If there's anything that a modern game needs, it's a competitive multiplayer mode that's usually shoehorned into a single player title and treated like a second class component. Fortunately, Bungie is somewhat adept at crafting a solid online shooter, and it's clear that the studio's experience bleeds into Destiny's player versus player mode known as the Crucible.
Spanning a couple of maps plus a couple more during yesterday's Iron Banner event, the Crucible can act as a way to let off steam after hours of exploration and co-op madness – or prove to be a massive time sink if you're a competitive kind of player. Much like other popular shooters, finding your feet in the online matches is relatively easy, and for the most part, the whole mode feels accessible. Tied into the game's world almost as a sport that Guardians compete in for honour and glory, things can get pretty heated in these six on six battles. But how did the Push Square team fare when going head to head with other beta users?
Throughout the course of the day, I joined up with all of your favourite writers, including reviewers Ben Tarrant, Alex Stinton, and Simon Fitzgerald, along with video editor and very funny man Ben Potter. Even the elusive Sammy Barker managed to play a few rounds with his brothers in arms, and for the most part, we didn't do too badly.
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Diving into Control – the only playable mode in the beta – the objective is to capture and defend three points across the map. The need to hold these positions creates a tense tug of war where the action is usually found in and around the conquerable locations. This also means that you won't spend minutes at a time running around trying to find someone to melee in the back of the head. It's a safe creation, then, but there's no denying that the maps on show are very well designed and full of varied choke points, open areas, and corridors to suit almost anyone's style of play.
You'll be taking the weapons that you've carried through the story and co-op missions, but their damage is capped in order to maintain a balance. And, even in its beta state, the title seems to do an impressive job at keeping the opposing teams balanced when it comes to player levels, which in turn assures that you'll all be fighting with roughly similar powers and skills. I must have played a good thirty or so matches, and surprisingly, most of them ended up being extremely close affairs where my team either won or lost by a very small point margin.
Being a team based mode, you'll definitely have a better chance of victory with some sort of communication going on, and opposition that split up in order to find their own way around the map usually take a beating because of their refusal to work as a unit. Having people in your fireteam means that you can see their names hovering around the battlefield, which really helps you keep track of where your allies are when you've just respawned a moderate distance away.
So, I know what you're thinking: who's Push Square's whipping boy? Well don't worry fellow writers, because I'm proud to say than none of us did badly enough to be named and shamed. That said, we did encounter a couple of matches where we ended up on separate teams, presumably because we didn't group up into a fireteam beforehand, and instead opted to simply join in on a friend's game. This did cause some hilarity, though, as fusion rifle extraordinaire Simon Fitzgerald slowly became my arch nemesis after disintegrating me more times than I could count.
Speaking of powerful weapons, there is perhaps some need for a touch of balancing. For a beta, there's definitely a good sense of order when it comes to overpowered or broken armaments, but there's no doubt that some styles of play will net you a lot more kills than others. For example, waiting around corners or sprinting from place to place with a shotgun is a relatively easy way to rack up points, while one shot sniper rifles were the cause of more than a few fits of rage, especially in a game where you have a reasonably large amount of health.
Of course, I can't ignore the Iron Banner event, in which you entered the Crucible armed with your own set of gear, no balancing applied. It's safe to say that anyone who wasn't level eight and sporting a decent set of equipment was quickly taken care of, and this system does raise some questions about how it'll play out in the full release. I can definitely see this mode becoming a go-to component for maxed-out Guardians, but it could just as easily become a place where very, very easy kills and wins are gained due to lower level players trying to get their hands on some rare loot.
Questionable design choices aside, I have to give a shout out once again to Push Square user TOMBOY25, who has now been dubbed 'The Unstoppable'. Sporting another Exo Titan, I witnessed him tear dozens of opponents apart like they were made of wet cake, and in one match, he even managed to rack up a rather ridiculous 18 kill streak. Topping the leaderboards after almost every battle, it's safe to say that if your team is in dire need of a comeback, you know who you should be inviting to your squad.
All in all, Destiny's multiplayer is enjoyable and really quite addictive. It also helps that your progress in the Crucible goes hand in hand with the rest of the game, as you'll be able to take on player versus player specific bounties and earn powerful rewards that you can put to use outside of the competitive carnage. With the full release offering a bunch of different game types, I can see it becoming a very popular location for online shooter addicts – even if there are a few wrinkles that need ironed out before September.
Have you put your skills to the test in the Crucible? Did you come out in one piece? Tell us your war stories in the comments section below, and remember to check back tomorrow for day four of our Destiny diary.