When Sparrow racing was announced at Sony's PlayStation Experience 2015 press conference, we won't deny that we were hyped. Ever since climbing aboard our Sparrow for the first time in Destiny, we've always wished for some sort of racing system – if only to see how it would work out. As it happens, the Sparrow Racing League, Destiny's so-called "winter event", can actually be a lot of fun – but the enjoyment is ultimately short lived.
The Sparrow Racing League – or SRL, as we'll refer to it from now on – will be hanging around for three weeks before it's removed and put back inside of Bungie's new events warehouse, where it'll be stored alongside the likes of the Iron Banner and Trials of Osiris until it's needed again. You see, according to the developer, events like this will define year two of Destiny – these events will apparently replace 'big' expansions like The Dark Below and House of Wolves. The problem that we have is that if SRL is anything to go by, then said events are going to be nowhere near as substantial as they need to be.
Destiny has always travelled down one linear, content-driven path. Last year, when players got sick of running the same Raids for the same gear every week, Bungie would announce the date for the game's next expansion, and suddenly, hardcore Guardians would have something meaningful to look forward to again. Sure, it's a great way to get players to cough up the dosh for overpriced DLC, but at least each expansion's launch felt like an occasion – more of an occasion than these time limited events do, at least.
For a shooter that thrives on pulling players back into the fray with daily activities, bounties, and weekly objectives, SRL is a disappointingly lacklustre addition to the title's mix of repeatable content. At first, it's a refreshing aside to a game which is all about shooting things as efficiently as possible; six drivers are pooled together using matchmaking, and then it's up to you to grab some glory with your Sparrow speeding skills.
Races take place across just two maps. There are no weapons, no aggressive tactics – just you, the track, and five other Guardians. Sparrows control almost exactly as they do in the main game, except here, zooming through boost gates gives you some extra speed. Needless to say, it's generally in your benefit to hit as many gates as you can, although they can easily be your downfall if you enter them at an angle, as they'll usually send you speeding into the nearest wall.
Success hinges on your ability to take corners and make good use of your brakes, then. In that sense, there's a satisfaction in skidding around a bend just right, or inching past your rival metres away from the finish line. But the simple, harsh reality is that Destiny isn't a racing game; the physics that Sparrows abide by are far too unpredictable to form the basis of a truly competitive race. You can hit a rock at a weird angle and watch as your Sparrow either gracefully flies through the air or tumbles into a spin which results in a deadly explosion – it feels as though there's no real consistency in how your vehicle handles.
That's not to say that we expected WipEout levels of quality from a free Destiny event, but it's still hard to shake the feeling that SRL has been tacked on. And if you want to be really cynical, you can say that it's been tacked on in order to sell specific emotes and item packs through the game's premium store, which are only available until the end of the event.
With only two maps and racing mechanics that aren't quite polished enough to keep you coming back for more, proceedings can get stale pretty quickly – but Destiny's got one eternally effective ace up its sleeve, and that's loot. As with multiplayer matches in the Crucible, finishing a race takes you to a results screen, and from there, you're given the chance to stumble upon some new gear.
Specific, cool-looking racing equipment won't boost your light level – unless it's a legendary helmet – but the rarer bits and pieces will give you advantages when zooming around on your Sparrow. As always, the promise of potential loot is at least enough to tempt you into just one more race, and we suppose that's the main hook here – not the racing itself.
Overall, SRL is a fun distraction, but it struggles to be anything more, and many hardcore Destiny fans will likely feel the same way in that the whole thing doesn't offer much reward for the time and effort that you put into it. Sure, you have a chance to nab some new loot, but thanks to tediously slow SRL reputation gains, we doubt that the event will be able to hold anyone's attention for three solid weeks. We've said it once and we'll say it again: if events are Destiny's future, then they need to be more substantial than this.
Now that you know our thoughts, we'd like to hear yours. What do you think of Destiny's Sparrow Racing League? Is it a good addition, or do you think that it needs more to it? Get dancing in the comments section below.