the game to save my relationship (with my little black box).

Now, dear reader, it is here that we could misstep on our careful path of fair discussion: We could scorn Destiny for not being the wonder game we imagined it to be: It's box adorned with mask and cape, billowing, as it swoops to nut punch our boredom. Or we could acknowledge the amount of hype placed on the game by its marketing, release window, ourselves, and even its opening cut-scenes.

Destiny is not the game its opening suggests. You don't start stranded on an alien planet looking for oxygen and a ship to escape. It is not a free-roaming, space survival, role playing, First person Shooter as I hoped. Destiny is Halo mixed with borderlands.

Let me say that again: 'Destiny is Halo mixed with Borderlands'. What fascinates me about that sentence is how often I've heard this exclaimed as a negative.

Halo is one of the most beloved franchises around and a founding stone of the Xbox. Borderlands, still fresh and supple on only its second incarnation (ignoring DLC and spin offs), is loved as a solid First Person Shooter (FPS) Role Playing Game (RPG).

Destiny has the slickness of Halo, not boasting but oozing a slick play style in detailed environments. The Beta missions offer moments of tension, surprise, and much to my pleasure mini boss characters that often outlive their minions to create a one on one showdown. On top of this the menu screens are eye wateringly gorgeous. Sexy even, for both UI designers and deeply troubled reviewers.

I enjoyed combat in the Beta, relishing in mixing shooting, melee, and special attacks. These attacks felt and looked fluid and slick. However layered on top is a health bar for everything with a pulse. Drawing your eye to watch stats deplete and missing beautiful character animations. Sterilizing the action for the sake of unnecessary data. Now I should point out: I've not checked if you can turn the health bars off, but wonder if a game designed around them will have enough visual clues to not need them? It all depends on if Bungie thinks knackard aliens limp.

Then there's the layout of the game: Missions are shown on a map, upgrades are brought in the tower. The tower is a space station that serves as little more than a menu system. Allowing players to visit stalls and buy upgrades, collect missions, or... well... sit down? Yes, you can sit down.

The tower is dull, empty, and could be replaced by having your character visit Amazon. I mean... come on Bungie... it's 2014 no one visits the shops anymore. Making me pop into town to buy gloves, even if they are space-gloves, doesn't feel very 'next gen' and more importantly it detracts from the exciting world on the planet surface.

Why have the tower? Why make me leave the play arena, through waits and loading screens, only to check my new shin-pads? I'd rather my character used his iPhone (or future equivalent) whilst crouched on the planet surface to upgrade, or search the scorched earth for a shop.

Enough detail, what am I trying to say? Let me stop and think for a moment here... Why did I start with the long build up to Destiny only to review a few aspects of it in some hastily drafted paragraphs? Why not point out all the beauty sculpted into this game, and the ugly neon doilies someone else draped on top? Why? Because that's not the interesting point. The interesting point is we collectively had higher expectations for Destiny, not for the game-play, but the whole experience. Literacy in gaming is at a record high and our shared collective awareness expansive. How many of us saw the trailer for the impressive 'No Man's Sky' and hoped 'Destiny will be like that'. How many of us played the excellent new Wolfenstein, with its striking characters and settings, and thought 'Destiny will be like that'. How many of us played the excellent Titanfall with its free-running combat style and thought 'Destiny will do that', and in the most part it did, but our Destiny is not always as grand as we make it.