I don’t have the data or numbers from the closed beta this past weekend but from all of the social media discussions, forum posts, twitch streams, and YouTube videos that spawned out of it, I’m more than willing to call this beta session for The Division a big success for Ubisoft.
I was able to jump on for both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 versions of the beta and my feelings towards the game haven’t changed much from this past December when I ventured into the alpha version. For those of you curious, I really didn’t see or experience much of a difference between either version, so whatever console you’re planning on supporting, it shouldn’t matter. I didn’t get a chance to jump on the PC version, though I am eager to see how resource intensive that version is. With that said, the gameplay and missions that were on display were pretty much exactly the same as compared to the alpha, but considering I didn’t have a chance to talk about that experience, I figured now is a great time to get all these pent up opinions out there.
So how was the beta? My complete thoughts can be found after the jump…
For those of you wondering, The Division isn’t a pure shooter. Yes, it’s third person perspective that utilizes cover based shooting, making guns a huge part of the game, but like Borderlands or Destiny, stats play a major role. Enemies have health bars, so a sniper shot isn’t a one hit kill like it is in Call of Duty or Battlefield. Players are encouraged to utilize cover and use skills during combat, while continually upgrading gear through vendors or loot in order to improve character stats.
The main hook here centers around your base of operations, essentially the New York Post Office across the street from Madison Square Garden. After assisting the JTF in clearing out violent rioters, this is your home where you essentially set up shop. By doing missions, side activities, or other tasks, you gain points to spend in renovating the three wings: Medical, Security, and Tech. Each upgrade adds to a completion percentage which also ties into the specific skills, talents, and perks you are able to use. These renovations also have a visual impact on your base as well cleaning up messes, fixes broken objects, and adds more staff members into the base. It’s an interesting mechanic and one I found to be something I wanted to continue to plug away at. For more on this feature complete with pretty pictures, check out the video I made below.
Personally, I’m a big fan of RPG shooters so The Division is firmly in my wheelhouse. The controls are easy to grasp, the cover shooting feels good, and every time I got a new item from a drop or scrounging the world definitely gave me incentive to keep going. I felt like I was being rewarded more often than in a game like Destiny (without having to “decrypt” things first) though not as much as Borderlands typically hands out gun. Granted, that’d be a tall order to match regardless.
One of the most impressive things I’ve found in the beta is how much detail there has been added. I’m a guy who loves the little things in games and The Division accomplishes this in spades. To think how much time it must have taken the designers and programmers to fill the streets and buildings of Manhattan with the amount of trash, litter, and other objects to make the world feel like it’s under some sort of emergency situation is insane. There’s a ton of graffiti, posters, and other little things which really lend credibility to the world you’re currently in. Seriously, cars are overturned, there’s litter, garbage, and objects laying around, which really sells the whole city falling apart atmosphere the game is striving for. It really does feel like something terrible has taken place, and the world building is a major part of why that succeeds.
I know many people are curious about the visuals and I can honestly say that I did notice a jump in the graphics department, which definitely makes me happy. As I mentioned above, I was fortunate enough to take part in the alpha test this past December and while I thought the game looked good, I felt like it wasn’t one that was going to turn heads. Thankfully, that was apparently an older build of the game because there’s a noticeable jump in graphics with the beta. Things look clearer, sharper, and the effects have also improved. It may not rival some of the stunning offering out there, but I was certainly impressed by the visuals on display, especially for a game this size with so much happening at once.
I also managed to get substantial Dark Zone time in and really got a good impression of that area. As I mentioned in a previous post, I was afraid that this area would devolve into a basic deathmatch zone thereby stripping away its intended uniqueness. While I can’t speak for everyone, my experience here was a positive one and did a lot to alleviate my fears. For me, playing here was pretty tense as not only was it patrolled by higher level and elite NPC mobs, but you always had the question mark of other actual players lingering around you at all times. While some people enjoyed going rogue and trolling other groups, I did see plenty of teamwork and co-operation from random players, which is something I was really hoping for. I saw strangers and different groups helping to take out rogue agents, or working to hold onto an extraction zone, and I also saw a lot of good will among players. While I know the experience in this PvP enable zone probably won’t be like this every single time, it at least proved to me that random players can indeed band together and play nicely.
Overall I had a great time in the beta. Like Destiny and Borderlands, The Division is a game that plays better with friends. Though to be honest, even when I wasn’t in a group, the amount of things to see and do kept me engaged and having fun. Will the game have legs? It’s too soon to tell, but from the limited access I got to play, it’s a world that I do plan on visiting again in March.