After Three Years of Mayhem, an Ode to Destinys Best Gun
The best gun in Destiny is the first. Unlike most of the gear doled out in Bungies multiplayer shooter, it arrives in the hands of every player in the same way.
You awaken in a sea of ruined cars, and you run. A voice in your head tells you that you need something to fight with, and it appears, tucked away near a pile of bones in a long-abandoned industrial wall. Simple, black metal, barely functional: This is the Khvostov. It fires in erratic but predictable lines, recoil sending the broken sights arcing always upward. It vomits implausibly old bullets into implausibly hideous aliens, the insectoid scavengers of The Fallen dying in bursts of crystallized gas. For the first time, you engage in a ritual that any seasoned Destiny player has engaged in a thousand times over. You stand and fight. First, you cut through the small, fast Dregs with their glimmering knives. Then you focus fire on the hissing shock troopers with wireframe pulse riflesthese are the Vandals. Then you shoot at the shielded Captains until they, too, fall in your wake. You collect some loot, you get in your new ship, and you go home.
Inevitably, youll abandon the Khvostov. Its only intended as a tutorial gun, and is outclassed by any other weapon in the game. Until recently; in the latest (and final) expansion, Rise of Iron, Destiny offers the player an optional quest to forge a new version of the Khvostov, a highly customizable iteration of the original with destructive capability matching any other piece of equipment on offer. My reunion with the Khvostov in this fashion has cemented, for me, what I always knew to be true: the Khvostov is the best gun in Destiny. In an experience all about shooting aliens with guns, the Khvostov stands alone. It is the purest expression of what Destiny is.
This is my ode to the Khvostov.
Its surface is matte black, a magazine poking out of it just in front of the trigger, a thin stock extending from the back for stability. Its utterly plain, designed to look like an AK-47 in a world of high-tech space guns from the future. Its real-world resemblance would feel discomfiting in manygames, but here it casts the weapon as an ancient relic. Unlike every other gun in Destiny, the Khvostov has the feeling of history. You can see dirt on its side every time you reload. Its glass sights are cracked. Like so much about Destinys aesthetic, its inclusion is anachronistic, offering hints at a place thats faded from a retro futuristic dream to a scavengers wasteland.
Destinys environments borrow imagery from the Space Race era of the 1950s and 60s, using the shadows of multi-stage rockets and the simple, iconic designs of ourfirst space-faring equipment to build a grounding for its world. By jamming its ruined future into an aesthetic ofoptimismhumanity’s capacity to reach out into the starsDestiny does just enough to make us believe that theres something worth fighting for beneath its landscapes lifeless facade. Like every salvageable rocket in the ruins of Russia or the moon, Destinys first gun is a glimmer of hope set amongst a tableau designed precisely to communicate a hope broken.
The Khvostov feels like Destiny, too. Millions of players have been strung along through Bungies ever-thinning loop of repetitive combat and reward by the sheer thrill of its moment-to-moment combat system, and the Khvostov shows just how integralgun design is to that system. From the first moment you touch it, it carries weight in the world. Its familiarity and grimy appearance give it atactility that’s rare in a videogame; it is the most physically present object in all of Destiny. When it fires, it roars, kicking up and jerking side to side with every shot, each blast a sound like punching cinder blocks with dynamite. It captures the player in the immediacy of its destruction and serves as an instant argument for Destinys technical genius as a shooter. This is Destinys best secret, the unspoken reason why so many of us keep playing it no matter how much we complain: Its guns feel good to shoot. And the Khvostov feels best of all.
Ill probably forget most of what I did in Destiny in a year or two. Its rife with repetition, littered with dashed ambition; everywhere, it feels like a game that could have been so much more than what it is. The strikes will fade. The story missions wont ring any bells. Even the raids will be reduced, in my recollection, to just the barest highlights. But the Khvostovs brilliance is such that I dont need to remember the rest. If I remember Destinys best weapon, Ill have the key to everything else.
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