| by Patrick Hampton | No comments

Destiny vs. The Division: Whats the better shooter Bitcoin Dice game?

 

 

First-person or third-person? Gritty realism or Technicolor space-opera? Tactical scope, or magical long-bow? Now that it’s out, it’s time to rake The Division over the comparison coals and finally work out this whole ‘Is it better than Destiny?’ thing once and for all. Because come on, Ubisoft. You put out an MMO shooter with a (nearly) single-word title beginning with ‘D’. You know you were asking for this.

 

For the sake of fairness, I’ll be running both games through the same comparison criteria, covering all of the major design elements they share – so no stacking the odds by asking which game has better hellspawn moon-monsters. Where relevant, I’ll also reference the differing amounts of time both games have been out, and any of Destiny’s past transgressions that we’ve all conveniently forgotten about, having reached the promised land of Year Two. Sound good? Then let’s go.

 

Shooting fundamentals

 

Destiny’s core shooting is unsurpassed. The product of 15 years’ experience in making console FPS feel just right, it’s tuned up to perfection. The weight, the momentum, the weapon feedback, the sheer, hefty smoothness of it all … whatever activity you’re partaking in, you can be sure that the moment to moment experience will feel great. That’s arguably how Destiny managed to keep such a loyal fanbase during its first, grind-heavy year, before the Taken King’s changes improved the overall game structure. The simple experience of playing it always took the edge off the slot-machine nature of hitting level cap.

 

And of course, Destiny’s core systems are malleable enough to support all manner of increasingly flamboyant weapon designs and action. Large-scale verticality and ludicrously cool guns that regularly do the impossible are no kind of a rarity.

 

The Division, however, is deliberately a much more grounded experience. A solid, altogether more real-world cover-shooter, it blends nicely rattley, modern military hardware with a pleasing sense of physicality in its player characters, and a satisfyingly gluey cover system. It’s much less ambitious in its scope though, which does ultimately lead to the action becoming rather samey after prolonged play, regardless of upgrades and perks. The underplayed combat does lend a paranoid intimacy to The Division’s face-offs, but it’s worth noting that the realism at times also leads to a disconnect in gameplay believability. The resilient, bullet-sponge enemies of the stat-driven RPG shooter are a lot easier to accept when alien technology and space-magic are involved. When you’re repeatedly shooting a human terrorist in the face with an assault rifle, things feel a little … off.

 

Mission design

 

Neither Bitcoin Dice game exactly excels in terms of ground-breaking level design – both contain a whole lot of ‘Go here, do this thing, get the other thing and kill the stuff’ – but each has selling points of its own. Where Destiny launched with a too-slim-for-comfort roster of missions, for instance, The Division is making no such mistake, setting its action on an Assassin’s Creed-scale map of New York absolutely teeming with things to do.

 

No only that, but there’s the immediate promise of involved discovery, by way of numerous locked doors, and lootable areas that require advanced contamination resistance to survive. It’s all very well thought out. Though the lack of variety in the enemy line-up does tend to become quite apparent when partaking in the game’s (often) 45-minute missions proper, the action is always fun, if not frequently spectacular or surprising.

 

By contrast, Destiny is designed with 30 minute, drop-in, drop-out sessions very much in mind, all of its activities tuned to deliver tangible progress and fun within short bursts of gameplay. Such quick gains are possible in The Division, admittedly, but the game’s presentation doesn’t make them anything like as accessible as in Bungie’s more modular MMO. Destiny’s stand-out missions don’t really kick in until you hit the House of Wolves and Taken King content – Bungie’s Halo-era flair for pacing and variety makes an unmistakable resurgence at that point – but the vibrancy and flow of its environments and combat are engaging from the off. It’s just that things in Destiny are more compartmentalised, its various different flavours of event linked by menus and loading screens rather than any true overworld.

 

Story and world

 

What The Division lacks in spectacle, is makes up for in layered grit and real-world fidelity. Its dystopian New York setting is beautifully rendered, in a run-down, grotty kind of way. Though, being resolutely realism focused, its snow-caked New York streets do have a tendency to blur into each other after a while. The setting is probably more exciting for those who have first-hand familiarity with the real city, but everyone else will likely crave more variety eventually.

 

The Division’s story comes packing all the complexity and weight that we’ve become accustomed to in Ubisoft’s modern Tom Clancy games. Its characters aren’t overly memorable, and largely assert their presence via radio chatter during missions, but there’s something undeniably engaging about its overall set-up. And there’s no questioning that its narrative is certainly more direct than Destiny’s often vague, broad-strokes space opera.

 

That said, there’s a lot to be said for Destiny’s approach too. Since The Taken King, its treatment of character has excelled – because if you have Nathan Fillion and Nolan North on the cast sheet, you don’t waste them. The personalities of, and relationships between, its NPCs have exploded with a real sense of humanity and fun. Its world is a theme park of endless, otherworldly beauty, with captivating visions and vistas waiting at every turn. It’s just that the narrative line through those wondrous environments still isn’t always as engaging as the places themselves.

 

Levelling and character progression

 

Continuing what’s becoming a theme now, the difference between the two games’ overall ‘career’ paths currently seems one of intricacy vs. immediacy. Destiny, on the one hand, has always been run with a philosophy of streamlining traditional MMO and RPG systems, stripping back character buffs to three main stats attached to armour, as well as a variety of weapon and armour-specific perks focused most clearly around Exotic gear.

 

There are some clever builds to be had if you really want to dig deep into resonant abilities – combine, for instance, the Warlock’s melee-powered overshield with the fast grenade cooldown of the Radiance Super and the melee-charging Monte Carlo rifle, and you have a formidable tank – but that granularity is there to be discovered by the more dedicated, not pushed up front by the game itself.

 

The Division presents a lot more options and a lot more stats. Between guns, attachments, clothing, perks, and abilities, there’s much more to manage, to the point that those not already versed in Destiny’s ways might have to negotiate somewhat of a learning curve at first. Crack it though, and there’s plenty to do. In particular, the facility to concentrate on levelling certain fields of abilities by focusing on specific, tailored questlines (want to boost your medical support skills? Then chase down the medical missions) is a very welcome addition. Long-term, the Division might reveal greater freedom of customisation than Destiny, but don’t be surprised if it takes a fair bit more work to harness.

 

And of course you’ll have to buy into a more grounded array of classes than ‘flying space wizard vs. flame-wielding astronaut Thor’.

 

PvP options

 

Here’s where the two games really differ. Destiny, you see, has an entire suite of traditional, arena-based FPS modes, covering the full and expected gamut of free-for-all, team, and objective-driven match types. The Division, on the other hand, currently has no traditional PvP play – though it may well be coming as an update later on – preferring at the moment to explore the paranoid villainy of its Dark Zone.

 

Ostensibly similar to the wider city at large, in truth the DZ is a haven of potential skulduggery and betrayal. A closed-off section of the map that players have to choose to enter, it contains AI enemies and high-value loot, but also allows players to ally with, or turn on, strangers at will. The most devilish part? Gear picked up in the Dark Zone can only be removed and secured via a highly visible airlift, meaning that any bid for escape and profit is immediately advertised to every burgeoning fiend in the area.

 

Throw in organised manhunts for heavy offenders, and the chance that any other player might just hold the special treasure key you so desperately need, and you have a constantly churning cauldron of distrust, malleable morality, and throat-tightening tension, that threatens to spill out into total carnage at any given moment.

 

Destiny lacks this kind of organic PvP environment, but at the same time, its multiplayer selection is one of the most fun, varied and vibrant in the modern FPS landscape. Playing out like a super-charged, more aggressive Halo, it’s an endless hoot, especially if you play with a mic’ed up, organised fireteam.

 

Online functionality

 

On the technical side of things, The Division has definitely had a better time of it than Destiny did during its early weeks, though there are still some notable issues going around. Most significantly, there’s the strange relationship between fireteam match-making and mission locations. The drop-in, drop-out ideal is a little shaky at the moment, players finding themselves unable to disband an ad hoc team without being warped back to a safehouse – potentially miles away – or even being thrown away from a mission area when trying to begin a co-op run near the start point. There’s also the Great Queuing Trauma, but current thinking says that that’s probably a bug rather than a design decision.

 

Destiny, at this point, is running like a mostly well-oiled machine. Some still cry out for across-the-board co-op matchmaking – Bungie continues to hold out on automated team-ups for Raids – but on the whole, there’s little of real weight to complain about.

 

So, what have we learned?

 

Basically – and disappointingly for those craving furious indignation – that both games are good for different reasons, and will probably best suit slightly different players. Of course, anyone who likes shooting and looting – and has a predilection for chronic levelling addiction – is going to get on just fine with either option, but if you like your gaming more grounded, cohesive, statistically involved, and altogether of a more brow-furrowingly serious persuasion, then The Division is probably for you.

 

Should you enjoy shooters more for the pure fun of their mechanics though, and not mind a little narrative roughness wrapped around a lot of highly varied, if segmented, bullet-joy, then Destiny has a hell of a party just ready and waiting for you.

 

And if both games appeal, and you can find enough time to sink into them in tandem, then they’ll probably work very well as complimentary experiences. But we don’t recommend such a feat, just as we do not accept responsibility for any exhaustion-related illness resulting from an attempt.

 

 

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| by Patrick Hampton | No comments

Much better than Gran Turismo? SEVEN factors Assetto Corsa might rule on Bitcoin Dice system

 

 

I know what you’re probably thinking: What the heck is Assetto Corsa? Sounds like a fancy ice cream. True, but it’s actually a very fancy racing sim, previously only available on PC. Having won a lot of hardcore racing fans over the past couple of years, it’s finally coming to console with a brand new interface. And, as it happens, I’ve just played an already impressive, pre-alpha version on PS4.

 

At risk of jumping the gun, if I had to say right now how good I think it is, I would say the simulation is the best I’ve ever experienced (though how it’ll work as a long-term console game is something I’ll reserve judgement on). So let me tell you why – from a sim point of view at least, this could leave Gran Turismo and Forza sucking on its exhaust fumes.

 

The Bitcoin Dice setup at the preview event had Thrustmaster 599XX EVO 30 wheels (the Alcantara Edition that’s just like a real Ferrari wheel) plus huge great bucket-seated RSeat RS1s, which obviously helps the sense of immersion. But even just looking at the game on the screen, the movement is that of a real car. The level of grip feels perfect, with an incredible amount of feedback through the visuals and the motors pushing against you in the wheel itself. As a result, despite the massive realism, I didn’t spend all my time falling off the road. I spent it driving around a racetrack. That’s the difference. A massive, massive difference.

 

Ferrari, Abarth and Dallara have used this tech to simulate cars in their own test facility. It’s that realistic. The team is completely enveloped in racing – quite literally in that their office is in the middle of the Vallelunga circuit in Rome. The team can see cars driving down a straight right outside their window. Marco Massarutto, co-founder and executive producer at Kunos Simulazioni told me: “Being on track, we have the chance to stay in direct contact with racing teams, professional drivers and engineers.” It shows.

 

This is the most responsive racing game I’ve ever seen. With the steering wheels set up in front of large, flat panel HD TVs and the game set to helmet cam, you could see journalists’ hands on the wheel right underneath those same hands’ virtual incarnations… and they were almost perfectly in sync. A perfect 1:1 response is technically impossible due to processing in the console and the TV, but only the most violent see-saws are even slightly behind the real-world action here. Seeing as HD TVs have latency anyway, the game itself must be running like lightning. It’s superb – the best I’ve ever seen.

 

Oculus Rift is already supported in Assetto Corsa, and Marco told me that they’ve had the ‘Morpheus’ (as it was then known) dev kit for over a year already. However, the team’s priority right now is to get the console version finished and shipped, so VR compatibility is not something that will be supported at launch. After that, however, there’s more than a good chance that it will be added in via a downloadable patch. But the effect is apparently so good, Marco says Oculus uses the game to demonstrate its technology at events. I don’t doubt it.

 

This is one area that it’s not easy to test in just a couple of hours with a game, but early signs are promising. For starters, after lowering the as-yet-unbalanced difficulty a little, I was just about able to keep up with the 4th-place car around Spa for a couple of laps, getting to within distance of thinking about an overtake, but then making a mistake at Eau Rouge and slamming into the wall. That may not sound fun to you, but for me it’s very promising. I had to work very hard to reel in just one car – something my list of ‘What makes a good racing game?’ made a big deal out of.

 

Speaking of crashing into things, damage was switched off in this pre-alpha version, although the final game will feature both mechanical and cosmetic damage, with slider bars for how realistic you want it to be. Marco told me that the various manufacturers have varying levels of damage they are happy to be depicted on their cars, but it will have some. That’s unavoidable. However, most importantly, collisions between vehicles feel weighty and solid here. Like you’re actually hitting real cars. It’s an incredible simulations of not just cars on a tracks, but cars on other cars.

 

Assetto Corsa can’t compete with Gran Turismo for the sheer number of tracks (or cars for that matter), but it can compete in terms of solidity. Its visual feel is like a new-gen version of Ferrari 355 Challenge – that kind of solid, assured rendering, only in 1080p on PS4 (likely 900p on Xbox One according to Marco, though both will run at 60fps). Best of all, there’s even a 1966 layout version of Monza that you can drive with vintage F1 cars. Where Forza 6 feels like a love-letter to cars, this feels like a love letter to motorsport.

 

It’s already very, very good. It feels like driving an actual car. Whether that’s going to translate to standard PS4 and Xbox One control pads remains to be seen, but with a wheel and pedals, it’s wonderful. It’s unashamedly a simulation of cars, but that simulation is so impressive, I already want just that one Ferrari Fxx K hotlap around Spa in my house. If everything else can convinces console gamers as a video game and not just a technical reproduction of a car, this could be very special indeed when it hits consoles later this year. Keep an eye on it, this could be a real sleeper hit.

 

 

 

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