Hands-On Impressions: Tom Clancy’s The Division Beta – A Cold Dark World

Tom Clancy’s The Division is possibly one of the most anticipated games of 2016. This was easily demonstrated by how quickly beta codes ran out during the betas duration. For those that got to experience Tom Clancy’s The Division, we were given an opportunity to take a glimpse at a game that was rather interesting and well crafted. Tom Clancy’s The Division Beta takes place shortly after a weaponized version of smallpox has managed to go pandemic and wipe out a giant sum of New York’s residents, but it had also managed to go worldwide and do the same amount of damages in confirmed locations such as London where their recovery attempt is under way from what we are able to assume.

For us? Efforts to restore New York have gone underway. The JTF as well as The Division and local rescue teams have begun helping those that need it. Doing so included building quarantine zones, setting up checkpoints, and even going as far as locking down zones such as the “Dark Zone” where only the best of the best or the worst of the worst even go to look due to contamination. This is where players got to spend a lot of their time in game if they weren’t already out and about doing alerts.

What the Game Has Stayed True to Since 2013

The Division has been a game we’ve all watched with wonderment over what it would become. Some of us probably assumed the development teams at Ubisoft Massive, Red Storm Entertainment, Ubisoft Reflections, Ubisoft Annecy have been busy at work making. What we’ve seen of the game until now was a rather visceral future that could potentially happen if someone was crazy enough to weaponize a virus to this scale. The gameplay footages we’d seen were true tactical sessions where players would find themselves bouncing from cover to cover to find vantage points. With weapons being highly customizable we also knew this would be playing another large piece within the game’s world. What we didn’t know was just how in depth our character editing would go since the gameplay footage had never really shown this bit. In the sessions we’d seen from gaming events we also knew the game was going to be rather beautiful, something Ubisoft has become known for in the most recent future, and something they seem to be at peace doing. This is another portion of the game that has also managed to stay alive over the years as fans around the world sat on edge for the Beta itself.

So the question is what has changed if anything? To be honest? Nothing. Ubisoft’s teams have managed to keep exactly to what they said the game would be. A tactical game that would offer players a chance to team up to take on enemies on the streets and help the citizens of New York. Let alone would the game offer varying degrees of difficulty, it would also offer high amounts of customization so that players can utilize their characters to how they see fit. Something that was well done in the beta thanks to weapon tuning, weapon modifications, and even armor pieces. They also had mentioned that the games Dark Zone would be one of the most dangerous locations in the games as teams of four can work together to take over, or simply go rogue and take out other agents, and steal their loot. This also stayed rather true in the beta this weekend. They’ve carried through with their words quite closely, but the one thing that was a bit troublesome is that character customization (as seen in our video below with gameplay and commentary), is that it was limited to a randomizer not showing us the full depth of customization availability or even how it works. While this may be due to the game being in development at the moment, we know that crunch time is here, and the teams are hard at work giving the game a few finishing touches.

The Things We’ve Learned from the Beta – The Good

Like any beta, especially Destiny’s, we’ve been given a taste of what the game will be about. While the beta was a 24.8GB install, we know that much of that install was the release title, and much of that content was locked due to how the game was set up for this test. The good part of it was we got to finally see what Ubisoft has been showing off for the past several years, which was fine tuned to the extent of being immaculate. While a few flaws did stand in place, they were nothing that won’t be fixed within the final version, which is expected.

First of all weapon customization was a key factor within this beta. Being able to add scopes, grips, laser sights, larger magazines, all of it gave us the idea of what the final version would have in store. For my time in the beta? I spent a vast majority of it with an L86SW running around with a acog scope, a larger clip, and even a compensator to help my weapon stabilize a bit. This is much different from my choice of using a SCAR-L with a marksman scope, front grip, large magazine, and even a silencer to hide myself a bit better from enemy forces. Hell it even helped in the Dark Zone when going rogue with a group of friends. (The video below contains us going Rogue Agent as well as objective based gameplay where we decide to take out thugs around Manhattan)

Though weapon customization was a bit fascinating it was also interesting to see that Ubisoft paid a lot of attention to detail with the virus and contaminated zones. The game had zones that would warn players if their masks were not safe for that area by telling them if their contamination levels were safe or not. If not? It’s safe to assume that getting healed up at a decontamination zone or even using a anti-viral would be the safest bet. However we were unable to test this since there weren’t safety zones that the beta would require higher level breathing masks. We also got to take a glimpse at itemization, which includes gloves, knee pads, armoured vests, supplies such as water, food, snacks, grenades, and much more. Each of these all played their own pivotal role in how players would approach combat situations. If you had bottled water? Best time to drink it was before combat and using healing items as it made them much more effective. Want a tactical advantage against your enemies? Easy, throw out an incendiary grenade and force your enemies to abandon their cover and re-situate themselves.

While the beta offered plenty of NPC encounters, the beta had really given us a glimpse of what to expect from assisting the JTF, but an idea of what we can find in the Dark Zone whether it’s off NPCs or players or simply both. The approach to collecting Dark Zone items comes at a heavy cost for some players as rogue agents are always hiding in the shadows with a squad or simply with highly powerful weapons.

The Things We’ve Learned from the Beta – The Bad

Even though we knew the game was going to have a beta, the problem with the beta wasn’t that it wasn’t a solid tactical shooter or even squad shooter, it was the fact the beta came with a handful of weapons, a handful of JTF situational objectives, and even a small amount of story mission. This meant players got to do two missions. Report to their soon to be home base, save the doctor for the medical wing, and hunt down supplies in order to open up the recovery ward. Outside of that? The beta proved that the game has a lot that it can account for, but dared to show off more than just a sip of the kool aid.

But one thing did become apparent to this game. Anyone in the squad could mark map objectives, change mission objective locations they want to at anytime, and even run off and leave their friends behind in order to complete the missions. In the beta? This type deal actually caused me to have to redo the one side mission we got, which was to locate a missing woman, and bring her back alive if she is alive. I had to go back to part three out of four on this side mission and complete the last two steps in order to get the mission completion. Even then? It still felt odd that I was having to complete a portion of the mission we’d already completed even though I was two steps behind him.

The Things We’ve Learned from the Beta – The Ugly

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One of the weakest points of the game was the fact it feels like a slight graphical downgrade from the versions we’d seen at E3, Paris Game Show, and even Gamescom. The gameplay was gorgeous, don’t take it the wrong way, but it wasn’t as cinematic as the trailers or gameplay we’d seen before, which makes us wonder if what we saw before was a devkit running the game at settings consoles can’t handle. Or if we’re going to get another Watch_Dogs situation where the game was gorgeous, still is, but just not cinematically gorgeous. Then again this can all come tumbling down to cost, performance, and limitations based on what can be delivered at launch. If I had anything to say about this? Someone needs to get Kojima Studios on the phone and see how they can go about an engine like his own, but for now? The graphics will do. We just hope to see a bit more polish on them when the game launches since we only saw the beta, not a finished product.

The truth is? If one were to go into the Dark Zone, we’d expect to find looters, enemy factions such as the Riker’s or even The Cleaners. Truth is? It was rather empty unless players wandered around for a good ten or fifteen minutes assuming another squad didn’t wipe out the enemies, take the loot, and wander off. If you were wanting equipment? Best chance players had was getting lucky with drops or simply having a strong enough squad to wipe out enemy forces. Half the time? It meant all out war near extraction zones for equipment. During those moments? Players who wanted to crouch while sneaking to cover? Good luck doing so, this wasn’t happening so far in The Division, which is a feature odd not to have in a title like this one since we were able to sneak in titles such as Assassin’s Creed, Watch_Dogs, and even Rainbow Six. Hopefully this can somehow be added in at a later date.

If anyone is one to open up the minimap and listen to comms chatter or even just basic comms chatter? Many will become accustomed to hearing “He killed Alex!”, which is quite troublesome as it is a name we hear quite frequently throughout the time spent on the beta if players end up walking around the streets. Biggest issue with that? We don’t have a clue who “Alex” is and why we should care about him. All we know? He was killed. Don’t be like Alex until we figure out who Alex is.

Post Release DLC Plans – These Actually are Interesting

We already know Tom Clancy’s The Division is supposed to be a single entry game. Something that we’ve seen The Crew do when it released last year and managed to stay on track by adding expansions to itself. We’ve also seen this happen with Rainbow Six Siege as it is getting DLC over time and will allow for players to enjoy a single title with a rather hefty amount of future content. For Tom Clancy’s The Division owners? It’s suggested to spend a bit extra and just get the season pass. So let’s take a look at the post-launch plans.

“The free updates to be released for all players will add new game modes such as challenging group-oriented operations to test players’ abilities in co-op mode and win unique rewards.

The 3 paid expansions are included in the Season Pass and will be released over the course of the year. Each expansion builds on The Division, continuing your agent’s journey and progress with new content, gear and gameplay as you fight to take back New York:

  • Expansion I: Underground
    This first major expansion opens up a new area to players as they explore the uncharted underworld of New York City with up to 4 friends for intense co-op action
  • Expansion II: Survival
    In this expansion, players will have to survive as long as possible in a very hostile environment that will challenge even the most talented agents.
  • Expansion III: Last Stand
    Stay tuned for more information.

At launch, Season Pass owners will also unlock the exclusive Sawed-off Shotgun, a unique sidearm customized for short-range destruction. Season Pass owners also receive a set of exclusive outfits and weapon skins, as well as access to special monthly benefits including exclusive content drops and special events.”

While it seems that Ubisoft will support players who have the season pass and those that don’t rather fairly? It’ll be interesting to see just how many people pick up the season pass in order to get the unique items, unique events, and the bonuses as they are released throughout the games life-span.

Closing Thoughts

Even though I’ve found a few things to grunt about with Tom Clancy’s The Division, it’s hard to say that these things are something worth raising a racket over. I’m sure if Ubisoft was dealing with a roar of complaints? They would find themselves in a situation much like Destiny is in now where many players have already begun to abandon the game, much like I did back October. Let’s just hope that Ubisoft has taken notes on what to do and what not to do in the long run.

Tom Clancy’s The Division is set to release on March 8th, 2016 for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One starting at 59.99 USD.


About the Writer:

dustin_batgr_prof

Dustin is our native console gamer, PlayStation and Nintendo reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the boarders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPG’s, Anime, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable. His elitist attitude gives him direction, want, and a need for the hardest difficulties in games, which is fun to watch, and hilarity at its finest. You can find him over on TwitterGoogle+, and or you can find him on PSN with RaivynLyken.

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