Between 28th January and 1st February, Ubisoft unleashed The Division Beta ahead of the release due on 8th March. XBOX users called dibs and got to experience the game first hand prior to Playstation and PC players. Now, I played a demo of The Division at EGS 2015 and enjoyed the 10 minutes or so I got to play, but I was looking forward to having more of a look around to see what the game has to offer. Sadly, I only really managed to put a couple of meager hours into the Beta with a friend before the real world encroached on my gaming time, but I wanted to share with you all my experience.
If you didn’t have the chance to play the Beta, don’t be too disappointed. It’s not as though you have to wait too long for the release day in a little over a month provided there isn’t a delay and to be honest, you were a little limited in how much you could do. While this wasn’t overly problematic, it would have been nice to be able to do a couple more of the main missions just so you could get to grips with what to expect. I can understand there may be reasons for not doing this as Ubisoft probably just don’t want to spoil it for you which is fair enough. There were some side missions, objectives and you’ll come across the odd group of enemies to take out while you patrol and look for things to do. So far, nothing too complicated and all good enjoyable on your own or in a party.
The main area you start in after the initial cut scene and a little walk delivers a base of operations for you to upgrade and tend to throughout the game. Once this is set up, you’ll have missions to locate particular people who will help make it thrive and grow. By completing missions and objectives, you’ll earn supplies to help with this too. Here, you also have vendors to buy weapons, gear and mods from but you also have your stash and can restock on grenades and ammo before you leave which is also handy. I’m actually looking forward to seeing how improving your base adds to the game as I’m assuming more missions and objectives will be available once you unlock another area of the base… but I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
The Dark Zone area was one I actually ended up trying to avoid during the Beta as other players seemed to hang around the entrance gate to take you out as you came in and thus a stream of Rogue agents running around trying to kill each other and call in extractions for loot happened. While I’m sure it’s fun for a little while, I found it got in the way of actually exploration. While the extractions were a little intense as you battled to secure your chopper to carry off your Dark Zone loot, it usually ended up with someone who was initially helping you killing you for your gear. Lovely. You also have a separate XP bar in the Dark Zone which is fine, but there weren’t many objectives in the area other than a few groups of higher level enemies who lull you into a false sense of security. You start to attack them and then realise that you may be a level 8 outside the Dark Zone, but right now, you are a lowly level 1 trying to take on 5 or 6 Elite level 8s. Funnily enough, you’re likely to get your butt handed to you if you don’t pay attention. My only concern is that the enemies and gunfights may get quite samey, if not increasing with difficulty as you level up and explore new areas of the city.
Graphically, I wasn’t blown away apart from in one moment when me and my friend left the Dark Zone and were faced with fog… and I mean proper fog. Not the wispy stuff. Thick, can’t see more than 10 metres in front of you style fog. It was actually very atmospheric and I almost wanted a fire-fight to break out so I could see how difficult this made it, if at all. Don’t get me wrong, it looks quite good but the trailers and initial E3 announcement promised pant-wettingly amazing graphics. I’m mainly impressed by some of the smaller touches of the surroundings and but it still feels too clean. Considering this virus has driven people to riot and fight one another, there didn’t feel like enough chaos. It looked as though they aimed for Last of Us graphics and gave us…. well, not a lot. From the other reviewers I’ve seen out there, the PC version looks much better, so I’m hoping a few graphical tweaks might be made in the run up to release but I really don’t think it’ll happen.
I quite like the HUD in this game to a point. As you walk into a new area, the name will appear as though on a screen in front of you suspended in the area. Your objective/way point guide is an orange arrow and line that hangs slightly above you in the air like a rail. I actually quite liked it as a navigational tool as it can be quite frustrating when you can’t seem to find your way to your objective. The map in the corner isn’t too obtrusive and once you know what the icons stand for, it’ll make it easier to decide where you want to go. The menu is also pretty good and the inventory has a good system of putting all of your newer items first when you click into it, rather than getting confused with what you already have in there. I didn’t work out mods during my time playing the Beta, but that might be down to not having the right gear, either way, it looked pretty similar to the attachments you would expect from a shooter. It is a third person shooter much like Tomb Raider and Last of Us, luckily I can cope with it but it does take some getting used it again when you’ve been playing Call of Duty or Siege a lot lately.
I didn’t get much of a feel for the story in the Beta but I know that this will obviously be the main focus when the game is released. The objectives can go from backing up tactical units who are under suppressing fire or searching for missing people among others. I think there will be enough to keep player entertained and there is an added bonus that you can go solo or get friends to join in. I’m hoping it will be one that you play for the long haul or can easily drop in or out of, but if you want to keep up everyone else, you’ll probably have to hit it hard in the opening couple of weeks. While I sound unsure about the game so far, I will be picking it up and playing because I think there is a lot more to it. I want to be excited for this title but just don’t feel the hype like I have done with other games and maybe it’s just down to not being wowed just yet, but I remain hopeful.
So let’s talk about the whole Destiny thing. I’ve heard a lot of people asking if it’s the next Destiny and some even saying it will be better than Destiny. As a Destiny player, I don’t agree because they aren’t trying to be the same game as far as I can see. There are some vague similarities in the ability to roam with your friends doing missions together, the type of side missions, main story objectives and even the pockets of enemies. But it’s not Destiny. Don’t get me wrong, Bungie haven’t exactly produced the perfect game as it is riddled with bugs and issues but I wouldn’t say The Division will replace it or necessarily be better. IT DOESN’T HAVE A CROUCH OPTION UNLESS YOU ARE IN COVER! It will hopefully hold its own among a plethora of big titles that are out and about but after all the hype and PR they’ve put into this title, I hope it doesn’t fall by the wayside like Siege did.