Destiny 2: PC Multiplayer Impressions
The PC Beta showed up on Battle.net this week, and all-round, it's an impressive experience that no one should miss. In this article, I'll drop my impressions, specifically on the Arena Control mode. Countdown, while interesting, is basically a 1:1 recreation of Counter-Strike, which we already know works great on PC. But it's Control that needs to prove itself. And boy, does it.
First, praise needs to be heaped onto the new Javelin 4 map. The new Crucible is already phenomenal--thanks to the primary weapon focus and 4 v 4. But Javelin 4 is a significantly better map than Endless Vale, which is itself already a pretty great map. Between these two, Bungie's map design has gotten significantly better.
The comparisons to Halo keep stacking up around the new Crucible, and nowhere more than Javelin 4. This absolutely feels like a Halo map. The open, geometric layouts also promote the same excellent gunfighting. With the idea of a "primary vs secondary meta" dead, this is the place where this shines. Gunfights are tactical and excellent. Paired with the mini-map, you can choose your engagements effectively and you'll rarely lose gunfights you didn't deserve to lose.
These were all true of Endless Vale, but it's even more so of Javelin 4. If these are the types of maps to be expected at launch, bring them on.
Now to the gunplay. This is less of a review of content, and more of a review of how well Destiny works on PC.
In short, quite good, but some of Destiny's limits as a shooter start showing up. It really is a console-first shooter, so players who were worried the game would be sacrificed to "competitive play" can breathe a sigh of relief. Even on PC, matches rarely got too sweaty. But there are some large difference to how the game's played.
First, Destiny still uses ADS (aim-down-sights). It's a mechanic that really works much better on the console version than on the PC. On console, you don't have full control over the reticle. You're pushing the reticle where you want it to go. For that reason, ADS is very useful in shooters, a genre that's traditionally not console friendly. So in Destiny, ADS is necessary, or else players would struggle to get their reticles onto targets.
In D1, I'm a pretty shameless hand-cannon nut. My arsenal moves between Eyesluna, Lord High Fixer and Imago Loop. There are few situations I'd rather be using a non-hand-cannon, and for that reason I keep a Zhalo Supercell and Hung Jury handy. There's a really crisp and rewarding methodology of ADS-ing, shifting my reticle and firing, with a hand-cannon that never gets old. It's part of the way the guns work and players have had years to perfect it.
Unfortunately, that's not how guns work on PC. The mouse has full control over the reticle. So ADS only slows the game down. Mentally, the second the hip-fire reticle lands on my target, I want to fire. Then, I remember I need to ADS. My hand didn't need ADS' help though, so it feels like a chore. It's less of a problem with auto rifles and SMG's, but it's frustrating with hand cannons and scout rifles. It's not a game-ruining experience, but it's an out-of-place mechanic that I hope is rethought. It adds a weird, recurring bit of unnecessary complication to the game. But for reasons I'll explain later, it's not something that's going to win or lose gunfights.
The gunplay itself is excellent. I can't sing enough of its praise. Despite the wide differences between console and PC controls, it's a familiar game. If you're a veteran of Destiny 1, the surface level of the game is easy enough to grasp.
The actual dueling is far different though because ADS plays such a small role. In the PS4 beta, I could easily hit anywhere between a 5:1 and 8:1 KDA if I was having an exceptionally good game. Admittedly, KDA is a bit inflated compared to KD, because team-firing counts towards that score. But as an experienced console player, ADS was a huge factor that allowed me to easily hit 10 killstreaks fairly frequently. Like many dedicated Destiny players, the art of snapping the reticle to an enemy's head is one I've mastered.
It's an amazing, satisfying skill that takes time and feels rewarding. I could play as aggressively as I liked on PS4, since I could easily land two headshots before my opponent ever got off their panicked body shots. Getting double teamed was never insurmountable.
This is not the case on PC. And it's not a good, or bad thing. The game just plays differently. Some fears of "sweaty" play that weren't true on PS4, become true on PC. I rarely did better than a 1.5-3.0 KDA for that reason, with emphasis being on the "1.5" end on that scale. On PC, the game just rewards different playstyles.
Because ADS does little, and is so easy to activate, your opponent absolutely has your head square in their reticle before they've even begun scoping. The mouse and keyboard just favors precision. This means that my ability at ADS-ing, which carried me far in Destiny 1, is virtually useless in Destiny 2 on PC. Again, this isn't a bad thing. But it means, you'll need to aim far more quickly, and have your hip-fire reticle in a position that lets you do so.
The other effect is that time-to-kill is significantly sped up. Because PC is the home of the shooter genre, this means literally every player you're up against is landing headshots right off the bat. These are players who have hundreds, if not thousands of hours in eSport-grade shooters like Counter Strike and Overwatch. Thankfully, this hasn't resulted in shorter engagments. It's actually resulted in longer-range gunfights.
My aggressive playstyle from Destiny 1 requires significantly more skill to pull off on PC--skill I don't have-- so I've learned to adjust. And videogames win when they force you to change your game style.
Until I get better, I pick my battles more tactically.
This is also where the mini-map really shines. I had a small gripe that the range was too far, but I soon realized I was at fault. It's a radar, not a metal detector. It doesn't tell you where your opponent is, it tells you there's someone around the corner. This adds a good deal of tactical play that offsets the higher accuracy gunpplay.
Now, for the reticles. There's been a really odd myth flying around that Destiny for PC doesn't have recoil. I'm not pointing fingers, but there's absolutely a defensive element to console fanboyism that really liked propogating this. This is not true. I recorded my first game on PC and posted it on the Facebook page. The video opens with me demonstrating Scathelock's recoil at 10m and 30m. Recoil is virtually identical to the console versions.
For sure, there's people who are genuinely confused and I think the confusion started around an explanation Bungie gave on the subject. Consoles use "analogue" control. You don't actually control the reticle, you're effectively pushing the reticle using the thumbstick, and that's recorded via the stick's axis. PC's use "digital" control, where there's an X-Y map of the mouse's position. Consoles map by pushing in circular patterns, PC's map by pinpointing your position on a rectangle.
As a result, the way recoil works is, yes, different. But it is there.
What has changed is aim-assist, in that it's nonexistent. Dr. Lupo and some popular posts on the Destiny subreddit have highlighted this. On PC, players using controllers are granted the same aim-assist as console players. But with mouse and keyboard, there doesn't appear to be any noticeable AA at all. This gives players with PS4 mouse and keyboards and advantage since they get the precision of the PC, with the heavy aim assist and bullet magnetism of the PS4.
Watching these, I realized how heavy the game's AA was. Destiny's always had abnormally high AA because of what a big role it played in balancing weapons. But players used to playing on Xbox or PlayStation may take a while to adjust to the mouse and keyboard. On PS4, if the reticle is around the head's hitbox, you get a headshot. On PC, you could have your reticle on their head, but if you missed by a few pixels, no dice.
It made shooting with auto-rifles far harder, since firing off a burst at their head required far more attention to recoil control than before. On PS4, it was almost a firehose of death; I raised the gun, found a head, and melted people. But on PC, I frequently found myself nervously overcompensating for recoil, even with my reticle lined straight for heads.
A big part of the reason I can't dominate on PC the way I did on PS4 is because of this. There's a great deal of skill in ADS-ing and targeting acquisition on console. Those are not skills that are rewarded on PC. PC requires you to learn a whole new set of skills. Conversely, PC skills won't translate to skills on PS4. Understand this, swallow your pride, and you won't be another dumbass in someone's comment section trying to explain why your system makes you a "superior" player.
And frankly, it's why I can absolutely recommend buying Destiny 2 on both console and PC. You'll spend hours honing different skills for different platforms and all signs show that Destiny 2 is providing a game that's going to make that process a blast. And really, if you could experience the thrill of sucking at Destiny again…why wouldn't you?
It's scary, for sure, but it's great for the game. Learning not to suck at games is glorious and the PC version of the game is delivering a skill gap that will deliver that thrill, constantly. Destiny 2's competitive players have indicated that they're moving to PC, along with most major streamers. And if the game has room for this kind of skill gap, where learning new skills is far more essential than before, it means the game will have a far longer lifespan across all systems.
Bungie put a lot of effort into making this the best PC port it can be. And while I have small issues, those largely fall under the game's identity as a shooter, and I don't expect them to change any time soon. Overall, it's a great experience on PC and I'm impressed with the attention to the smaller aspects of gameplay that should give the game a lifespan the Destiny community desires.