It’s not unheard of that the PC version of a game is occasionally superior to its console counterpart. With variable PC hardware, most games offer various benefits from graphical upgrade possibilities, better performance and generally a tighter and more fine-tuned experience. Of course, not every game is like this, Ubisoft have been known for giving PC players the middle finger with terrible PC ports, even my beloved FromSoftware did an awful job with the PC port of Dark Souls, but the frequency at which bad PC ports come out is diminishing. Thankfully, the Destiny 2 PC beta which occurred recently displayed that Bungie and Vicarious Visions have not let the PC version of Destiny 2 go to shambles. I purposefully chose not to participate in the console beta for Destiny 2. I’d already played a stupid number of hours on Destiny so I already knew what to expect. I chose to participate in the PC beta because the PC version had something else to offer. Sure, the content was more or less the same but the performance benefits were enough to spend the last few days gauging how much time Vicarious Visions were spending to make sure the PC community for Destiny 2 would be as well catered for as the console community. Now I was already expecting to prefer the PC version, and for the most part I do. But what I wasn’t expecting was to be conflicted as to which version I would call ‘better’.
Let’s get through the positives that I took away from my experience with the PC beta. We’ll start with the visuals. I tested the visuals ranging from the lowest settings possible to the highest, and while the game looks incredibly crisp with everything set to max, that wasn’t what impressed me. What impressed me was the fact that the game still looked phenomenal with the lowest settings possible. I’d hypothesise that these visual settings would be similar to that of the PS4 and Xbox One versions, and by no means do I mean that in a bad way. Seeing the visuals be that good on the lowest settings and still be quite comparable to the console versions shows me that the game is designed to run on fairly baseline systems, and that’s a good thing. It increases the accessibility of the game on the PC market which in turn can prolong the its lifespan. You don’t want a game like Destiny 2 to become a ghost town like Battleborn or Evolve. Low player population is crippling to a multiplayer-only game and can often render a $90 AUD game useless. Now you could argue that Destiny is different because even with low population numbers there’s still a sizeable amount to play, but we all know Destiny’s best experiences required multiple people and I don’t see that changing for the sequel.
Now on to performance. I’ll just get this out of the way immediately. Destiny feels like an entirely different game at 60fps. Take it as you will, but the game’s pace is accentuated and the gameplay feels a lot smoother with the higher framerate. Player response times felt heightened and the shooting mechanics definitely feel as if they were built with 60fps in mind. I can only imagine how insane it would be to see it running at 100fps and such (one day I’ll be bothered enough to get a 144mhz monitor). The ease at which settings could be modified and performance could be altered was fantastic. Vicarious Visions have even gone so far as to allow player to cap their framerate to 30fps, because they know that not everyone will be able to push a consistent 60fps and a stable 30 is better than a fluctuating 60.
The ease with which I can switch from using mouse and keyboard to my DualShock 4 is also very impressive. I haven’t played many games on PC that properly recognise the DualShock 4 as a DualShock 4 and not just a gamepad. The only one that I can think of off the top of my head is The Witcher 3. Not even NieR: Automata recognises it as anything more than just a gamepad, which is annoying when I see Xbox controller commands for a game that was not even released on the Xbox. Thankfully, Destiny 2 fully recognises and supports the DualShock 4 (I can’t comment on the Xbox One controller but I would assume it recognises and supports it just as well), displaying PS4 icons when using the corresponding controller, however I didn’t use this much as I was more focused on getting used to the mouse and keyboard controls (playing a lot of Overwatch recently has certainly helped).
Now that we’ve gotten the positives out of the way, let’s talk about why the PC beta has me conflicted. It mainly has to do with the way weapons handle on the PC version. For those who may not be aware, it was revealed some time ago that the PC version of Destiny 2 would feature reduced recoil. Now at first this seemed really bizarre, but I wasn’t entirely against it. As far as I know, a lot of PC versions of games do this to compensate for the lack of aim assist compared to their console counterparts. But even with this in mind, the weapon handling in the Destiny 2 PC beta almost felt too easy. When I was using precision weapons like the pulse rifle, scout rifle and hand cannon, I felt as if my weapons were barely moving at all. For weapons like submachine guns and auto rifles, where weapon fire was a constant stream, the recoil was noticeable without being overbearing, but for the other aforementioned weapons it was negligible which I wouldn’t say is a good thing. With precision shots being so easy to string together, a lot of the challenge is removed. Enemies fall like there is no tomorrow and big bad yellow-bar enemies (tougher than your average bullet sponge) felt as non-threatening as their red-bar companions. In saying this, the lack of aim assist was definitely noticeable and it made me realise how much hand holding the original game does for you. Even something as small as the Hunter’s throwing knife felt harder to use because, unlike when aim assist is on, the knife went dead straight. It never even remotely changed trajectory to hit the target.
But here is where it gets ridiculous, when I plugged my controller into my PC and used it, the aim assist returned, which wouldn’t normally be an issue but the abysmally low recoil made things even easier. Sure, I wasn’t able to be quite as precise as I was with a mouse and keyboard, but I also didn’t need to be because I knew the game would correct small errors for me. Now what could this mean exactly? Well for starters, aim assist generally helps the player by sticking the reticule to the target. It has been present in pretty much every Bungie game since Halo: Combat Evolved all the way to Destiny and Destiny 2 (that’s 16 years of aim assist). Now with a mechanic like this (which helps make the game more accessible and able to be properly played with a controller), coupled with the low recoil of the weapons as a whole, it basically means that controlling your weapons while using a controller on PC is one of the easiest things around, and that kind of removes some of the fun.
Part of why I loved Destiny’s shooting mechanics was because the recoil made the weapons feel responsive and distinct. I remember when the SUROS Regime was the god of all Auto Rifles because it had the some of the highest stability in the game. It was a brilliant contrast to the rest of the weapon archetype which, while not uncontrollable, offered medium recoil for a high DPS gain (this was before the Auto Rifle nerf came in and made the whole weapon type a joke).
Now we’re a little under two months from the release of the PC version and hopefully Bungie and Vicarious Visions hear the comments about the ludicrously low recoil and bump it up just a bit. I feel as if they’re really close to getting a near perfect Destiny experience on the PC. In saying that, I will still undoubtedly pick up the game on PC as Destiny 2 at 60fps is something to be had.
What are your thoughts? Did you play the PC beta? For those with either console and a PC, which will you be playing the game mainly on?