Three of us played the beta for a good couple of hours last week. I’d have the evidence on YouTube if their system hadn’t eaten the video… So here we have three idiots impressions on The Division, Beta.
General Gameplay = bang average cover shooter, samey missions (based on the two in the beta)
Graphics = Good, but nothing like what we saw two years ago in the reveal
Gunplay = Only OK. Maybe a higher variety of weapons in the full release will fix this
Dark Zone =Hilarious fun when played coop with friends
It is for this last point that I think I’ll give it a go and therefore force all my friends to do the same!
To say that I had low expectations would be an understatement. Online shooters aren’t really my bag, mainly due to my increasing years, decreasing reaction times, and ever-present lack of hand-eye coordination. In addition, I haven’t enjoyed any of the ‘Tom Clancy’s…’ games that I’ve played since the second Splinter Cell. In short, I’m not the target demographic for The Division.
I was pleasantly surprised, albeit with some hefty reservations.
There are moments of joyful absurdity. The sight of fifteen armed men gathered around a rope, desperately trying to evacuate their loot made me grin more than it should have, and one particular occurrence of our entire team crawling around on the floor, incapable of healing each other, generated real tears of laughter. There’s also the joy of watching the entire team scramble and hide when one of your colleagues has unintentionally sent the team rogue, painting a huge target on the group for other players in the Dark Zone.
The NPCs are also hilariously odd. The majority of the ones that I encountered had little more than a baseball bat yet thought nothing of running a significant distance in a straight line towards the barrel of my rifle. Intentional or not, idiotic AI in computer games always gets a thumbs-up from me.
Unfortunately there are some significant flaws. The spawning system means that you’ll often die and then have to traipse for several minutes, often finding that your friends have been massacred during your lengthy trip back. For a game whose cooperative nature is its main selling point, this is extremely frustrating.
My biggest criticism of the game is that it feels like it’s aiming for the Destiny crowd and, as a result of this, it seems to lack any soul. The slog for loot seems to be the real aim and the gameplay feels like an underdeveloped means to that kleptomaniacal end. Whilst the goodies you’ll pilfer are varied and exciting, the missions (from the admittedly limited number available in the Beta) are repetitive. There’s also a routine sense of deja vu when encountering new enemies and locations.
In truth, there probably wasn’t enough in the Beta to convince me to pay more than £10 for the full package, let alone the £40-£60 that it’s selling for at release. I’d have to see a significant increase in the scope and variation of missions, enemies and environments, compared to those witnessed so far, to change my mind. This feels like a harsh criticism based on the admittedly small amount of content that the Beta contained, however that’s all I’ve got to go on. I enjoyed my time with the The Division far more than I thought I would, it’s just difficult to justify purchasing a game that’s so hard to truly love.
If I have a major concern about The Division, it’s about gameplay variety, although we didn’t really explore all the beta had to offer as we were having too much fun rampaging around in the dark zone* as a group. The missions I did check out were standard fare for a Stay in Cover shooter, and for me the game’s longevity will have more to do with how much variety they can squeeze out of that gameplay model than it is about the Destiny-style world mechanics.
And on that topic, the set up was pretty immersive; the sandbox city meant co-op play was fun, and the flexibility to roll into missions independently, with friends or with strangers was nice. It all feels pretty well-balanced, and the gameplay is quite cinematic at the appropriate moments.
The beta hinted at a deeper story thread and I hope the game pays more than just lip-service to that.
Grumbles… For somebody as inept at aiming as me, I did find the amount of peppering you have to give the NPCs before they finally die a bit frustrating. By which I mean, it’s not an easy game and I suck at it.
Otherwise I was pleasantly surprised, and I’ve seen enough to shell out half a ton for the game on release.