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Destiny: The Taken King's new Rift mode is a shot in the arm for the Crucible

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Destiny developer Bungie is bringing a couple of new gametypes into the Crucible, the game's competitive multiplayer component, with Destiny: The Taken King. The Crucible has never had much in the way of objective-based modes, with the only mainstay being Control. The upcoming expansion will add to that with the Rift gametype, and based on an hour of hands-on time with Rift at a recent preview event, it seems like the mode will inject some much-needed variety into the Crucible.

Rift is a spin on capture the flag and plays out similarly to Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare's Uplink mode, or the Neutral Bomb Assault gametype from some of Bungie's Halo games. It's designed for symmetrical maps, with the two teams spawning on opposite sides of the arena. Players sprint toward the center, where an object called the "spark" sits. The spark must charge for 15 seconds before anybody can pick it up.

After that, the objective is to grab the spark and carry it into the opposing team's home base, which is called the "rift." Doing so is known as "igniting the rift," and the subsequent explosion will kill everyone in the area who's playing for that rift's home team. Igniting the rift awards you 1,500 points, and you'll get a style bonus if you walk into the goal backward, which triggers a backflip.

A key difference between Rift and traditional CTF modes is that the spark holder will score some points if they make some progress toward the enemy rift: 100 points for every 25 percent of the run. So there's some incentive to pick up the spark even if you're unsure of your ability to make it all the way (or of your teammates' ability to shepherd you there). Note that the spark carrier can't just hide in a corner until the coast is clear; if they hold on to the spark for more than 75 seconds, it'll explode and kill them.

If that all sounds complicated, in practice it isn't, and matches go by much more quickly than you might expect. The score limit is 20,000 — the same as in Control — and kills (100 points) matter as well, of course. Rift's speed makes it crucial that the two squads are evenly matched, or at least close to it. In our experience, Rift games could quickly get out of hand if the teams were unbalanced. (Our matches were full of members of the media, some of whom were much more skilled at Crucible than others, as you can see in the gameplay footage above.)

Bungie is introducing a "mercy rule" in Destiny with today's version 2.0 patch, which should serve as a mitigating factor for the potential of Rift matches to become lopsided. In fact, we saw the mercy rule in action during one of our Rift games. Lord Shaxx cut us off less than three and a half minutes in, saying, "Enough; this battle was one-sided," and the match ended 10 seconds later with our team winning 12,635 to 1,550 as Shaxx commended our efforts: "You obliterated them! Love it!"

Rift will be released Sept. 15 as part of The Taken King, but all Destiny players will be able to try it free — along with all of the expansion's new maps and other modes — for a week starting today. For more on The Taken King, check out our everything-you-need-to-know StoryStream.