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Destiny - First Look at Bungie's epic new shooter

At every E3 there are a few games that really matter, and Destiny is certainly one for E3 2013. This is, after all, the mysterious new project from Bungie, the studio that bought us Halo. It's its first cross-platform game since separating from Microsoft, and it's also a lead title for next-generation consoles, with Sony showcasing the game on PS4 at its E3 conference, though it is set to appear on Xbox One and the current generation systems as well.

Watch the impressive official Destiny trailer:

Read our Xbox One vs PS4 comparison

With Destiny, Bungie has some ambitious aims. It's a multiplayer FPS set in a persistent online world, but one that's designed to feel more like a single-player game, with an evolving storyline and episodes that key into a wider saga. Destiny takes elements from massive multiplayer games, including loot, group missions, classes and experience, but it's not a massive multiplayer game as such. Instead, Destiny uses smart matchmaking to group players together while on a mission, and doesn't focus on the kind of player to player interaction you'd find in a Guild Wars 2 or World of Warcraft. In a way, Destiny brings the single-player and multiplayer halves of Halo into one big sci-fi epic. It might look a bit like Halo meets Borderlands, but it works at a larger scale than that suggests.

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This universe has a new premise, too. It's the far future and, aided by a mysterious spherical entity called the traveller, mankind has spread out to fill the solar system. Sadly, an event known as 'the collapse' has bought us back to the point of extinction, with only pockets of humanity remaining on Earth, sheltered from hostile alien invaders in the last human city, and under the traveller's watchful gaze. Players take on the role of Guardians, defenders of the city and the last hope to reconquer the Earth, enhanced with what look like supernatural powers and ready to do battle. Your aim? Help save humanity and become a legend while you're there.

We had a chance to get a closer look at the section of Destiny demonstrated at the Sony press conference, with a little more explanation from the development team. With a bit more time to see the game played in real-time before our eyes, it's easier to catch its flavour, and there are definitely echoes of Halo in the game's grand vistas, distinctive styling and tough, unpredictable AI.

Combat looks fast and furious, with a huge selection of weapons, each bearing its own skill tree and each branded with a brilliant, ridiculous name. After the destruction of a hulking boss enemy beneath the wall surrounding a crumbling Russian city, the two players were rewarded with a sniper rifle known as Duct Tape Fixes Everything and a powerful, electrically-charged machine gun known as the Thunderlord. It just doesn't get much better than that.

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There's humour elsewhere too. If you've seen the Sony conference demo then you've seen your floating robot companion, Ghost, and it's clear that he'll add support and personality during the game.

Beyond talent trees and loot, Destiny takes another leaf from the MMORPG playbook by cramming in larger scale 'public events'. In this case, breaching the wall led to a pitched battle against the section's weird insectoid adversories, with four additional players joining battle against the alien hordes and a massive crawling mech. During this fight we also saw what looked like magical powers wielded, though details of how these work and of the different capabilities of the various playable classes are scant at present.

Watch the character creation video:

In fact, there's a lot we don't know about Destiny, and we suspect we'll have a lot more fun finding out. One thing's for sure, though - this is a seriously beautiful looking game, taking the kind of natural and sci-fi environments Bungie bought us with the original Halo, and dragging them into the next generation with some of the best lighting and water effects we've seen on the E3 show floor. It will take a lot to match the impact of Halo - a game that defined the console shooter for the best part of five years - but Destiny might just do it, and bring the worlds of single-player and multiplayer together into one compelling whole.

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