I'm proud to say my gaming allegiance has lied with PlayStation since Christmas 1998. Still, the multiplayer experience that stands above the rest, that resonates with me more than any other, is Halo 2. Bungie's now-legendary sci-fi FPS was, even more than its predecessor, the ubiquitous multiplayer shooter of the sixth generation. LAN parties and map strategies; sleepless nights and drowsy mornings; my memories of playing Halo 2 with friends are among my most cherished. I expect many of you feel the same; less than two years post-release, 710 million hours had been spent playing Halo 2 online.
I'm not here to wax poetic or sing Xbox praises—we all know who the real king of console gaming is. But recent weeks have brought Bungie, a studio formerly owned by Microsoft, into the PlayStation gamer's consciousness. Destiny, the first game in a planned 10-year narrative arc, will be the first Bungie game on a PlayStation console. The open-world sci-fi shooter, which looks to embrace social gaming in ambitious ways, will offer exclusive content for PlayStation 4 gamers. Bungie even closed Sony's PS4 reveal, a trump card by the latter that surely had Microsoft execs fuming. Yes, seeing Bungie on a Sony stage was surreal, but also incredibly exciting. Whatever your feelings on the studio's former loyalties, Bungie has a lot to offer PlayStation gamers, including...
Bungie's Halo series has played host to some of the most popular, insanely fun multiplayer suites the industry has ever seen. It all started with Halo: Combat Evolved, the first game to truly popularize first-person-shooters on a console. Intuitive controls, clever map design, and a host of unique weapons made every match, every kill, and every flag grab an absolute blast. As the series matured, so did its multiplayer component. From Halo 2's adoption of Xbox LIVE to the stunningly ambitious Forge and Theater modes of later installments, Bungie has always put the industry to shame with innovations that spur industry growth and spawn endless imitations. Even the modern map selection screen owes its due to Halo.
Of course, PlayStation is not without its standout multiplayer games. Insomniac brought 80-player matches to PS3 with Resistance 2. Zipper Interactive brought 256-player matches with MAG. LittleBigPlanet 2 brings people together for co-op platforming and astoundingly creative... creation. But in terms of FPS ambition, of competitive advancements in console gaming, Bungie takes the cake. With Destiny, the studio is bringing an impressive pedigree of success—MLG tournaments, ever-shifting playlists, the best in community stat-tracking—to PlayStation, and we stand only to gain.
Meaningful Social Gaming
10 years ago, Bungie created the most engaging social platform the industry had ever seen. While the Halo services of Bungie.net have since been transferred to 343 Industries, an exhaustive feature set brought gamers to Bungie's community portal in droves. And for good reason: what started with lifetime stat-tracking and detailed maps of every kill and death ultimately grew alongside Forge and Theater mode to encompass a wealth of content sharing. Even Call of Duty ELITE and Battlefield Premium can't compare; Bungie.net brought millions of people together around exciting professional tournaments, unique fan content a la “Red vs. Blue”, and a sense of community—true camaraderie and competition—that has yet to be surpassed, or even challenged.
PlayStation exclusives have struggled to find the same integrated support. The earliest years of PlayStation Network were nothing if not disorganized; great strides have been made since, but you'll be hard-pressed to find any community or web service that even approaches Bungie levels of loyalty and longevity. The possibilities for Destiny, when coupled with PS4's 'Share' button and social network, are mind-boggling. Stream live Destiny gameplay to the new Bungie.net. Attract an audience of friends and enemies with your skills. Schedule clan matches on the web, and link directly to your mates and foes via PSN. Display a heatmap of bullet accuracy for friends watching your PS4 stream. Use PS Vita (or your tablet! Or your phone!) to track kill and death locations in real-time for the ultimate second-screen experience. And take all your data—career stats, multiplayer tips, social connections—with you on-the-go. If anyone can make this bright, beautiful future happen on PS4, it's Bungie.
Compelling Science Fiction
Maybe multiplayer isn't for you. That's OK; Bungie has you covered. The Halo universe is widely recognized as one of gaming's most compelling sci-fi myths. The lore is extensive; enough to support 12 (!) novels, four comics, two graphic novels, and a short story collection—never mind the critical accolades. But what about Destiny? In fact, Bungie's multiplatform epic may have even more going for it. The staggering scope of the Destiny universe is evident in early concept art, and the IP's ten-year-plan indicates that the storytelling wizards at Bungie have a vision for the journey that millions of players will take. And if you're one of those gamers that finds the best stories fall outside narrative bounds, rest assured: the seamless drop-in, drop-out nature of Destiny's galaxy will mimic thatgamecompany's Journey in its ability to bring people together for incredible, unscripted adventures.
Martin O'Donnell's critically acclaimed work for Halo is instantly recognizable to everyone (Yes, everyone. I looked it up). O'Donnell will return for Destiny as Audio Director and main composer, which means gaming's next generation almost certainly has its first ubiquitous theme song decided. And this time, PlayStation gamers won't feel a pang of jealousy every time they hear it. Tribal drums with orchestral scope and precision, gregorian chants that conjure images of the ancient and unknown; the draw to O'Donnell's work is that every listen reveals something new. You'll almost certainly be humming Destiny's main theme a year from now, but let's not forget the impressive sound design and vocal work that have brought Bungie's sci-fi visions to life. There's every reason to expect the same moving compositions and immersive tones in Destiny.
Passion for Development
I don't mean to suggest that other studios aren't driven in equally passionate ways (here's to you, Naughty Dog), but Bungie certainly brings unique methods and motivations to the development table. A flat position structure allows new staffers and veterans alike to challenge each other's ideas, and Bungie employees are infamously flippant to power struggles and ideas typically held in sacred light. No figure or concept is too good to be torn down. Passionate loyalty fuels fires of self-criticism among employees who are often “recruited from its devoted fanbase.” Intense in-house competition—everything from Halo matches to Pictionary—foster team morale, friendships, and rivalries. This passion will fit nicely alongside Sony's stable of first-party developers—the industry's best. After all, this is the team that pioneered a console genre, that continues to release masterpiece games despite relentless tides of hype and fervent fandom. So what if they don't know what to do with their hands?
Bungie's penchant for innovation, mastery of the sci-fi genre, and legendary multiplayer sensibilities have been sorely missed on Sony platforms. With Destiny, the gaming gods have dealt the PlayStation Nation a good hand. Whether your sights are set squarely on the future, or PS3 is still the apple of your eye, Bungie's next epic is coming your way—and you have every reason to be very, very excited.
For more on Destiny, check out the latest news, images, and videos in our gallery. Then, make your voice heard in the comments below with your thoughts on Bungie's latest. Are you excited to see what all the Bungie fuss is about? Does Destiny look like a tired mess of sci-fi tropes? Sound off!