The Division Closed Beta feels great already, after a brief play through of a few hours last night on the Xbox. What I’ve played so far makes me think UbiSoft may just have a HUGE, and I mean massively HUGE, blockbuster on their hands here… I’m sold on this already.
The wonderful introduction shows the game engine in fine form, as your helicopter journey sweeps you into a safe zone around what looks to be the Battery Park area of Manhattan. It gives you a chance to take in the vista of Manhattan and the superb job the design team have done in setting the scene for the game. As an activated sleeper agent for The Division, it’s your responsibility to get into the centre of the city and help restore order after the Black Friday virus has basically turned it into a decimated warzone, for want of a better word.
My play through so far has consisted of going solo throughout the eerily deserted streets of the city, making my way towards the huge post office that will, I presume, be your main base of operations in the game. The controls already feel very tight and responsive, although the third person camera has taken me a little bit of getting used to when aiming. The cover based mechanics jumping from spot to spot with a single button press are great along with the setup for climbing over and upon obstacles. The game itself looks stunning too. The day/night cycle and weather fronts rolling in and out give it a real-world feel, especially the fog as it feels like it dampens the sounds.
I’ve rarely felt so alone in a game as I have in these first few hours of The Division. But that’s not a complaint, if anything it’s a huge compliment that the game already has such atmosphere in spades. That being said, it’s very easy to pull up the AR map around your character to see points of interest and secondary missions throughout (as long as you review the map and speak to mission control before heading out which is another great, immersive touch). Once selected, you’ll see an AR waypoint directing you to where you need to be. It’s all very intuitive and easy to understand for all there’s a lot of menus to go through with your character setup.
I can already see myself being sucked into every secondary mission or random encounter popping up as I play along. These give you a great opportunity to explore the city and really see and appreciate the work gone into creating the play area (which already feels huge in the beta). Thankfully I don’t seem to have come across any major issues so far with my play time on the xbox. There’s some pop-in of elements and textures along with a bit of screen tearing on occasion, but for the most part the frame rate has been solid. That being said, I haven’t even gotten near co-op or the dreaded dark zone which by all accounts is a pretty damn lawless place to be.
So, initial early impressions from the Xbox One? As a solo player I’m already sold. I’m itching to get into the co-op as I feel the game will really come to life then with some company along with a chance to see just how tough the dark zone really is. It’s looking, feeling and sounding great and I can’t wait until its release in just over a month’s time.
2nd Opinion (PS4)
Woah Scott, you’ve said it all so there’s not much left for me to say! 😛 Here goes anyway.
I’ve managed to get a good 2 days worth of playtime on the PS4 version since Friday night and all I can say is WOW! As Scott has already mentioned above, this is going to be a huge new IP for Ubisoft. Everything is already so well put together that it bodes very well indeed for the game’s launch in March.
The PS4 version specifically is the version I have being playing almost nonstop and unlike the Xbox One’s minor hiccups, Sony’s console handles everything for the most part without a single hitch. No frame rate drops and no screen tearing to speak of. This being a beta of course there are some minor technical blemishes across both consoles that can be fixed before launch. Things such as texture pop-in happens occasionally but with everything going on on screen, your attention will be focused on that sweet new beanie hat and scarf to notice. Dynamic weather? Check. Gorgeous, detailed environments? Check. This is a beautiful looking game.
Co-op matchmaking is smooth as butter too, I didn’t come across any delay in joining friends games and vice versa, so from an online view, it looks like Ubisoft are taking the importance of this titles’ launch very seriously.
This is clearly how The Division is intended to be played. In a group of 3-4 agents patrolling the devastated city, helping civilians and lending support to the JTF faction, enemy encounters play out in fluid, dynamic gun-fights. Once you’re working together, and communicating with each other, the game really shines. So much so that you’ll feel like such a badass elite unit, you’ll be ready for something a little tougher.
So that now brings us to the much talked about Dark Zones. These huge arenas are sealed off from the main map area, but what is most impressive is how seamlessly the player can transition from the city in to this competitive mode. You literally just walk through a checkpoint and boom, your don your gas mask and your now part of a fierce and brutal new environment unlike anything else on the market. See this isn’t your typical PVP mode here, there are no matchmaking screens, no lobbies waiting to be filled as the game searches for other players. This is instant and dynamic.
In terms of gameplay in the Dark Zones it can range from an all out blood-bath where other teams of agents shoot you on sight, to other teams being incredibly civil and ignoring each other to go about their business. And that business is the hunt for better and better loot in the form of weapons, gear and mods. You see the Dark Zones are where all the best stuff is. But simply picking up the your loot doesn’t mean it’s yours forever, oh no. You see that fetching new cardigan that really brings out the colour in your eyes needs to be properly quarantined before it can leave the Dark Zone.
This brings us to the genius gameplay dynamic that the developers have created. Within the Dark Zone there are several extraction points. These are vital for you to get all the loot you’ve acquired back out to use in the main city. Your player sends up a flare to call in helicopter support, but it also alerts every other team of agents in the Dark Zone to your location. What happens next is an incredibly tense 90 second countdown for the chopper to arrive followed by a further 30 seconds to secure your new gear on to the extraction rope. Here is where all chaos can ensue and team members can either turn on each other or form a gang to take out other teams and steal their hard earned loot.
Because of these unpredictable and tense situations, this is a bold new multiplayer mode unlike anything else we’ve really seen.
Needless to say whichever console is your format of choice, you’ll be getting an almost identical experience and a superbly crafted new franchise that is going to last you a long long time. Personally we cannot wait for March 8th.
Check out some of the videos below for more on Tom Clancy’s The Division