Years ago, I was asked to review 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand. The game arrived in my mailbox a few days before its proper release, so for a day or two I waded knee-deep in that game’s trash, wishing that I found the experience as funny as all the previews assured me I would. The game is awful, played very straight, and utterly bereft of value…unless you play it with a friend.
The value in 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand came not from the act of playing the game, but from mercilessly mocking it with my friend, from picking away at the reasons I hated it during play. The same is true of the third Army of Two game, which was utterly rubbish but still sort of fun once a friend and I discovered the joys of playing it like gung-ho military enthusiasts, hurling grenades unnecessarily and spouting mindless catchphrases as we made ill-advised combat manoeuvres (we tried Aliens: Colonial Marines after, but it was a step too far).
Cut to present day, and I’m struggling to decide how I feel about Destiny. It’s a much better game than any of the games I just mentioned, but it’s also a game that is far, far better with friends. It’s true that most multiplayer games are more enjoyable if you play with people you know, but I think there’s a certain point where the experience with friends so far exceeds the experience with strangers, or of playing alone, that I start to wonder whether it’s the game I’m enjoying or the chance to talk things over with people I like.
Somehow, it's even worse than the trailer suggests.
I don’t enjoy playing Destiny alone. The reliance on the respawn mechanics in certain zones becomes extremely evident when you’re alone and can’t respawn, the combat isn’t as exciting, and there’s no one to share each new discovery or upgrade with. Jump in with a bunch of random players and things improve, but there are still issues – battles that are dependent on communication, of which Destiny has several, don’t work quite so well. I’d have fun with unknown players, but we’d always hit a certain point where things just weren't quite working out and no one had microphoned up to discuss things.
Destiny needs to be played with friends, and is far more enjoyable when you do so, but even during these moments that I’m having fun I find myself wondering whether it’s the game itself I’m most enjoying. I think co-op games are hard to review unless they’re truly excellent or terrible – Destiny falls into the higher ends up the middle range for me, and I wonder whether it will still be worth playing beyond the opening few weeks, when I know it’ll be easy enough to find friends to play with.
Of course these impressions are based entirely on a beta, and on a conceptual level Destiny has impressed me enough that I know I’ll cave when the full version hits. I just hope my friends list stays active in the game for a while, because otherwise I’m not so sure that I’ll be keen to play it.
Have you ever had fun playing a bad co-op game because a friendly voice in your ear or mate on your couch made the experience worthwhile?