Destiny 2 gameplay premiere photograph Titan statue

Yesterday, Activision revealed the first in-game footage of Destiny 2, the followup to Bungie's wildly successful first-person shooter with MMO mechanics.

The new game features vastly improved story missions that deliver the quality of narrative players expect from AAA games. We played the first mission, called "Homecoming." Here are our detailed impressions.

Destiny 2 premiere

Destiny 2 gameplay premiere photograph

The Destiny 2 Gameplay Premiere took place at Jet Center Los Angeles, an aircraft hangar located in the Hawthorne Municipal Airport that doubles as an event venue. The premiere opened with a live-streamed presentation highlighting the game's new features and refinements (as well as a breakfast consisting of Pop-Tarts, Rockstar energy drinks, and other goodies). After the opening, attendees shuffled into the neighboring section of the hangar for some hands-on time with Destiny 2.

Inside the gameplay section of the event, Activision had all manner of Destiny 2 decorations on display. Right up front, statues of the Traveler and each of the Destiny character classes (Hunter, Titan, and Warlock) greeted attendees on their way to the game stations. Elsewhere, we saw displays containing replica weapons and licensed Destiny 2 toys and goods. A life-size model of an enemy made from Mega Contrux was probably the most eye-catching decoration.

Destiny 2 gameplay premiere photograph Mega Construx

Activision had playable demos running on both Windows PC and PlayStation 4 Pro hardware. A marketing agreement (which we all bemoan) prevented Xbox Ones from being at the event, but we expect the Xbox version of Destiny 2 will look nearly as nice as the PlayStation version. Demo experiences included a three-player Strike (the Destiny equivalent of an instanced MMO dungeon), a four-on-four PvP level showcasing the new Countdown game type, and the Homecoming campaign level.

Here's a complete rundown of Homecoming - and be sure to check out our multiplayer impressions as well.

The assault begins

The Destiny 2 story opens with the Vanguards Zavala, Ikora, and Cayde-6 (all top Guardians of the game's three classes) investigating a disturbance from the Tower, their headquarters in the last populated city on Earth. All of their satellites have gone out, and the reason soon becomes apparent.

A new threat known as the Red Legion attacks the Tower. Led by a villain called Dominus Ghaul, the Red Legion aims to forcibly take the Light, the power source bestowed upon humanity by the Traveler long ago.

Homecoming

Destiny 2 story

As Homecoming begins, the player has teamed up with Zavala to fend off the invasion force. The city is already covered in rubble and devastation from the initial barrage. Rain, smoke, and the Traveller (a mysterious city-sized sphere) wrapped in the enemy's star-shaped machine fill the sky as ships fire in the distance.

Destiny 2 story

The first objective is to fend off three Red Legion assault teams. The enemies arrive via drop pods fired from a nearby ship. Zavala is basically useless during the battle, staying under cover while we do all the fighting. With them out of the way, we leave the Plaza.

Further in the city, our Guardian encounters Incinerators, one of Destiny 2's new enemy types. These bulky aliens wear flamethrower backpacks that explode when they're killed. The fire they shoot stays on the ground and causes damage if touched, so taking them out quickly is important.

Destiny 2 story

Soon Zavala orders us to meet up with Amanda Holiday (an NPC from the original game) and head for the enemy dropship. After a short ride through the unfriendly skies, she drops us off on the outer surface of the ship. There, the massive craft fires drop pods out of a long halfpipe lined with glowing blue arches.

I tried to go into the tunnel from which the pods emerge, but it proves to be a dead end. As it turns out, a platform above the drop-pod launcher opens whenever the device fires. Following the platform, we enter the ship and surprise a couple of enemies inside. The path leads back outside for a bit, where we battle more baddies and witness gigantic cannons firing on the city.

Destiny 2 story

Finally, we near our goal of disabling the ship's shield generator. A tunnel leads into the dimly lit bowels of the ship. We see the generator just a short distance ahead. Ominous music hints that trouble might also be close at hand. Just before we can reach our goal, a voice threatens, "Your journey ends here."

The dark silhouette of the speaker belongs to none other than Dominus Ghaul. At first glance, he resembles a Warhammer 40,000 space marine. But Ghaul is a bit less friendly than those guys. And while the level we played ends there, we know that things will get worse for the Guardians before they get better.

Dark times ahead

Destiny 2 story

Ghaul will succeed in extinguishing the Light, causing the Vanguard and the remaining Guardians to scatter across the solar system. Zavala heads to Titan, one of Saturn's moons. Cayde-6 retreats to Nessus, a world occupied by the Vex. And Ikora settles in on Io, a moon of Jupiter and a sacred place for the Guardians.

Homecoming is a short mission, as campaign levels go. But it embodies two traits that the missions in the original Destiny generally lacked.

One, it's cinematic, with lots of story scenes involving the Vanguard and their inner circle. And two, it's exciting. The stakes are high, with the Last City torn asunder and the stormy weather seemingly fighting against our heroes. We get a great glimpse of the final human city as well as a close look at a Red Legion ship that launches drop pods in a unique way.

Finally, the platform I played the campaign level on was exciting on its own. Destiny 2 is coming to Windows PCs, and that's how I experienced the first campaign mission. Running on machines equipped with NVIDIA 1080 Ti graphics cards, the game looks absolutely amazing. It runs at a full 4K resolution (and supports other PC monitor resolutions) with an unlocked framerate. Activision wants Destiny 2 to meet or exceed all PC gaming standards right out of the gate, and it really looks like it will.

If Bungie can craft a full campaign on par with what we played of'Homecoming, Destiny 2 will deliver the robust single-player experience that players wanted from the first game. It's going to have plenty of cooperative and competitive content, as well, plus in-game clan support and matchmaking. From our experience with the game, Destiny 2 is shaping up to be the first-person shooter to beat this fall. See our multiplayer impressions for more details!

Destiny 2 story

Destiny 2 is coming to Xbox One and PlayStation 4 on September 8, and it should hit PCs via Activision's Battle.net storefront at a later date. It will cost $59.99. And you can preorder to get early access to the beta this summer!

Disclosure: Travel to the Destiny 2 premiere was provided by Activision.