Article by: Danny Buell
Having heard nothing but bad news and seeing other gamers playing the Alpha, Ubisoft’s the Division beta was actually quite enjoyable. Of course the beta isn’t flawless — well, since it is a beta version of the game, it overall provides something that has potential for being a great game. Here is a list of five things I liked and five things I didn’t.
What I liked…
New York City
The Division creates New York City on a one-to-one scale meaning that the city itself is created in a realistic scale. As someone who lives only miles from New York City itself and goes there frequently, it was almost incredible how they create the city in a way that one can stand there and say to themselves “I’ve been there and it looks incredible!”. Of course, Ubisoft has a good reputation for creating environments true to their scale, appearance, and feeling. That skill is present in games such as Assassin’s Creed, Watchdogs, and other sandbox titles. The city streets are extremely detailed, provide stories in itself, show you a decaying and near-possible atmosphere of a city strewn with chaos, and looks amazing for a Massive Multiplayer Online title. Besides the visuals and the image of a post-apocalypse New York, is that all of it still supports players in a gamey way, such as cover, places to explore and so much more.
The Dark Zone
The Dark Zone was probably the most prevalent of concerns I and many other players had. Of course, my first experience of entering the Dark Zone was me being immediately shot in the back the second I came out of the gate or knowing it didn’t match my friend and I in the right match lobby. However, putting that aside, being on the run or hunting other players for revenge, I started to see the potential of the Dark Zone. Moments of moving through the frozen streets with the air filled with snowflakes twisting and dancing in all directions reducing visibility drastically, it provided a tense atmosphere. My friend and I walked through the streets trying to keep our noise level to the minimum and be prepared to spring into action on a moment’s notice. It wasn’t till then did I realise that the fun of the PvP zone wasn’t just collecting loot or versing other players: it was about surviving. What I would like to see in it however is more buildings to enter and a survival element which makes the Dark Zone more purposeful than randomly killing other players for fun or running in circles to collect loot.
Music in gaming is something I almost always listen for. To me, it sometimes makes or breaks the illusion. There is nothing that jerks you out of a intense battle or a dramatic scene than music that doesn’t fit. Music that is too chaotic for emotional or calm moments. Music that is too calm for high-adrenaline gunfights. The music in the Division is actually so much better than I had anticipated. It not only fits the atmosphere very well, but helps enhance experiences. For example: my friend and I teamed up to go take out a faction called “the cleaners. As we approach, we begin making a plan. As we begin making that plan, the music that played just made me feel like as I was in a movie. When we opened our ambush, the music intensified, matching with probably one of the smoothest transitions in gaming. Rather than just cutting to the generic action music, it cleanly just began to raise the action and decrease the stealth music by seconds, creating a nice transition. The music style is also very unique. It is mostly electronic but not in the typical ‘dubstep’ way we have been given in many recent titles that are set in the ‘near-future’ but in a very original way that sometimes subtly reminds me of Mass Effect 1.
Something I have noticed and that I’m not very sure about is that the gunplay seems improved from the Alpha. The bullet sponging doesn’t seem as bad but there are times w here it is noticeable (mostly against other players but that is only understable through game mechanics). Gunfights can seem intense and enjoyable at times. Though I only have one complaint which will be in the next half of my list.
“Downgrade!” “Downgrade!” cried the Alpha testers. Having played on a ps4 and on pc, I have noticed that the downgrade isn’t actually that bad. Actually, for a Massive-Multiplayer-Online title it is very impressive. From the weather, the environment, the characters, it all adds to the immersive nature of the game. Of course the fact that the game is 3rd person only slightly takes me out of the immersion, there are many times when I just stop to take in the expertly and carefully crafted city. Although I’m slightly disappointed I haven’t seen a few things that they have shown from their graphics engine trailer such as the weather adding layers or decreasing layers of snow on the environment. Of course maybe that wasn’t included in the beta that might be nice to see.
Things I didn’t like…
No Survival Element
Okay, the game isn’t meant to be a survival game like Dayz or Escape From Tarkov. But what that takes away from a world of “survival” when all you need to do is survive from NPCs or players. The elements don’t present much of a problem besides the heavy snow storms but with the augmented reality of your tech, you can see players about thirty meters away without effort it doesn’t do much. You can collect food and water but it does little gimmicky bonuses like reducing cooldowns, adding bonuses, etc. But if you actually needed to collect water or food to keep your character alive would add a whole new dynamic to the gameplay and how players approach situations or even confrontations with other players. Other than that the game is you running from point A to point B without much to do but shoot at all the NPCs along your way. If you needed to stop into the buildings, search for supplies, it would make these journeys much more beneficial and worthwhile than your not-being-able-to-fast-travel so you have other choice commute to the objective. That also leads me to number two:
Lack of interiors
There are some really cool interiors, like the inside of a convenience store, the inside of a coffee shop, the inside of a pharmacy, a bank, an apartment, and more. Maybe there are more in other zones outside what you’re aloud in the beta, but there is far too few. Again, this may just be a beta thing, but especially in the Dark Zone there should be a lot more interiors to explore, loot, and adventure through. I’m not taking the underground into account because I know for sure there is a lot more underground stuff we didn’t have access to in the beta.
Scopes and Aiming
One problem I found that really bugged me throughout my experience so far is that aiming with a scope feels odd. The sensitivity is unbearably low and is not fixable. I even raised my aiming sensitivity in the options menu but to no avail. It was hard to track targets that were moving quickly (and too often would make sudden and unnatural turns such as running forward to only be running the other direction without even turning, they’ll just flip to the next direction). It proved incredibly more difficult to try and target other players at longer distances with my marksman rifles since they were moving too fast for my scope to trail.
There’s nothing more frustrating in a game that requires you to think smart and reduce exposure than non fluid animations. There were many times I found myself sticking to small spaces, trying to get off a high-spot to only be moving against an invisible wall unless I either pressed the ‘O’ button (on ps4) or I moved at a slower pace. For example, I was standing on a stack of crates providing elevated-covering fire when I get notified that I’m in a grenades area-of-effect. I double-tap X to roll off and immediately evade the grenade. Unfortunately, my character rolled against an invisible wall. I recovered and sprinted forward but it had the same effect. I realised that I had to put the instinct I have developed from all other games to follow the Division’s exact method. But it was a hit or miss, sometimes it would work but it was very little. There were times when moving from cover to cover was clunky and aiming over cover sometimes is very odd.
My largest fear with this game is if it is going to suffer the same fate as Bungie’s Destiny. It was great when it first came it, so much unfamiliar to explore, so many adventures to be had. But then quickly, like almost all MMOs I have played, I realised that the game’s core was developed around its leveling system and wanted you to drag your feet through the game to your desired success-point. What I mean by that is by repeating the same ‘dungeons’ and quests over-and-over till you level up to the max and that you have the best gear and loot you see fit. That’s a problem I see because it is literal insanity to be repeating the same thing over-and-over. The Division could have that same problem to be lacking enough content to the point that you are expecting expansions and DLC for the sake of having something new to play rather than wanting new content because you want more since the rest was just as enjoyable. I can’t judge this from the beta since it’s less-than a quarter of the final product but still, it’s a question you have to ask yourself. Is it truly a game you’ll be playing a lot of a couple of months after the release? I sure didn’t after Destiny when I realised the only thing I could do that would differ from the regular old grind is PvP and even then that could get boring.
No game is perfect, and that certainly applies to The Division, but it’s an MMO with ambition and the potential to be a great game. Hopefully it doesn’t suffer the same fate as other MMOs, where the community loses interest quickly and the game has to rely on expansions to bring the players back. Yet, it was still an enjoyable experience, and that is what gaming is about after all.