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Bungie needs to show more about what will make Destiny unique (first impression)

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Bungie showed off gameplay for its long-awaited Destiny at the 2013 Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) this week. We had a close look at the title, and this is our first impression. Destiny is a huge bet for Bungie, which moved off its best-selling Halo video game franchise, and for its publisher Activision Publishing, a division of Activision Blizzard. And Sony has made a big commitment to Destiny by signing a long-term partnership deal with Bungie and Activision to get some exclusive content for the multiplayer-centric first-person shooter.

So far, we’re not nearly as wowed as we wanted to be. While so many things about the game are impressive, from the graphics to the depth of customization to the unique multiplayer gameplay — we were left wanting more. During the first-hands on gameplay demo at Sony’s pre-E3 press conference, Bungie co-founders Joe Staten and Jason Jones walked out on stage to demo the title in a two-player cooperative session.

On the big-event screen and on the smaller screens where we saw it, the graphics are breathtaking. The demo opened with a view of a huge valley on Earth, where an alien attack has savaged the world, leaving it with a small number of heroes, known as Guardians, defending the last safe city from alien attack. The art work was impressive and first-rate, considering that Destiny is a massively multiplayer online release, which will have hundreds of hours of gameplay and many such environments. I can see why Bungie has 400 people working on the title.

Destiny will contain a shared, persistent online world, set in our solar system. Bungie has announced four playable races so far. The passage of time has made Earth strange, and nothing looks like it does in the present day.  The canyon in front of the players was full of awesome lighting and shadows. Weeds and bushes swayed in a gentle breeze. The trees feature graphic-rendering techniques like tessellation, so the details come to life. The surroundings are alive with audio effects. You can hear the footfalls. Shadows cast in real time, and that makes the world feel alive. The water looks realistic with accurate reflections and ripples. The landscape views are truly epic in scope, with big views of giant buildings and vistas.

The action

When the developers got to the action during the Sony press event, the Bungie co-founders bantered as they showed off Destiny’s features. They went on a mission together into a dark underground space. Staten was chattering a lot, and I couldn’t tell if that was actually the characters in the game talking. In fact, it might have been nice if it was. The lighting in the dungeon-like space was spectacular.

“I’m going to meet some friends, and we’re going to shoot some aliens in the face,” Staten said. “Because shooting aliens is relaxing.”

But the two characters were strangely silent as they went through the world in a section called Old Russia. One character was a male Warlock, while another was a female Hunter. The game will let you customize your character through your clothing, armor, and weapons. One gun was a level 200 weapon, suggesting a huge tech ladder for leveling up your arsenal. Some of the upgrades will completely change the way a weapon feels. That’s how players will express their personalities and abilities in the world over time.

A ghost, or an artificial intelligence character, spoke up and said, “We always visit such cheerful spaces.” That character is a lot like Cortana, the A.I. who always banters with Master Chief in the Halo series.

One of the characters dispatched enemies in a casual manner with a powerful “hand cannon.” It seemed like a very large six-shooter, and it could take hostiles out with a couple of shots. Rockets and machine guns also took part in the action.

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