Destiny 2 PC review: the best loot shooter has found a new home

By Sherif Saed, Thursday, 2 November 2017 08:11 GMT

Destiny 2 comes to PC to shake up the torpid loot shooter scene, and it’s all the better for it.

There’s a gratifying feeling PC players know very well. The relief of downloading a new game and seeing it run great out of the gate without much tinkering. Whether it’s the many years of bad ports, or the specific desires of players on a platform as malleable as PC, there’s always been this looming worry that the next big game will screw something up somewhere.

The PC version of Destiny 2 effortlessly nullifies these worries in the first few minutes, but it’s how it plays beyond the opening moments that turns it from a good PC port into a good game. Practically every website covered Destiny 2 in September. Most people reading this probably already know that the story is nothing to write home about, and that the endgame leaves something to be desired for the most hardcore fans.

The number of environments, weapons, activities, rewards and everything else around what you actually get up to in Destiny 2 is well documented in our Destiny 2 guide and hundreds of other places online.

The praise and grievances are all relevant here, no less valid than they were at the console launch. Nothing on that end has changed; this is still the same game many played in September. So instead of wasting time rehashing old critique, I am keen to tell you about my experience as a PC player in a game ostensibly designed as a console shooter first.

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The first thing that immediately hit me was the much higher frame-rate. Before I had time to properly judge weapon mechanics or how character movement feels on a keyboard, I was in awe of how smooth the game runs during quiet and hectic moments alike. I had no problems maxing out all settings at 1440p and averaging 120fps. Admittedly, it’s a near-top-of-the-line PC, but you won’t need much if you aim for 60fps.

There is no question about the responsiveness upgrade you feel at higher frame-rates. Destiny 2 already felt great at 30fps, I would even argue it feels better than some 60fps shooters on consoles.

But on PC, with frame-rates as high as your machine can pump out, the game is unshackled. Your inputs feel all the more tactile. Unloading the entire clip of a hand cannon, then throwing a grenade and dodging into a reload as a Hunter feels like some ideal version of Overwatch’s McCree we never got. The precision of a mouse offers infinite utility, and much greater control. More than that, it opens up new avenues for you to appreciate and enjoy weapon classes Destiny players have been using in a certain way for years.

A slow-firing auto rifle was something I often avoided on console. If I needed a low rate-of-fire precision weapon, I’d use a scout rifle. On PC, I could easily turn this auto rifle into a scout rifle by tap-firing without losing any of the precision. Sure, a scout rifle will always have higher impact, but I had more control over something so small than I ever did on a controller.

I worried hand cannons would be cumbersome and unnecessarily slow after playing the beta, but the sheer number of them in the full game negated this almost immediately. In fact, it made me appreciate some of the finer variances between the slow, classic revolver-style hand cannons and the more modern options. But gunplay isn’t the only thing that feels great on PC. Character movement is similarly well adapted to keyboard’s digital inputs.

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Your average Destiny session features a lot of platforming, and while the original game changed my mind on the point of having this at all in a first-person game, Destiny 2 convinced me that first-person platforming can still feel good without analogue inputs. This is a big deal; PC shooters for years have been struggling with the best way to implement first-person platforming. The old Half-Life nightmare level comes to mind.

The games that figured this out – like Portal – had much less of an emphasis on combat. While Destiny 2 doesn’t ask a lot of you in most firefights, pulling off cool moves is what keeps combat interesting. Platforming and air movement are big parts of that, and they must respect your momentum without feeling floaty and weightless – see Borderlands for the worst way to do this.

None of these issues are anywhere to be found here. I deliberately picked a Warlock in the launch version because I remember hating its jump and air control on a pad. I still think it’s the worst of the three classes in this regard, but I have never quite appreciated the reason for why Warlock jumps have so much glide until I played on PC.

Perhaps through sheer luck or genius forward-thinking, the UI in Destiny was designed to work well with a mouse from the start. On console, you control what’s essentially a big mouse cursor. This translates well to PC, for the most part.

Navigating a planet’s map doesn’t respond too well to the speed of a mouse. The camera pans at a speed typical of analogue sticks, and you can’t use arrow or WASD keys to navigate it like some RTS games. It’s not a big issue, but together with the unnecessary push towards holding buttons instead of pressing them, makes certain parts of the UI, such as checking the weekly Milestones, feel finicky.

You’ll quickly forget Destiny 2’s roots as a console shooter once you get used to these quirks. The game plays just as well as any PC open-world shooter. Getting around the world is easy. Jumping off a Sparrow into a Public Event before getting lost trying to locate the chest you’re hearing the chime for feels natural on mouse and keyboard. The incredibly fast load times (even on a regular HDD) means that even the in-orbit moments are cut to 20 or 30 seconds, and I never once hit the in-world loading issues I got so many times on consoles.

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Bungie always struck me as a developer too precious about the games it makes and the worlds within them. The old joke of capitalising every other word in dialogue still holds true. For all my time watching, playing, and covering Destiny, the studio’s vision for everything within it – from the way the action feels, how rewards are doled out, and down to how stories are told – is one that’s always been very specific.

It was a surprise to see a studio that’s so wrapped up in how its creations are perceived recognise that the needs and expectations of a whole new platform could mean that some of these beliefs will have to be abandoned.

Let me be frank. The PC port of a game as a popular as Destiny would have probably sold just fine even if it was terrible. Taken a step further, a competent but otherwise lacking port accompanied by hollow claims about how the game should “feel” from Bungie would have still done well commercially. Destiny 2 on PC could have easily been just another console port that looks and runs a bit nicer than consoles, but doesn’t really do any one thing well enough to truly feel at home on PC.

So to see how far Bungie and Vicarious Visions have gone to make this a good PC shooter first, and a good port as well, tells me that nothing was off the table during development. And beyond that, it signifies a commitment to PC from the most unlikely places.

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Destiny 2 on PC is a completely different experience to the one on consoles, not just because of its technical implementation, but in how it feels when you do the things we’ve been doing on consoles for years. Destiny 2 players on PS4 and Xbox One who are serious enough about the game need to consider migrating to PC. Technical analysis revealed that you can easily achieve 1080p/60fps on plenty of affordable hardware configurations.

The game still plays great on a controller on PC, and no amount of exclusive content will matter when you see it running this well. Sure, you’ll have to stomach the upfront cost of a PC, but I am willing to bet you’ll find other uses for the new machine than just playing Destiny 2.

Before the release of Destiny 2, PC players looking for a loot shooter had one of two options. Replay any of the Borderlands games, and suffer through plenty of samey drops and mediocre shooting mechanics. Or download Warframe, a free-to-play Diablo-esque shooter that feels good to play but has a grindy progression system and uninteresting environments.

Players on PC no longer have to contend with less when the best one is right there on their preferred platform.

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