By now, you've probably heard of a new game by Bungie that promised to merge Borderlands, Mass Effect, and Halo into one magical gaming experience; then you probably heard about how pissed people were when this didn't come close to being accurate. As a result, the game became fairly polarizing and reviewers were divided into two camps: Lovers and Haters.
I'm a lover.
This game isn't a massive multiplayer online (MMO) game anymore than Diablo 3 is; it is simply a Halo reboot with next generation graphics and a loot treadmill. It doesn't do half of what the pre-release hype said it would, but what it does, it does extremely well.
The game is addicting, and I've probably played about 20-30 hours within the first month of its release, and while I've slowed down after the novelty wore off, I doubt it will be supplanted as my first person shooter of choice for a long time. The game has a questionable story line that serves to acquaint you with the controls and provide you with an endgame treadmill, and your typical MMO fetch and kill quests through patrol modes; both are terrible.
Your typical "lover" review will spend a few minutes talking about how Bungie has never been known for compelling stories, but there's really no excuse for the very bland voice acting and the unimaginative plot in the story-arc. Make no mistake, the story is garbage.
To make matters worse, in order to get any insight into the lore, you're required to download an Android or iPhone app, connect to your PlayStation or Xbox account, and then read through the lore cards. There's really no excuse for this.
However, like most MMOs, the game really finds its stride when you reach the maximum level (20) and finish the story line. Through instances known as Strikes, you can team up with complete strangers through their matchmaking system and kill a specific boss. These encounters are fairly lengthy and can be difficult when you're hindered by an inability to communicate with your teammates in anyway other than punching them in the face and shooting in a corner that you want them to go.
Why voice communication isn't enabled for fire teams made through the matchmaking service is a mystery beyond my comprehension.
The Strikes are also fairly repetitive, but they are extremely challenging and entertaining. With limited access to heavy weaponry (rockets, large machine guns, vehicles) and the knowledge that if all three members of your fire team die at once you have to start your nine minute encounter over, you can't help but sit at the edge of your seat as you try to survive long enough to revive your fallen comrades.
There are also raids that combine two fire teams to take on even larger challenges, but these don't have a match making component to them, essentially requiring you to have made friends with other players (difficult when you can't talk to them) or have convinced your real life friends to pick the game up as well.
Where the game really hits its mark is in the player versus player component known as Crucible. Crucible players can select one of several game modes (Capture, Death Match, Team Death Match, and Skirmish) and are then placed into a match making system where they are matched with people near the same level.
I mentioned earlier that there is a loot component to the game. Crucible players at level 20 who gain access to rare or legendary equipment will find that their new goodies have "Light" points on them. Light is essentially an item level component to the game which helps you identify people who are not only max level but have gear that is better than average - an individual who is level 29, for instance, is going to have some pretty epic gear.
This plays a role in the match making for crucible, ensuring that not only are players matched according to their level, but also according to their gear. Unfortunately, gear is doled out at random. Your performance in the Crucible or Strike seems to have little-if-any effect on whether or not you receive loot.
Additionally, there are random loot drops throughout your Strikes and story missions known as engrams, but not only are the drop rates random but the loot you receive from the engram is just as random.
The only way to control the loot you receive is through raising your reputation and currency through one of two factions: The Vanguard and The Crucible. These reputations can be raised by completing bounties, patrols, and by competing in Strikes and Crucible Matches, but the treadmill is quite long - so buckle in for a long game if you want to see anything legendary on your character screen.
All in all, the game is a fantastic first person shooter. It combines just enough character progression to make the repetition feel satisfactory with the fast paced action that will keep you on the edge of your seat; but if you already have an addictive first person shooter (or you hated Halo), then you may want to hold off on purchasing this game until they flesh out some of the features in future updates.