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Tom Clancy’s The Division (Closed Beta) – First Impressions
On a side note: This ReviewMalaya articles was written by one of our dearest friend, Mr. Fadzlan Arief Rodzali (PSN ID: Loafr3). Thousand thanks to him for letting us shares his valuable share & thoughts of The Division in GamerMalaya.my.
**This was done on the Closed Beta. The patch notes for the Open Beta addressed most of the feedbacks from the article below.
Last Friday evening, I was watching streams of The Division Beta being played. I had watched streams of the game being played on Xbox One but PS4 and PC owners got their first taste of playing the Beta that day. I did not pay attention to the gameplay much because I did not want to get spoiled. Shamefully, I was just there to snag a Beta code from one of the streamers doing giveaways. I had six streams running on both my screens. As one of them was about to head off, he posted a code in his chat. Luckily I had Ubisoft’s Beta Code registration page open. Keyed the sucker in and I got the game. Sweet. Time to jump into post-outbreak New York.
You play as a Division agent, trying to restore order in the Big Apple. The Beta opens with a short intro/tutorial on the game by one the game’s community manager. Simple, yet informative. You get to learn the ropes and the controls are pretty basic. Getting into cover involves you running up to a barrier and pressing X (Spacebar for PC; A for Xbox). To vault over it, press O (Control for PC; X for Xbox). Reminded me of the days where I played Gears of War, though not as fluid. No roadie runs here boys.
So you start off with your creator character. There are no sliders yet so you’re only left with randomizing your character’s mug for the rest of the Beta. The game starts with a cutscene of you in helicopter with another agent. All hell just broke loose. You drop into a JTF (a pseudo army/police outfit trying to maintain order) staging area by the river. You’re tasked with helping out clearing a rabble of scavengers over at HQ. The atmosphere is tense and the fact that there are virtually no loading screens makes the setting feel more genuine. Body bags, makeshifts tents, and quarantine areas. Broken down cars and barricades litter the streets. The designers have done a pretty good job as far as the environment goes.
Graphically, as reported by many, the game received a downgrade from what was shown in E3 but overall still decent. Weather and time of day change over time to give a genuine feeling. However, the HUD that lingers over the side of your character is distracting, even though useful (it can be toggled off).
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Pressing the Option button gives you the UI for speccing your character and changing the game settings. It’s overwhelming at first as the UI here is a bit messy for my tastes. Functional, but unrefined.
As you make your way through the streets and past the civilians hobbling along, you come up to a few JTF forces engaged in a firefight with the city’s scavengers. Here, you’ll get your first taste of combat (assuming you weren’t busy shooting rats earlier). Getting into cover and being on the move is supposedly what you have to do. The enemies are varied from your common shooters, to snipers, and mix in some bat-wielding rushers. Some of them even throw grenades at you to get you out of your cover. The general AOE of the explosion is marked on the ground so it is simple enough to avoid. Gunplay feels appropriate for a third person game.
My initial concern about the enemies being a bullet sponge is not as bad as before, though enemies do need a near full clip peppered into them to go down. The higher tier enemies (identified with having a purple or yellow health bars) do take a significantly longer time to go down though. My major complaint with the combat is although there is ample cover to be used in engagements, the AI seem to be oblivious to them at times and much prefer a more direct (read: suicidal) approach.
Now let’s talk about guns. You can equip three weapons which you can swap on the fly. You can equip primary and secondary weapons (from shotguns to light machine guns) and a pistol with unlimited ammo. The weapons and gear you get along the way are tiered according to rarity and level. Higher tiered gear would have extra perks on them which you would useful. My primary weapon is a Marksman Rifle that has increased damage upon landing a headshot. Sweet! Taking time to consider your loadout could mean all the difference. Choosing weapons based on your playstyle and to cater to any situations you may encounter is crucial. Fortunately, even in Beta, the game offers a wide range of gear to choose from.
No matter you plan your arsenal; you cannot overlook the importance of skills in the game. In the Beta, you’re given a few tricks for your Agent to try out. You can only equip two at a time so take time to understand them. A scanner could be useful if you suspect someone coming round the corner just waiting to blast your face with a shotgun, but a mobile shield could be useful to tank that shotgun round. A sticky grenade launcher would be handy in firefights but when your whole team is overwhelmed and low on health, a quick health boost could let you live to fight again. The limited combination of your loadout and the skills you wish to equip makes you think and consider of what role you will play in your team.
“Strength in numbers” not only makes a great slogan on t-shirts, but it is the smartest way to approach the game. Whether you are fighting the various factions trying to take control of the city or exploring the treacherous environment known as the Dark Zone (more on that later), engaging enemies with a maximum of three other teammates is far more exciting and naturally less painless. Use team tactics to tackle the enemy. Spread out and flank to cover all the sides and make the fight to your advantage. Don’t stray too far though. You might need your teammates to revive you should you find yourself downed. There is no indication however that solo players will face a near impossible challenge in the game, but it is a totally different ball game in the Dark Zone.
Before we go into that however, I’ll briefly touch on the PvE mission. We were given one storyline mission (which you can play multiple times) where we had to rescue a hostage. As an introductory mission (so to speak), it was OK to say the least. I wouldn’t expect it to be complicated. The level setup and how we engage the firefight was pretty straight forward. Playing on Hard mode is a bit more challenging however as there are more bullet sponges that rush and thrown incendiary grenades to your cover. You have to be quick on your feet and coordinate your attack. Loot is RNG based but guaranteed and playing it in Hard mode gives better loot.
Besides the storyline mission, there are encounters scattered around the map. The missions vary from rescuing a hostage, securing a position, uploading data (or establishing network connection, I wasn’t paying attention), etc. Short, bite-sized missions that will give you rep boosts according to the encounter type (medical, technical, security, which links to the skills you can unlock). Collectables and points that give you more insight on the world you are in also appear as you roam around the city.
Now, let’s get to the Dark Zone. The Dark Zone has been mislabelled as the game’s PvP mode. It’s actually an area where PvP is enabled, i.e. other agents get a chance to kill you. I won’t go much into it as much as it has been covered by others extensively. My experience in it has been somewhat mixed. The Dark Zone at its current state is somewhat empty. NPCs are few and far between and the encounter only lasts briefly. Other agents that kill other agents (known as rogues) add flavour to the game. There is a thrill that you get when going into the Dark Zone. The looming, ever present threat of a rogue agent just waiting for you to let your guard down is quite exhilarating at first. You stay close to the walls and the abandoned cars so you can quickly duck behind cover. You want to go about your business to extract that awesome gun you just looted but you always have that feeling that someone is following you from behind, ready to steal it away from you. Hunting down rogues net you DZ Reputation and DZ Money (a separate currency).
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If you decide to turn on your fellow agents and go rogue, you will get a timer. The timer indicates how long you will be tagged as a rogue and other agents that kill you will have no consequence. Shooting and getting shot at will reset the time. Kill more agents and your bounty and timer will increase. Survive long enough, you get to keep that gear you stole earlier as well getting some DZ Rep. Two other rogues and I killed enough to a point that there was a Manhunt for us. The Manhunt timer is five minutes. If you kill an agent hunting you, that timer resets back to five minutes.
In the end, it didn’t feel like it mattered. We only went rogue because an agent’s health bar turned red even though he was not rogue (rogues have red health bars. Either it was a glitch or a bad UI decision). Yes we netted a good amount of rep and currency but for almost 15 minutes, all we did was hunker down in an empty subway station and shooting anyone who dared to kill us. It was exhausting and I couldn’t leave the couch to handle IRL matters (the bathroom, for example). We clapped and waved and went back on to the streets as if nothing had happened. Rogues that survive the timer (or get killed) get a clean slate, regardless how big of a jerk you were.
Some final thoughts. Ubisoft has given us an opportunity to sample the game. I was pretty pleased with the Beta. As soon as I was dropped into NYC, I was content with the graphics even after the downgrade and find the atmosphere suited the dire, post-apocalyptic Ubisoft Massive was aiming for. From the streets to the underground, the level of detail in the game is impressive.
The clashes at times did get intense at times and use of cover was key to survive them. It’s more crucial when you’re fighting other agents. You have to be vigilant even moving through the streets of New York in the Dark Zone. Moving cover to cover, watching corners for a rogue agent just waiting to snipe your head off. The creators did an absolutely wonderful job delivering that feeling to the players.
However, I can’t shake the feeling that the map in the final version may be a bit too small, even with roofs and sewer tunnels that you can explore. Purely speculation, but the Dark Zone seems like the End Game. Did you score a badass Assault Rifle while roaming in the Dark Zone? Great! Can’t wait to test this baby in out in the same Dark Zone! And that’s it. There has been announcements of DLCs both free and paid but let’s just see how the vanilla version pans out first.
There are some lingering concerns that I still harbour especially when it comes to the somewhat brainless AI, agents suddenly a red health bar and mistaken for rogues, and rogues that camp near spawn points in areas with just one access but I will reserve those judgements for the final game. How much tweaking and polish Ubisoft can accomplish between now and the release date of March 8th is yet to be seen. I’m still somewhat skeptical but intrigued enough that I will be checking out any future updates.
On a side note: This ReviewMalaya articles was written by one of our dearest friend, Mr. Fadzlan Arief Rodzali (PSN ID: Loafr3). Thousand thanks to him for letting us shares his valuable share & thoughts of The Division in GamerMalaya.my. Interested to share out your article to our readers? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org