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Activision’s Destiny, available now and reviewed here on PlayStation 4, is a massively multiplayer online shooter. And in many ways, it’s a role-playing game.

It’s a lot of things, actually.

Destiny is scoring a perfect headshot with your upgraded sniper rifle on a nameless alien enemy and then lobbing an orb of deadly dark energy at a pack of its cohorts.

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Destiny is teaming up with friends (or random strangers) to assault an ancient shrine buried deep in the milky white rock of Earth’s moon.

Destiny is earning a legendary piece of armor after hours of intense multiplayer combat spanning war zones across our solar system.

And Destiny is finishing the main story and scratching your head at what you just did … and why you did it.

That’s why this game is as frustrating as it is exhilarating.

What you’ll like

Signature Bungie gameplay that’ll toughen your trigger finger

Bungie is known for its world-class shooters, dating back to the beloved Marathon PC games and the Microsoft cash-cow Halo series on Xbox consoles. Destiny is the studio’s best-playing effort, representing a culmination of all those years fine-tuning some of the premier first-person shooter experiences available.

Quite simply, shooting weapons in Destiny is immensely satisfying. Everything feels snappy and just right.

Destiny 5

Above: Gunplay in Destiny is tight and gratifying.

Image Credit: Activision

Gun options are actually pretty standard, with hand cannons (powerful pistols), shotguns, assault weapons (both fully and semi-automatic), rocket launchers, and sniper rifles available. While the arsenal itself is far from unique, you go through a sizable stockpile of different makes and models as you venture deeper into the cosmos. This keeps the shooting feeling fresh while giving you an incentive to acquire new tools of destruction out in the field or from the gruff cybernetic gunsmith.

Destiny has lots of loot, too. It drops plenty of goodies for your hero — known as a Guardian. You’ll find yourself picking up new toys more often than not. The worlds you visit also contain hidden “golden chests” that hold rare items ready for you to uncover.

Loot isn’t the only concept that Destiny borrows from role-playing games. Players can choose a specific class for their Guardians as well. Titans specialize in heavy-duty offense and can take more damage. Hunters are stealthy and precise. Magic-wielding Warlocks can create deadly vortexes and harness the sun’s power to regenerate abilities.

Plus, the more you play, the more talents your character gains through new levels. Each class has different skill trees with specific upgrades and superattacks to unlock, so you become stronger and more formidable as you develop your character.

These classes and abilities introduce new strategies while providing the freedom to personalize your avatar, and trying out new characters provides solid replay value.

Plenty of battles to keep you busy

Unlike most first-person shooters, Destiny has a pseudo open-world structure. You’ll gain access to different planets, which contain several missions. While you can’t go everywhere or take on all missions immediately, you can jump around and even can skip smaller side quests. You can also conduct patrols, in which you scour large areas to find beacons that assign you simple tasks like clearing the hostiles in specific sectors.

Destiny 14

Above: Strikes lead to challenging boss fights like this one.

Image Credit: Activision

The main story missions are beefier, and these often include elite armored units to take down. But that’s not all that Destiny has to offer. You can partake in strikes, which resemble raids from massively multiplayer RPGs like World of Warcraft. For these missions, you form a fireteam with friends or random players to fight hordes of enemies and the most powerful bosses in the game. Some of these encounters can get pretty frantic, making teamwork and ability management paramount.

Those who enjoy testing their mettle against human-controlled combatants can jump into the Crucible, which is Destiny’s player-versus-player mode. The game types here are familiar to Halo and Call of Duty veterans. You can dive into one-against-all firefights, team-based encounters, and node-control matches, where you secure portions of a map while fighting an opposing squad.

Destiny 19

Above: You can prove yourself in the Crucible against other players.

Image Credit: Activision

The Crucible doesn’t really bring anything new to the competitive multiplayer landscape. Yet, the tried-and-true variants on display here are fun, and they should provide a viable platform for deathmatch fans. The Crucible also rewards you with valuable items as you play, so that’s just another bonus to add to the bloodshed.

A score that brings light amid the darkness

Marty O’Donnell, Mike Salvatori, and iconic Beatle Paul McCartney created some truly special sounds for Destiny. Its score ebbs and flows with triumphant orchestral selections and rock-inspired tunes, which is a great complement to the action onscreen.

The music has the impressive capability to sound otherworldly while feeling familiar. The eclectic instruments and weighty percussion will remain with you, even after you log out.

It’s a shame that the soundtrack stands as O’Donnell’s final opus with Bungie. His mastery permeates the audio, and players will recognize his signature style as they bound from planet to planet.