Destiny and Halo’s Killer Features – an anthemic shooting experience

Far be it from me, a decidedly British man with an equally British amount of access to firearms, to say what ‘good guns’ feel like, but here we are. And I’ll ignore the voice in the back of my head wondering endlessly why I’d praise the mechanics behind a device made to kill, because… look, Bungie makes shooting fun in its games. It just does.

There’s a real catharsis to every press of the button and virtual pull of the trigger that just isn’t present in most other games – and it was made all the more evident following the release of BioWare’s Destiny-alike, Anthem.

They’re very similar games on a functional level: small teams of players band together to take on missions dotted about an alien landscape; enemies are unmemorable nothings you point at and press buttons at until they die; it’s an intensely shallow experience but at the same time one that can be utterly captivating.

They’re both that. But one held my attention far longer than the other, and weirdly it’s because of the shooting.

See, in Anthem the combat feels piddly and tiring; there’s no crack to the firefights and little in the way of satisfaction when landing a well-aimed sniper shot on a distant alien… thingy.

Considering dozens of combatants are often involved and thousands of rounds of ammunition light up the (alien) night sky, it’s as dull as watching Formula One on TV. Yes, I went there.

Is it me you’re looking for?

Destiny, meanwhile, offers a real sense of kinetic frenzy to every encounter. Shots whip and smack out, the handling of your weapon is comfortable and functional, but at the same time manages to feel like more than just a few pixels and polygons being pointed at another few of the same thing.

You learn to like – even love, if you’re a bit odd – your guns, and it’s a fundamental aspect of the game that keeps you wanting to get into more firefights (and, thus, play the game for longer).

I’ve known that Bungie does its gunplay well for a long time, but it’s that release of Anthem, the time with the game, the disappointment I couldn’t quite put my finger on for a while, that brings it all back to the front of my mind.

Without good shooting, would we have cared about Destiny? Or anything else Bungie has done?

Because yes, the same applies to Halo, an imaginative and groundbreaking (on console, at least) FPS that tied everything together with some of the most balanced and satisfying gunplay around.

There’s a reason it became the de facto standard on which your in-game weaponry was modelled: Bungie gets its guns, and it gets them right. I’m still not applying for an NRA membership any time soon, but at least I know where I stand with these virtual boomsticks.

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