Ever since Bungie launched Halo on the original Xbox back in 2001 they have earned a kind of reverence from the console gaming community. Bungie have finished with Halo and have moved on to their next big project: Destiny.

I’ve managed to get my hands on the Beta version of the game and I have to admit that while I’m impressed I have certain trepidations. I’ll get this comparison out of the way early. Yes, this is basically Halo meets Borderlands. There is a huge Halo feel to the aesthetic and even some of the enemies have a striking resemblance to characters from the Halo series while the loot system is incredibly reminiscent of the Borderlands franchise.

The Beta dips into the loot system but not in a great deal of depth. You outfit your character with equipment that can be found in the field, in loot chests or rewarded for completing missions. There is a decent level customisation available and some items will gain additional perks like added primary weapon ammo or increased strength, as you use them. The same goes with the weapons, there are three weapon types, you have your main weapon (assault rifle or pistol), your special weapon (usually shotgun or sniper rifle) and your heavy weapon (I’ve only found rocket launchers and machine guns). I’m not too taken with this layout as playing on harder difficulties will mean you can run out of ammo for your weapons fairly quickly and without being able to pick up a fallen enemy weapon you have to rely on ammo drops. It can be really frustrating when fighting some of the larger “bullet sponge” enemies.

The primary weapons aren’t too varied and will usually be either rapid fire assault rifles, 3 round burst rifles, single shot rifles or hand cannons. The different weapon types are adaptive to gameplay styles however I found that the pulse (3 round burst) weapons were the least effective overall. It has a very Borderlands take on the weapons with your overall Primary, Special and Heavy ammo being shared between all guns of that type. For instance a rapid fire weapon may hold 300 rounds but the single shot will only hold 115, it means that when I got a kick ass single shot rifle I was then limited with ammo constraints as to not become too overpowered.

The levelling system is pretty straight forward with XP being awarded for completing missions and killing enemies, contrary to most RPG’s however you are not awarded skill points for you to make a selection as you level up. As you level up in Destiny your attributes and skills simply unlock without the need for you to pick one skill tree over another. It’s a much more straightforward approach and lends itself very well to the FPS focus of the game.

There are three classes to choose from: Titan, Hunter and Warlock. Each of these classes has their own special skills and melee attacks and need to be handled very differently. Even things as simple as their double jump are unique to the class and require practice to use effectively. The different classes are great and while no one class is better than the other you will undoubtedly find the class that is best for you. At around level 3 I unlocked my grenade power, it’s a strange mechanic and leans towards the MMO style of gameplay as you don’t have a stock of grenade but it will recharge over time. Once I levelled up some more I got my Supercharge ability. This is a super power, as you may have guessed, that deals massive damage and can be the difference between killing an enemy boss and becoming a disappointing smear on the floor. The Supercharge ability will charge quicker as you gain kills and can easily turn the tide, killing half a dozen enemies at once in some cases.

The Beta is not overly long with only a couple of hours of play before I maxed out at level 8 and finished the handful of story missions that are available. The story, from what I’ve seen, seems like it is going to be decent enough although it’s far too early to draw any real conclusions

The missions in the Beta are set in on the same map in “Old Russia”. It’s a fairly large map that’s comprised of several different areas, it’s an old Bungie tactic of making what is essentially a rather closed off experience feel uninhibited and open. The look and feel of Old Russia is astounding and no one does a skybox like Bungie. I really felt that I was playing in a world that had been lived in, a world with history and lost vigour. As we have come to expect from Bungie, Destiny looks fantastic, lighting is excellent, particle effects will throw dust and dirt into the air during a battle and your pathetic torch will only light up the immediate area in front of you when underground. It really put me on edge knowing that hoards of enemies were skittering around me and I was only able to see them at the last minute. It’s a brilliant touch to break up the adrenaline filled battles that occur in the open and is a much more tense and cautious affair. The peaks and troughs are matched perfectly by the music and it scales brilliantly with the action, fitting the situations perfectly.

So far I have only encountered two enemy factions in the Destiny Beta, the first enemy we are introduced to are “The Fallen”. These almost insectoid enemies build up most of the fodder in the first couple of missions. There is also “The Darkness”, a bunch of scuttling zombie like creature’s that are commanded by powerful wizards. Other than the aesthetic and the occasional charge by The Darkness there isn’t much to differentiate between the two factions, they have their first tier easy melee enemies, the easy ranged unit, the slightly more difficult ranged unit and then the commander unit. By and large both factions will play in the same manner with only the unit design to tell the difference. I did stumble on the two factions fighting each other on occasion and it gave me the choice of trying to sneak my way around or jumping into the fray. Once again it was a little touch but one that does make a big difference and makes the game feel less black and white.

Outside of the story missions you can explore Old Russia and complete side missions, usually these will be “get to an area and recon”, “hold this area” or “kill xx amount of enemies”. There’s nothing ground-breaking in this but it is executed well and when you are dropped in with other players it can develop into a pretty nice firefight.

This brings me on to what I think might be Destiny’s crowning achievement: The Strikes. Strikes are group missions that have ramped up enemy difficulties and big boss fights. Currently the only Strike that’s available is “The Devils Lair”. I’ve played through this a couple of times and it’s fantastic. It has truly challenging gameplay and objective based sections require you to complete different tasks such as holding position against waves of enemies or destroying a huge war walker. Teamwork is key in the Strikes and I think that as long as Destiny has plenty of these to offer then it will provide an excellent end game once the main story is finished.

The overall cooperative gameplay is incredibly solid and while there’s not many “new” features I think it will be a fantastic game to play. It bridges the gap between the casual FPS player and the hardcore MMO player by indulging both parties and chastising neither.

My main complaint about Destiny isn’t really about the game as there’s not much to complain about it with at this stage but is about Bungie themselves. Bungie had brilliant ideas when they made Halo and completely revolutionised the FPS genre, none of that innovation is evident in Destiny. It almost feels like Destiny could be Halo 7, not an immediate sequel to what we have grown used to but certainly on the same tracks. There’s nothing wrong with that I had just hoped for some innovation for this new IP.

Outside of the single player missions you can travel to “The Tower”, this is basically the hub where you can get bounties, upgrade and buy gear as well as buying new speeder bikes for fast transport. It’s not terribly fleshed out at the moment but as this is a beta it’s not surprising, I imagine that when the game launches in September that there will be all manner of things to keep you busy when you’re not fighting for the survival of the human race.

The last mode available in the Destiny Beta is the Crucible, this is the competitive PvP area. There are a few maps available that are all well designed and the level of your weapons gets scaled to an average so that the person with the Über amazing gun doesn’t walk over everyone else. The game mode “Control” is a combination of your standard Team Deathmatch and a Seize Ground/Hardpoint Domination. It’s a clever game mode as it rewards more points for kills depending on how many areas you control. The Crucible PvP is everything we would expect from such a thing. Some of the maps have vehicles and turrets that you can get in and this adds a huge variety to the matches. I was impressed with the amount of play styles these maps accommodated and I look forward to what else we will see on launch.

The Destiny Beta has left me very excited for the game’s release and I can’t wait to play this with a few friends. It is almost impossible to avoid comparing this to Halo and Borderlands and while I wish there had been a more unique feel to Destiny, something it could call its own, there’s no harm in Bungie doing what they do best.