The Division came out of hiding this week with a closed beta, that I was able to get access to . Ubisoft have a lot riding on this game after a less than stellar 2015. First shown at E3 back in 2013 with a stunning trailer that gave a glimpse of what our next gen future could look like and it looked mighty fine. Since then the reality of these current consoles has hit home and Ubisoft have fallen foul of this on a number of occasions. With Watch Dogs final visual quality compared to its original E3 showing and Assassin’s Creed Unity’s issues. I, like many others, had not expected much of The Division and for me it had dropped off the radar.
This past weekend though, Ubisoft launched a closed beta and I was able to get a key for it and spend some time with the latest in the Tom Clancy series. All I can say is I liked it!
The Division is set in Manhattan, after a viral outbreak has pu the whole island under quarantine. Manhattan is divided into two zones, the quarantine zone has survivors struggling to survive in the deserted city, with gangs running rampant and fighting for resources. The Dark Zone is areas where the virus was dispersed. These areas are full of infected citizens, fellow agents and the most valuable resources. Into this chaotic environment you enter as an agent of The Division, a government sleeper agent, trained to deal with situations like this. It’s down to you and your fellow agents to protect the citizens and restore order to the city, whilst working in the inside to discover the cure for the virus.
The beta offered a small look at the kind of activities you will be doing in the final game. There was a brief set-up mission, a main story quest and lots of random side activities to do. This first I have to say is the game looks incredible! It may not look as good as that E3 2013 trailer, but its pretty close. There day night cycle combined with the changing winter weather effects look incredible. Although there was some texture pop in and I know people were getting droppped through the map the beta did seem stable and the gameplay was solid. The recreation of Manhattan is really good. The game captures the claustrophobic feel of the being surrounded by skyscrapers, blocking out the light.
Stripping away the visuals and focusing on the gameplay, The Division is a third person cover based shooter. It feels very much like Rainbow Six mixed with old tactical shooter, Full Spectrum Warrior. A quick press of ‘X’ puts you in to cover, once there you can aim for the next piece of cover and hold down ‘X’ to move to it. It works really well and meant that you don’t feel that your movement is penalized by playing it cautious. The enemies you encounter in the PvE sections, seem to have good AI and do try to flank you, but for the most part they just try to rush you. This leads to some tense shoot outs, which is the kind of direction the developers must be going for.
The Dark Zone is where the game changes dynamic. In essence a PvP area, the Dark Zone has harder enemies, but greater rewards. The problem is that all of the loot you find in the dark zone is contaminated and cannot be used until it has been extracted and cleaned. To do this, you have go to an extraction zone, wait for the helicopter to arrive and attached your bag of loot and wait for it to leave. Sounds easy? Wrong! In the Dark Zone your fellow agents can turn rogue and turn against you and try to take you gains from you. It introduces an excellent risk/reward mechanic to the game and blends multiplayer into the world in a believable fashion.
Although, I did not get to play the beta a lot over the weekend, I managed to play enough for The Division to go to the top of my wanted game list for the first part of this year. Luckily, there is going to be an open beta in a few weeks time, so I can get to hit the streets of Manhattan before the game launches on 8th March.