It's been an exciting few weeks for fans of first-person shooters with the release of the much-anticipated Destiny 2: Forsaken and the covers coming off of Call of Duty: Black Ops 4's battle royale mode.
Did Forsaken succeed in its ambition to revitalise the Destiny experience? Does Blackout make up for the lack of a single-player campaign and can it go toe to toe with with the likes of the all-conquering Fortnite? Read on to find out.
Destiny 2: Forsaken
Cayde-6 dies. This isn't really a spoiler, as it's been pretty heavily featured in the marketing for this, the first full expansion for Destiny 2. The death of this fan favourite - voiced by Firefly and Castle's Nathan Fillion in prior instalments but by veteran voice actor Nolan North this time round - is the catalyst for a new story campaign in which you hunt down those responsible for the mouthy robot's death.
Destiny 2 released to rave reviews from most quarters, but many players, especially veterans of the first Destiny, soon started complaining that there were a few serious issues: no random rolls on weapons and armour, meaning there was no real reason to keep grinding for more gear after a certain point; the feeling that you just were not quite as powerful a gun-wielding "space wizard" as you were in the original game; and a new weapon slot system that severely limited gunplay options. Does Forsaken manage to do for Destiny 2 what The Taken King did for its predecessor, turning it into the game that it should have been at launch?
Yes. All of the above problems have been addressed, resulting in a game that has never been more fun or engaging. Random weapon perks give you a reason to keep hunting for the perfect gun and the new weapon slot system means you can finally have a sniper rifle and rocket launcher equipped at the same time. There are new super abilities, and you once again feel like a character with the sort of power at your disposal that should have all but the most foolhardy foes quaking in their space boots.
The addition of bows to your arsenal is a revelation: running around pulling off headshots like some sort of futuristic Legolas from The Lord of the Rings is my gaming highlight of the year thus far.
The new campaign is excellent, lacking the tonal inconsistency that cropped up in the past, and the new strikes, adventures and of course the massive new raid all mean that you’ll never be out of things to do. And that is, of course, what Destiny fans want: a game that you can play for hours every day, if you so choose, and that still leaves you wanting more. The fans asked, and developers Bungie listened, delivering the experience they really should have a year ago. But with Forsaken being as good as it is, it’s hard to hold that against them for too long.
Destiny 2: Forsaken is out now on Xbox One, PS4 and Windows
Call of Duty: Black Ops 4’s Blackout mode
If you can't beat them, join them: the success of PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds (PUBG) inspired Epic Games to add a battle royale mode to Fortnite, and the rest, as they say, is gaming history. Now, the two FPS heavyweights, Battlefield and Call of Duty, are also keen for a slice of the battle-royale action - but is it too little too late? Not if the beta of Black Ops 4's Blackout is any indication.
The first thing you notice as the size of the map: it's a strange feeling to see such a large gameplay area in a CoD title. The second thing that grabs your attention is just how smooth and crisp everything is. In many ways, Blackout looks and feels like a much-more polished version of PUBG. Imagine the latter game being developed by one of the world's top developers and backed by one the world's biggest publishers and this would be - and is - the result.
Blackout goes for PUBG's more "realistic" approach, as opposed to the more cartoony Fortnite, but just does it all better. The excellent weapon handling CoD is known for is present here, and it's a joy to experience it in a huge, open world that also comes with kill times much longer than anything you usually associate with this series. If you're the sort of gamer who enjoys most aspects of CoD except the short kill times in multiplayer, then this could be the realisation of your most fervent FPS fantasies.
Blackout is a fun enough experience that it could probably sell Black Ops 4 on its own, especially with the sort of exposure it's bound to get through streaming - during the beta, Ittihad FC footballer Jamal Bajandouh from Saudi Arabia did a livestream with compatriot Youtuber oPillZ,who has almost 1.7 million subscribers. These days, having a game that's fun to watch has become as important as having one that's fun to play, and Blackout delivers on both fronts.
The lack of a campaign is still hard to get to grips with, but right now it looks like Activision’s gamble is going to pay off.
CoD: Black Ops 4 releases on October 12 for PS4, Windows and Xbox One.