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Destiny certainly has a lot to live up to. Activision is taking a huge gamble with Bungie’s new intellectual property. $500 million is being pumped into the advertising campaign behind the new game in the hope that it’ll be the next billion-dollar franchise.

Besides the monetary aspect, this is also Bungie’s first title that’s been released since the developer left Halo behind it. Can the team escape the shadow of previous success? Or will they be doomed to be forever compared to the franchise they created? Well, we won’t know for sure until Destiny is released this September for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PS3, and Xbox 360, but if the beta is any sign of where Bungie’s new franchise will take it, then the sky’s the limit.

Upon starting a new game, it becomes immediately clear that this is not going to be your typical first-person shooter. Your first steps into the Destiny universe are spent creating your character.

There are three different classes to choose from: Titan, Hunter, and Warlock. When you’re first starting out, it isn’t clear how one is necessarily different from the other. Each of them has a short description and different-looking armor, but that’s about all you have to go on.

The game describes the classes like this:

  • Titan: You are an armored engine of war. Control any battle with strength and strategy.
  • Hunter: You are a master of the frontier. Stalk and kill your enemies with ruthless precision.
  • Warlock: The universe bends to your will. Manipulate its energies to annihilate your foes.

There are also three different races to choose from: Human, Awoken, and the Exo. Each of these can also be played as either male or female.

Once you’ve chosen the race you’d like to play as, you can begin customizing your character to fit your personal tastes. There aren’t an overwhelming amount of options, but this is only the beta. Hopefully, by the time the full game releases, there will be a few more.

When you’re done creating your character, you’re treated to a short video depicting humanity’s first steps out into our solar system and first contact with the Traveler, the mysterious floating orb that has been featured in all of Destiny‘s cover art.

After some more exposition and another video showing Peter Dinklage’s character Ghost scanning the Russian wastelands, you’re finally placed in control. The opening level of Destiny begins as a tutorial. Button prompts come up onscreen, teaching you how to aim, crouch, shoot, and all the other typical actions associated with a first-person shooter.

The tight controls and play style immediately conjure up the familiar feeling of playing a Halo game, and that’s not where the similarities end. The two main enemies you encounter during the beta, the Fallen and the Hive, are obviously descendants of Halo‘s Elite and Flood enemies.

The competitive multiplayer is another spot where Destiny seems to be borrowing heavily from Halo. The only mode of play available in the beta is called Control. It’s a 6-on-6 match mode in which players fight to take over three marked territories and hold them long enough to gain the points needed to win.

The PvP elements of the game are extremely fun and very fast paced. The two levels that were available during the beta so far were on the moon and Venus. The moon level enables players to summon their mount-like vehicles to speed around the immense levels and reach their goals faster.

Each character class brings in their special skills to the PvP matches, and the guns acquired by players during story missions can be used as well. I don’t know how Bungie managed to do it, but everything feels very balanced. I never once felt outmatched by someone because they were a higher level than me or because they had a weapon that was better than mine.

The PvE aspects of Destiny handle exceptionally well, too. Early on in the game, players gain the ability to summon a speeder bike called a Shrike. It’s summoned by clicking in the PS4′s touchpad and holding down the square button. Once summoned, you instantly are mounted up and able to cruise the Russian wasteland with speed and ease.

Even if your Shrike is destroyed, it just regenerates, and you never have to worry about leaving it behind because you can just summon it to you no matter where you are. The inclusion of a mount-like vehicle was a smart decision on Bungie’s part. Old Russia is a massive area to explore, and the Shrike makes it fun to venture out into the unknown.

If at any time during your exploration of Old Russia you complete your mission or just want to leave, players can click in the touchpad and hold down the triangle button to be instantly transported back to orbit.

Once you’re in orbit, you can set your destination to a number of locations, including the Tower, which acts as the main hub world. It’s here that players can buy new gear, check their mailboxes, accept bounties, and buy new spaceships.

It’s a clever setup that wouldn’t be unfamiliar to anyone who’s played World of Warcraft in the past. That’s where the similarities to a WOW major city end, though. Sadly, there’s no auction house present in the beta.

There is also one Strike mission in the Destiny beta. The easiest way to understand a Strike mission is to think of it as an instance in World of Warcraft. You can take up to two other players into the mission, and once you and your group are inside, you’re shut out from the rest of the online community.

This means that you won’t see other players running around killing enemies while you’re inside. It’ll just be you and your two friends testing your mettle against wave after wave of tough enemies and eventually attempting to take down the boss.

Strike missions provide a unique challenge in that respawning is limited while you’re attempting them. This means that if all three of you are dead at any given time, you must restart the mission from the last checkpoint you reached.

You can revive your team members, but sometimes your friend may have died in a compromising situation that makes you consider whether it’s worth risking your life to get him back on his feet. This can make for some pretty tense situations, especially if you’re the last player left alive during a boss fight.

The rewards for clearing a Strike Mission also depend on which difficulty you decided to play on. Ramping up the difficulty yields better rewards and more experience.

In addition to being able to level up your own character and learn new abilities for him or her to use, some rare weapons and armor can increase in level as well. They don’t necessarily have a fully fleshed-out skill tree like the player does, but they do give some interesting bonuses, like enabling a player to reload his gun 25 percent faster.

The assortment of weapons and armor you find during the course of the game is impressively vast, especially for only enabling players to reach level 8 during the beta. Every time I gained a new weapon or piece of gear, I found myself comparing stats and trying to decide if I liked the way a particular gun handled.

There are also three slots to equip different weapons in. The first goes to your basic weapon, the second goes to a more specialized weapon, and the third slot belongs to your heavy weapons. There’s a variety of options to fill each slot, but I found myself using a single-shot, long-range rifle in my first slot, a Fusion Rifle in my second slot (it fired a burst of shots with the potential to vaporize close-range enemies), and finally in my third slot, I used a fully automatic heavy machine gun to help me clear out mobs.

This is just a small sampling of the different types of weaponry is included in the game. It seems like there’s an almost never-ending supply of different weapon types to try out.

Destiny is an impressive undertaking — that much cannot be doubted. With insane amounts of customization, the inclusion of competitive multiplayer, epic bosses to take down, whole planets to explore, and player interaction on a massive scale, there’s something here for everyone.

Be on the look out for Destiny when it launches on Sept. 9 for both current and last-gen systems. If the beta is any indication, this is one game you don’t want to miss.