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Hands-on with the impressive PC version of Destiny 2

Plan C.

Destiny 2 on PC plays like a completely different game to someone who's got hundreds of hours on the clock of the PlayStation 4 version.

Moving from pad to mouse and keyboard represents a significant shift in feel for Destiny, which has up to this point remained exclusively a console game.

As a long-term Bungie fan, I've always played the developer's games with a pad in hand - from the original Xbox's gargantuan 'Duke' controller for Halo: Combat Evolved to the DualShock 4 for Destiny 1.

Bungie's shooters have always worked brilliantly on a controller, and Destiny is no exception. The Destiny gunplay at home on a pad, with each button inexorably linked to a Guardian ability in an almost symbiotic relationship.

So, going from that to playing on PC with a mouse and keyboard initially befuddled me. It's not that I was unfamiliar with playing PC shooters, it's just that I was unfamiliar with playing Destiny on PC. It took a while to adjust.

Destiny 2 on PC gives off a fantastic first impression. At the Destiny 2 gameplay reveal event in Los Angeles last week, Bungie had the game set up on powerful PCs and displayed on monitors capable of an extremely high refresh rate. I'm not entirely sure what resolution the game was running at, but it looked like 4K to me running at least a 60 frames per second.

Everything looked ultra crisp, almost hyper real. Destiny on console has a soft look to it, which makes sense given the limitation of the platforms it runs on. On PC the graphics pop, the definition of the Guardians clear against backgrounds even when moving at speed.

That's impressive enough, but the most significant difference comes from the way Destiny 2 feels to play. Free from the limitations of pad thumbsticks, Guardians zip about the environment. This initially felt completely unworkable, so much so that I had to tune down the sensitivity of the mouse. Even then, being able to quickly move the reticule felt like a revelation. You think you've got the jump on me? Let's spin around to deal with that, shall we?

Even firing a weapon feels completely different. In Destiny on console, there's a recoil that comes with firing each and every weapon. This recoil is built into the feel of the game and the feel of the pad in your hands. You get used to it and compensate accordingly.

On PC, recoil simply wouldn't work in the same way, so for Destiny 2 on PC it's been rejigged. You can line up a headshot, click a mouse button and hit without the reticle moving all over the screen. I found that I was much more accurate with a mouse and keyboard compared to a pad, which is a not entirely surprising revelation. But in the context of my relationship with Destiny, it felt almost extra sensory.

On console, Destiny has a slight auto-aim. I didn't notice any auto-aim at all with the PC version of Destiny 2. This makes sense, too. It's kind of cheating, and in the world of PC, auto-aim is, generally, frowned upon.

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The default PC controls using a mouse and keyboard - you can change this in settings.

Guardian movement is an incredibly important part of the game. You have to consider the way each class moves almost as if they're cars that handle differently on a race track. On console, this movement feel is designed for a controller. On PC, with a mouse and keyboard, Destiny handles very differently.

It's early days for the PC version, of course, but the build I played ran effortlessly, with no noticeable frame-rate drops even when things were kicking off on-screen. When you consider the rig I was playing on, this comes as no surprise. The PC version of Destiny 2 I played was running on an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti GPU, an Intel Core i7-7700K 4.2Ghz CPU and 16GB Ram. It was a beast.

Elsewhere, the features PC players demand were present and correct: there's 4K resolution support, an uncapped frame-rate, custom key mapping, text chat, adjustable field of view, 21:9 monitor support and, of course, the ability to play with a controller. All good stuff.

There is some bad news, however. The PC version, like the console versions, does not run on dedicated servers. As a console player I'm not surprised by this decision when it comes to PS4 and Xbox One, but PC players have different expectations. There was a reasonable hope that the PC version would support dedicated servers, particularly with lag and tick-rates such a big deal on PC. Alas, this is not the case.

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Bungie did not let us capture footage of the PC version of Destiny 2, but I can report it looks technically impressive.

That's issue number one. Issue number two is there's no cross-save feature (Bungie's Eric Osborne confirmed this to me during the gameplay reveal event). Now, I don't think anyone expected PC/console cross-platform play for Destiny 2, but I'd hoped for cross-save. I expect to play on PS4 at home, as I still feel like Destiny is a couch game and I want to play where my friends are, and that for the time being is on PS4. But I'd have loved the option to load up my Guardian for use in the PC version during lunchtimes at work, for example, of if I'm in a position to play on PC further down the line.

This issue ties into another: the PC version will launch after the console versions. I'll play Destiny 2 on PS4 when it comes out. When the PC version comes out, hopefully not too later down the line, I'll face the prospect of having to create a brand new Guardian do everything all over again. I'm not sure I can face that.

A word on Activision and Bungie's decision to launch Destiny 2 on Battle.net, Blizzard's digital platform. While the announcement came as a surprise to many who had expected Destiny 2 to launch on Steam - like other Activision games have - the move to my mind at least makes a lot of sense. One of the advantages of running a game like Destiny 2 on Battle.net is it should reduce the impact of cheating on PC, an issue that affected Ubisoft's The Division considerably.

Having played the PC version of Destiny 2 for an hour or so, I expect I'll play it because from a performance and gameplay perspective, it's out of this world. Will I stick with it in the same way I'll stick with the console version? Probably not.

In this context, I think the PC version is intended for PC gamers who probably haven't played Destiny before, or have no intention of playing Destiny 2 on console. Based on what I've played of the PC version, Destiny 2 gets the PC gaming basics right. A promising start, then for this high-profile port.

This article is based on a press trip to Los Angeles. Activision covered travel and accommodation costs.

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