The Division Beta
As I’m sure you are all aware, over the weekend was the Open beta for the upcoming title, The Division. I’ve taken this bad boy for a spin and will give you my impression of it. Please be aware it was still in beta and as expected was going to have some bugs and issues which I’m sure they will iron out by the time the game goes to print. Without further delay, lets gets straight into the action
New York City, our favourite clichéd movie and game disaster city, has been devastated by a plague-like disease that is killing the populous. Government tries to respond to this outbreak, however, panic and mass riots leave the city in absolute chaos…(Queue Micheal Bay-esque patriotic theme song….) US government then activates its covert sleeper agents, from their special operation unit known only as The Division, who have been trained to deal with such situations. You play as one of these agents and are immediately thrust into the what’s left of New York. With a very limited arsenal at your disposal and your skills, it’s time to take back this city from the edge of oblivion.
Once you hop into the game, the first thing you will notice…is detail, hats off to the dev team as this game is gorgeous, with so much attention to the littlest of details. Yes, I can already hear the naysayers screaming at me that it’s a downgrade from the E3 gameplay demo…True, but first off, nobody cares about you nay-sayer…go look outside your window for the best possible visuals, secondly, this game, in terms of graphical fidelity, is really close enough to that E3 demo. Discussion OVER! It looks gorgeous, with an atmosphere that really feels like a city that is tearing itself apart. Garbage bags are left lying around as Pikitup is on strike again, oh sorry that’s Johannesburg. There’s graffiti everywhere and cars have been abandoned…this feels like a city that was lived in and has just gone to the dogs…(which the game has, by the way…see, detail!)
The beta takes place right at the start of the game so the story is just teased at and no real details being given. You start off by getting to your base of operations, this is typically the hub where you craft equipment and work on your weapon load outs. Speaking of weapons, your character has 3 weapon slots which consist of a primary weapon, a secondary and a side arm. You can select 2 abilities which are mapped to your L1/LB and R1/RB. Where the game differentiates itself from the crop, is that your XP doesn’t actually earn you new abilities, upgrading your base does. The XP goes towards giving you access to better gear and weapons. Once that’s out of the way, the fun really starts. I have to say, though the controls are a little obtuse at times, but after spending some time getting to know the game’s mechanics, you learn to just, you know, live with it. You can’t just pop a grenade mid-battle…nooo that would be too straight forward, you select the grenade by pushing your Left D-pad, which brings up the arch of where you throwing to, leaving you completely vulnerable, then you pull your Right trigger to throw. For the most part if plays like your regular third person shooter, with X being your lock to cover button. Squeeze the Left trigger to aim over the cover, and right trigger to fire, Thank you Gears of War! Once in cover you can point your crosshair to another cover, hold X/A in and sprint to the next cover…nice touch that by the way!
Now bare in mind that this is effectively an RPG, so this next point is something you just going to have to deal with. Being of the third person shooter variety, based in modern-day New York, your first combat encounter with enemy NPC is very jarring. We’ve become accustomed to realistic shooters where a quick burst of your rifle or a well-placed headshot, is all it takes to bring the enemy down. This being an RPG, the enemy has a health bar and based on the enemy level that bar can be quite lengthy, which means you chip away at their health with assault rifle shots to the face and they just don’t go down easily. There’s no real explanation to this, it’s an RPG trope thing…so gloss over it will you. But when that awkwardness passes, and you’ve accepted it, the game becomes a damn good tug of war battle between you and the enemy. It’s really great fun. And don’t for a second think the AI will just sit there and take it, they will flank you, try and draw you out of cover by throwing grenades at your location. It’s just fantastic. Really its like Destiny had a bastard child with Ghost Recon Future Soldier in a pre-plant taken over Last Of Us world.
Grab a friend, and the fun just doubles easily. The AI becomes harder and scales accordingly, making it far more challenging. You need to work as a team to succeed. Best to have each buddy fill a specific role, I opted for the “Medic” with a health Boost ability and an ability to reveal enemies through walls and cover while buffing critical damage to myself and teammates. Another teammate opted for an ability to throw down a turret for that support fire. Take that same buddy and head into the wasteland they call the Dark Zone. This is primarily where all your PVP action takes place. But its far stranger yet far more entertaining in its execution. It’s still open world like the rest of the campaign game, but this zone that has no laws, no rules and the best damn loot this side of a Destiny raid, allows you and your fire team to take on some pretty hairy enemy AI. Even band together with other Agents, but be very, very careful who you carry your loot around. Let me explain, the loot in the Dark Zone is contaminated, which means once your backpack is full, you need to extract it by helicopter. Remember those Agents you thought were friendlies…those bastards could turn on you the moment the chopper arrives and mow you and your pals down for your loot, this is called going Rogue, which highlights to the entire Dark Zone for a few seconds and places a bounty on that agent or group of agents’ head, before resetting back to normal status. If you are rogue and you survive long enough to reset to normal, you are awarded Dark Zone Currency to spend on gear. It is very nerve-wrecking waiting for that chopper to arrive. But wait there’s more. In that same time waiting, you can be attacked by some pretty nasty AI out for your blood. I’ve had the misfortune of having attacks come from both fronts….not pretty at all.
All in all a fantastic experience was had with the beta. I honestly can’t wait to put the full title through its paces when it launches on March 8, 2016. For more details and news on The Division, stay tuned right here on SkyGamers