by Matthew Thompson
I personally deemed my first set of gaming mini-reviews a success! And now I am back with more. This time I review two first-person shooters I played recently on the PlayStation 4, both of which managed to defy my expectations.
Disappointment is the word that comes to mind first when I think back on Destiny. There is some good here. The actual feel of the shooting and the mechanics of it are pitch-perfect. I worried that moving away from Halo’s run and gun to a more ADS-focused affair would hurt if for no other reason than it taking away some of the uniqueness that I expect from a Bungie FPS, but I was wrong. I particularly loved pulling off headshots with a hand cannon. It feels amazing. And I guess I ought to give it some credit for how fun it is to team up with friends and take on some of the missions, Strikes in particular. There are some cool upgrades and abilities to unlock as you level up. The game also has a fantastic art direction and wonderful music. But for the most part that is where my praise for Destiny ends.
I’m not sure which is the narrative’s greater offense: the fact that there is a barely a story at all or that when it does rear its ugly head it is poorly written and being delivered to you via Peter Dinklage’s phoned-in performance. There is a universe ripe for deep lore, but that is nowhere to be found in the game. You won’t find any interesting NPC’s in Destiny either. All this results in a pretty, but hollow-feeling world.
I think what may disappoint me the most is what I thought was kind of a given for a Bungie title: excellent encounter and mission design. Halo always had a great variety of scenarios that felt like they were crafted with the utmost care. You’ll find a few of them here, but you’ll find many more boring repetitive missions (fighting off waves of enemies while your robot hacks something or other being the most overused). I wish there were more vehicles and melee weapons to mix things up like in Halo too. It certainly would have helped create a change of pace. I expected Bungie to nail these elements plus provide a vast new universe to explore with RPG elements and loot to discover, but they didn’t even meet these more basic expectations.
These weren’t the only problems. The loot system is severely flawed, the bosses are a slog and the load times are too long. I also wish there were more locations per planet to add some variety and flesh out the world, but that isn’t so much a problem as just something that would have helped.
Despite the many issues I found plaguing Destiny, I did have fun with it. The core shooting and cooperative elements are so good that you can definitely find plenty to enjoy here. But with all the other problems, I can’t help but to be disappointed as well. Destiny may become a great game over time with various updates and patches. And it may become a special series with one of its inevitable sequels. But the Destiny I played is merely an average game that could have been much more. Grade: C
Wolfenstein: The New Order
If Destiny is the disappointment of the year, then Wolfenstein: The New Order is certainly the most pleasant surprise. And the most unexpected part of the package is probably the story. Its alternate history depicts a universe where the Nazis won the second World War and you play as BJ Blazkowicz, part of a resistance group that fights back in the aftermath. Despite how ridiculous things can get (you’ll fight giant Nazi robots and even do a mission on the Moon), there is some real heart at the core of the narrative. You’ll care for your little band of brothers. It all comes together to create an entertaining tale that will help propel you through the game.
As for the gameplay, I love the way it melds some new school design with the series old-school sensibilities. There are a lot of cool weapons. You get alt fires. You can dual-wield any of your firearms. But the level design gives you plenty of options too. It’s a wide linear structure with multiple routes to objectives and stealth options. These are aided by a laser tool that lets you burrow through certain surfaces. It’s no Gravity Gun, but a neat way to mix things up plus it doubles as a weapon. A slick cover system and throwing knives add a few more layers to the proceedings.
Upgrades are also available by completing certain tasks. These can be as simple as getting “X” amount of headshots or a little more specialized like taking enemies out while sprint-sliding. I think they make for fun objectives to mess around with while going through certain areas. And if things get too tough you can forget about them and just focus on staying alive. The bits between major missions that find you exploring your base of operations act as a nice change of pace as well. They even provide some little side quests that help you further connect with your fellow soldiers and friends.
I’m very rarely impressed with single-player FPS campaigns the way I was with Wolfenstein: The New Order. It ended up being one of my favorite games of the year so far and is not to be overlooked by any fans of the genre or gaming in general. Grade: A-
That’s my take on two of this year’s big FPS releases. Be on the look out for more game reviews and features soon. Thanks for reading!