I remember when Bungie used to do Halo games; They were great, weren’t they? Some of the tightest, smartest shooters around – revolutionary in the way they blazed the trails of the genre and popularized using your enemy’s mechanical weapons. Whether you played as Master Chief in the main trilogy or some lucky newbies in ODST or Reach, these games are filled with some of the most iconic moments in FPS history. And Bungie is drawing on that Legacy for its own sake Lightfall extension to Destiny 2.
Last year, at the launch of Destiny 2: The Witch Queen, I said Bungie knocked it out of the park in one of the best FPS campaigns I’ve played in years. The story was tight, the missions were well paced and exciting, the mechanics thrown into the game were fun and refreshing. It seems the developer is capable of bottling the lightning for two years in a row, then, because the newest campaign, Lightfall, has done it again. In fact, I think it might be even better.
I’m a true believer in Destiny. I think, aside from the content corridor combined with the seasonal elements of the game, it’s one of the most impressive shooters ever made. Always. Yes, a big statement, but you can’t argue with the design and feel of most guns. Pulling the trigger on almost any weapon feels amazing, and using your powers to put enemies to bed will never get old. Summon space magic from above to melt a boss’s health bar as you mate it fills with hot critter? It’s the bomb science fiction dreams are made of.
But these are all foundational things – the solid baseline from which Destiny operates. Mechanically and systemically, it’s a very good game. It’s in these new content drops and story expansions that my years-long relationship with Bungie takes off. And I think, with Lightfall, the developer has looked deep into its past to galvanize its future – and what a treat it is.
I’ll try to keep this spoiler free. In the first chapter alone, there are echoes of some of Halo’s greatest moments. But vice versa, sort of. At one point, at the climax of the chapter, you are tasked with infiltrating a massive ship and fiddling with its power supply. I choose to play it on ‘Legend’ difficulty, an updated nod to the ol’ Halo Legendary mode that offers intense challenge – but tasty rewards. It’s not quite the “All Skulls On” challenge that Chiefs might remember from back in 360 days, but damn if it’s not close.
So. You enter the mission and are tasked with navigating a series of narrow corridors that open into nice, manageable meeting rooms. This mission, in particular, likes to put you on the back burner. you fight your way up the stairs, swarmed on all sides by angry Cabal insurgents, surprise-hidden turrets around corners, little opportunity for cover as you’re forced to push your way through the gunfire. It’s hard, but fair – it makes you and your teammates play the game properly: rotate weapons, develop class abilities, shout when you drop buffs or shields. It’s like a home invasion, sort of.
Halfway through the mission, you have to clear a room and drop a power source on something unstable to start a chain reaction. No problem: delete the plugins, cut a path and you’ll be done without too much trouble. But then a boss appears: a new type of enemy, a rusher, who likes to get his scythe close. Kind of reminds me of the Brutes and their grav hammers in the last Halo compounds, but maybe that’s just me. He’ll take you to Benny Hill in the arena as you dodge his chops and dives, but you’ll eventually put him to bed. Mission over, right? Nah.
Next comes the real boss arena: the center of a fancy room filled with the spoils of war. The slam dunking you were taught to do earlier? Do it two more times, but this time, in a boss arena. Deep breath, you got this. It took me and my fireteam longer than I’d like to admit to figure out how to hit objectives and manage enemies at the same time – eventually opting for a cheeky flanking maneuver around the edge of the chamber as a seemingly infinite number of our tough hounds they chased from corner to corner. Taking shots where we could, and escaping death by the skin of our teeth on many occasions, we finally made it. This is Halo level encounter design. every enemy placement, every mechanical interaction, every little tool in the machine is intricately curated and masterfully executed. This is the ultimate FPS design and we crushed it.
The successful mission sees you (noisily and explosively) wreak havoc on the ship before you’re tasked with a simple, final task: escape. You summon your Sparrow and blast your way through a gauntlet of enemies, tanks, obstacles and –– wait… isn’t that the final level of Halo 3? It is, you know. It’s written almost exactly the same. Except you’re not on a Warthog leaping over the Flood, you’re on separate sparrows taking it away from the Cabal and Fallen. Net. The soundtrack plays, rockets rain down around you and you make it. Chapter 1, complete.
Later in the campaign, you’ll step into a tank and be whisked out into the world to blow things up as – once again – a booming and rousing soundtrack encourages you to keep going. The Halo parallels are inevitable and certainly intended. I’m only nine or so hours into Destiny 2 Lightfall, but it’s already captured my imagination and stuck in my head – I can’t wait to see what other surprises Bungie has in store.
Destiny 2 Lightfall out now on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S and PC.