Destiny is primarily a PvE game - you'll have to shoot at least some aliens to get anywhere - but competitive multiplayer has been a key component from the beginning, with a thriving community on Twitch doing basically nothing else. It looks like Bungie are taking it much more seriously in the sequel. If the Cabal are too soft for you, here's how you can compete against other humans in Destiny 2.
Prefer your challenges PvE? Our Destiny 2 raid guide can help.
Destiny 2 Crucible
The core PvP game is called the Crucible. It puts all Guardians on a level playing field by removing level-based damage modifiers, so you can compete at any stage of the game, whether you're a veteran of a hundred Raids or just starting the campaign. You get access to the Crucible after the third campaign mission, 'Spark'.
You have the choice of several game modes, but all of these (that we know of) will involve two teams of four. They're grouped into two playlists: 'quickplay' is a casual playlist with quick matchmaking at the expense of skill, whereas 'competitive' will take longer to match you, but emphasise skill rating and connection speed. We're hoping each mode will be individually selectable too, but no word on that yet.
- Clash - confirmed to return with the big game guide leak, Clash is a simple 4v4 team deathmatch mode. First team to 75 kills, or the team that's leading when the eight minute time limit runs out, wins.
- Control - returning with small tweaks from the original, Control is like COD's Domination mode. Teams compete to capture and hold three flag zones, and to kill opponents. Capturing a zone or killing an enemy gets you a point, with one bonus point per kill if you hold two zones, and two bonus points per kill if you hold all three. Winners are the first to hit the 100-point cap, or to have the higher score after eight minutes.
- Supremacy - we know it's coming back thanks to the game guide and the Crucible trailer that dropped in early August. The red dodecohedrons that dead Guardians drop at 0:25? Those are crests, and they function like Dog Tags from COD's Kill Confirmed mode: you don't score points for kills until you grab the crest. You can also collect allies' crests to deny points to the enemy team. First team to 50 crests, or with the highest score after eight minutes, wins.
- Countdown - Countdown is clearly inspired by PC classic Counter-Strike. Teams take turns trying to plant a bomb in one of two sites (down from three in the beta builds). Attackers win if they can plant the bomb and protect it until it goes off (which takes about 40 seconds), while defenders win if the attackers haven't planted a bomb after two minutes. Both teams can also win by wiping their opponents, and each team only gets one revive per round. First team to win six rounds wins the match.
- Survival - available in the competitive playlist, this is a 'spiritual successor' to the original's small team tactics mode, Skirmish. Both teams have a pool of eight respawns, and the winning team are the ones who exhaust their opponents' respawns first. If no-one's won a round after three minutes, it goes to Overtime, with a capture point appearing to break the tie. Power ammo spawns in the centre of the map, pulling combatants together.
It looks like these are the only modes shipping in the finished game, so no all-vs-all deathmatch mode, which is a bit of a surprise. Maps will be set across a range of planets, both new and old - Altar of Flame, for instance, is set on Mercury, which isn't a fully-featured PvE location in Destiny 2 (though we hear it will be in the Osiris expansion).
Destiny 2 Iron Banner
Iron Banner was a week-long monthly PvP event in the original Destiny. The main difference from the regular Crucible was that damage modifiers based on your gear level were applied: Guardians with a higher gear level would deal more damage to, and take less damage from, rivals with weaker gear. The last time Bungie discussed this, a difference of 10 Light translated to a 2% discrepancy in damage. That may not sound like much, but it could easily mean you need another pull of the trigger to finish an opponent, and thus can be decisive.
Iron Banner had its own set of weapons and armour, which dropped at high gear levels and at a generous rate, making it one of the best activities to grind if you wanted to level up. We know it's returning because the reveal trailer featured a Hunter wearing gear with the Iron Banner sigil (see above) - it looks like we can look forward to a Samurai theme this time around.
Destiny 2 Trials of the Nine
Bungie have confirmed previous leaks in revealing that the replacement for Trials of Osiris will be called Trials of the Nine. It’s got a new announcer - a woman with a spooky voice. She's pretty vocal, calling out Supers and player subclasses. It goes live in the console game at 10:00 Pacific (18:00 BST) on September 15, and it'll run every weekend thereafter, using both the Countdown and Survival game modes on a variety of maps.
Trials of Osiris was added to the original Destiny in May 2015's House of Wolves expansion. It was to PvP as the Raid was to PvE: a pinnacle end-game activity, dropping gorgeous and powerful gear. The Elimination game mode was introduced specifically for it: two teams of three fought to wipe their opponents, with the first team to do so five times winning the match. To break ties, a capture point would spawn after a while, which also gave you the win if you took it. As with Iron Banner, gear levels were enabled, firmly rooting it in the endgame. Communication, coordination, and top-of-the-meta gear were essential.
You had to win nine games without a single loss to book a trip to the Lighthouse - Osiris's hideout on Mercury - where you could claim Trials' ultimate rewards. Moreover, matchmaking pitted you against people who had recorded a similar number of wins as your team. It was, needless to say, intensely sweaty. Speaking of which...
Destiny 2 private matches, ranked PvP, and esports
Destiny 2 will not launch with private matches, but director Luke Smith has confirmed they're on an internal list of features that Bungie does want to implement. So they're almost certainly coming, but Smith can't say when.
It might be a similar situation with ranked PvP. Bungie recently said they're proud of their "long tradition of being active in the competitive realm" - that's a Halo reference, there - and if the community decide they're interested in "propping up" Destiny in that way, "then that's something we think we are interested in."
There's some evidence for the view that Bungie have always wanted to position Destiny as an esport. They showed off the Rift game mode that was added in The Taken King by pitting some of the best Destiny streamers against each other in a livestreamed, casted match sponsored by Red Bull. The changes to Destiny 2's loadout and ability systems were also clearly designed with better PvP in mind, after the original's intractable problems with ability and weapons balancing. The fact that it's coming to PC, the typical platform of choice for esports, is another good sign, and the audience is unquestionably big enough.
On the other hand: the PvE side of the game could still disrupt balance, there are no dedicated servers, and publishers Activision-Blizzard already own two popular competitive shooters in Overwatch and Call of Duty.
It'll be telling to see how Bungie respond to the issues around aim assist on PC. If it's removed, as it was for Overwatch, that could be a hint they want to foster a competitive scene. If that happens, better competitive features, more PvP game modes (no deathmatch? Seriously, Bungie?), and perhaps an esports push, could come once the PC launch is out of the way. We'd guess early 2018.
Destiny 2 SRL - Sparrow Racing League
The Sparrow Racing League (SRL) was added to the original Destiny for three glorious weeks around Christmas 2015, returning with new tracks and rewards the next year. Voice lines from the PC datamine suggest NPCs are watching SRL matches on TV in social spaces and have them asking if it will return, which is a pretty clear hint it will - mostly likely at Christmas.
Once you understand that those jetbikes you may have seen in various trailers are called Sparrows, you shouldn't really have too many more questions about this game mode. You raced against other players around some pretty fun tracks, gaining speed boosts by hitting gates placed along the best racing line. Occasional shortcuts and enemies on the track kept things interesting. Whoever crossed the line first after three laps won.
In terms of rewards, SRL was similar to Iron Banner in that it got its own gear, which dropped at high levels and at a generous rate. Shipwright and mechanic Amanda Holliday served as the SRL rep, with her own quests and reputation system, and there was a large 'record book' that tracked your achievements, dropping gear when you hit certain thresholds.