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Destiny 2 is looking spectacular on PC

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Destiny is a game that I’ve poured hundreds of hours into on PlayStation 4, cultivating teams of raid buddies along the way. So why would I leave all that behind to play Destiny 2 on anything else?

Well, have you seen the PC version?

The PC beta is available as of today if you’ve pre-ordered the game, and anyone else can download it through Battle.net from 1pm ET. I played it on my own PC today and on a more powerful rig at the Gamescom trade show in Cologne, Germany last week. Both experiences were enough to convince me that it’ll be worth making the jump.

This might come as a surprise, since the original Destiny had no PC version at all. And Bungie’s history with the PC is checkered to say the least; originally a Mac developer, the studio announced Halo for Mac (via Steve Jobs, no less) and PC before being bought out by Microsoft as a way to wrap the shooter up as an Xbox launch exclusive. Halo and Halo 2 eventually made it to PC, but the ports weren’t great and the mainline series hasn’t been seen on the platform since.

“You know, when we first built this one we were going from a studio that was working just on the Xbox 360 to suddenly supporting four platforms,” explained Mark Noseworthy, Bungie’s project lead on Destiny 2, at Gamescom. “And that fifth, the PC, is a giant platform — it's massive worldwide. It's also a very complex platform. right? There’s so much different hardware to support, a completely different interface for controls, and security, and there’s just all these things to do it really right. So we wanted to wait until we could do it right.”

“When we started development on Destiny 2, it was probably the first bullet point at the top: this game is going to be on PC. And so it's been a first-class citizen since the beginning of this project and we want to make it feel native to the platform. When someone plays Destiny 2 on a PC, we want them to say 'This game feels like it was made for the PC.'”

Going by early evidence, Bungie has succeeded. On my reasonably high-end setup (GTX 1080, i5 6600K, 16GB RAM), Destiny 2 is jaw-droppingly hot and doesn’t skip a beat. I’m running it at 1440p on a G-Sync monitor with settings turned up to max, and my framerate is hovering between 70 and 90 frames per second throughout. Last week I played it at 4K on a system with a 1080 Ti and couldn’t notice any drops below 60 frames per second, although the settings were on medium.

Which setup you’d prefer will come down to personal taste, although that’s the benefit of the PC platform in the first place — the point is that either is going to outstrip what’s possible even on the PS4 Pro or Xbox One X. (Noseworthy confirms that the PS4 Pro support will simply add 4K resolution to the regular 30fps PS4 version; Xbox One X support is yet to be announced.) Bungie has turned in a well-optimized PC version with all the customization options you’d hope for, and I would find it very difficult to go back to playing this game with the frame rate cut in more than half and without the PC’s extra visual pyrotechnics.

The improvements aren’t just technical. Destiny 2 plays really well with a keyboard and mouse, which isn’t a given — the PC Halo games never quite felt right in that regard. But with Destiny 2, you’ll be pulling off scout rifle headshots better than ever before.

“One of Bungie’s strengths is making action games that just feel really visceral and awesome — it feels good to just pop a guy in the head and see his soul escape his body,” says Noseworthy. “The audio feedback, the rumble feeling on the sticks, that's like our bread and butter. We wanted the game to feel just as good playing with mouse and keyboard, and we wanted it to be best in class. And so it took a long time to get there. It didn’t take a long time to just get mouse and keyboard working, but to get it to the point where it's hitting our standard of how good it needs to feel did take a bunch of investment.”

But if all you want to do is plug your PC into your TV for a better technical experience, Destiny 2 has you covered. Using a controller will feel “exactly the same” as the console version, according to Noseworthy, though of course he admits that “no-one’s going to do that and think they're going to be awesome in [player vs. player].”

Destiny 2’s PC version looks like it’s as good as anyone could hope for, then, except in one respect that I’ve already alluded to. There is no, none, zero cross-platform support, meaning that anyone who’s coming from consoles will be on their own from the start. You also won’t be able to, say, make progress on the PS4 version and pick up where you left off on PC. Noseworthy says this is because of the way Destiny’s account system is designed, with Destiny 2 drawing on console-specific player history for various content, but it’s hugely unfortunate that there’s no way to switch between platforms — especially as the PC version’s October 24th release date is nearly seven weeks after consoles.

But I’ve made my peace with this, and I suspect many of you who play the Destiny 2 PC beta over the next few days will as well. I’m not promising that I won’t break down and play the PS4 version early, because the FOMO is going to be severe those first few weeks. But once the PC version’s out, it’ll be the perfect excuse to start a new character, and barring any unforeseen disasters I doubt I’ll ever go back.