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16/06/2014 06:47 BST | Updated 16/06/2014 06:59 BST

'Destiny' Alpha Review: One Weekend With A $500m Game

'Destiny' has a lot riding on it. Not only is it the first new game from Bungie - a developer who practically launched the original Xbox with its Halo series - but it also reportedly cost half a billion dollars to make. It is the most expensive game Activision has ever made, if not the most expensive game ever. No pressure.

With that in mind you wonder whether Destiny will become a self-fulfilling prophecy: weighed down by the expectations placed upon it, will people ultimately be disappointed whether or not it's actually any good?

It's also a slightly unusual game in terms of concept. It's a shooter, but it's also an RPG. It has single player missions and a story, but is open world and takes place on a dramatic scale across the Solar System.

Destiny then has even more riding on it. Not only is it trying to revolutionise the world of first-person shooters, it's also trying to revolutionise the online RPG as well.

So what is the result? Something both different... and also very familiar.

destiny the tower

Note: We played Alpha gameplay; it's at the earliest stage of public testing which means bugs and limited options are present, and expected. It pretty much gives Bungie the right to change almost anything.

Destiny Alpha Review:

The first thing you notice when you open Destiny is the design: the interface is beautiful, almost Apple-like.

This is a game interface that has been inspired by the app generation, designed to turn hugely complex tasks into simple actions.

Having realised we'd spent far too long staring at a menu screen we were told to create a character. At the moment there's three races to pick from: Human, the Awoken and Exo. The Awoken are humanoid aliens, looking like a cross between Dr Manhattan and Dr Doom whilst the Exo are a race of robots.

Character options are pretty limited at present with preset facial types -- however you can change elements like eye colour, hair colour and facial tattoos etc.

Having chosen our character we were then given the option of class: The Titan is the soldier, with special powers enabling massive smackdowns, whilst the Hunter is more stealth-focused giving you more armour and the ability to melee with speed and silence. Finally there's the warlock, a blend of technology and 'magic' granted by the Traveller.

We chose to be a 'Warlock' not least because the idea of turning your hand into a fiery shotgun of plasma seemed like a no brainer.

destiny characters

Having set up our character we were immediately thrown into a tutorial mission set in an abandoned Russian cosmodrone.

Helping you along the way is Ghost, a floating polygonal orb that can show you objectives and help you tackle locked doors. Voiced by Game of Thrones star Peter Dinklage he's a cross between Cortana and Guilty Spark.

Despite being a floating orb he may just be the saving grace of the game, he helps add a human voice where yours is missing, throwing in emotion whilst also helping remind you that there's actually a wider storyline taking place.

As he guides you through your objectives you realise just how big the maps are, and just how good they look:

destiny gameplay

In the same way that Halo tricks you into thinking you had control, Destiny throws a massive map down and then weaves in a tightly scripted plot.

With two main enemy races the AI is impressive, with Bungie utilising their skills learned with Halo to create enemy classes that on their own can be easy to tackle, but when combined become a real headache.

This leads us onto the combat itself. It’s a great mix of classic FPS gameplay with RPG elements thrown in. Enemies have classes and levels denoting how difficult they are to fight. Each shot will then cause a number to appear showing how much health you’ve taken.

Weapons are a similar story, taking classics like rifles, pistols and shotguns and then creating huge number of variations, gradually getting stronger whilst also offering special bonuses.

There is something to be said for keeping things simple: by blending a dizzying range of weapons with only three ammunition types it helps you focus more on picking the best-looking gun rather than having to worry about fiddling around crafting ammunition types.

destiny gameplay

It's actually a great way to describe how the game feels as a whole. It's taking traditionally complex RPG elements and then distilling them down into their simplest form, giving you plenty of options whilst never letting you spend too much time away from shooting a gun.

It's really difficult to try and sum up without writing pages and pages, but it's important to remember this is just an Alpha. At the moment Destiny is a pleasant surprise. It's not revolutionising any genres, but what it is doing is picking and choosing the best of each and the condensing them into a flawlessly well produced experience that blends single-player with multiplayer, while never making you feel like one is suffering.

If our excitement had been dulled by worries of disappointment, we can safely say its been reignited by this weekend's playthrough. Bring on the full game.