Tom Clancy’s The Division has been on my watch list since its announcement at E3 back in 2013. Even though The Division has received skepticism due to Ubisoft’s poor track record in terms of released products, (Watch Dog’s downgraded graphics, Assassin’s Creed Unity and Syndicates day 1 graphical issues and bugs.) I still had hopes for the concepts and ideas behind Ubisoft’s newest fusion between Third Person Tactical Shooters and RPGs. I signed up for the closed beta, waited patiently, and threw on my optimistic eyes.
The Beta opens up with the option to customize your avatar, I did not get too much into customizing the features since this was just a closed beta and I wanted to get straight into gameplay. The opening cut scene sets the stage up for us: New York has been infected for some time now, looters and criminals wander the street, and it’s up to you, an agent from “The Division,” to regain control of the streets and bring power back to New York City’s law enforcement.
Once gaining control of my agent, I was given prompts to understand the basic controls of the game. Standard stuff, Left Stick for movement, Right Stick for camera movement, Shoulder Buttons L2 and R2 for Aim and Shoot, L1 and R1 were reserved for learned skills and the respected face button controls, Square to Reload, Circle to roll and climb, Triangle to switch to Primary or Secondary weapons, and X to snap into cover. The cover system felt a bit wonky at first, especially when trying to switch covers during fire fights against a group of 4 or more enemies. Having to aim at the cover you wish to transfer to really does make you think twice about where to move and where to be when the bullets start flying. On some occasions, I did snap to an unwanted position and found myself at a tactical disadvantage during my struggle to frantically reposition myself but other than those minor instances, the cover system works as it should. Unfortunately, you can only make it so far with just defense.
From the start you are given three weapons. Two primary weapons, a standard issue Assault rifle, an MP5, which proved to be my best friend throughout the beta, and a secondary semi-automatic pistol. Each being able to be fitted with mods and paintjobs to add some flair to your guns. Through fire fights, venturing, and looting you can find different mods to throw onto your guns. By the end of the beta, my MP5 was fitted with a red angled grip, extended magazines, tan red dot sight, and a snow-like paint job to match the environment.
The abandoned New York City felt empty, a strange kind of empty, like something was missing, and that’s exactly how it should’ve felt. The lack of large groups of civilians crossing the streets and filling the sidewalks tells a story of how this once lively, rumbling city has fallen and how its inhabitants have gone with it leaving everything behind. Deserted cars are scattered all over the streets providing excellent cover for engages in the middle of the roads, stray dogs can also be encountered roaming the lost city, and hopeless scavengers can be found peeking into cars, scrounging through trashes, and sheltering in alleyways. Every once in a while a needy civilian will come along and ask for some supplies. They can either be denied, saving your resources, or they can be gifted the requested supplies in return for a small amount of experience points and random items (health packs, mods, credits.) In contrast, low-life criminals take advantage of the freedom by looting what they can and abusing civilians left behind.
Taking out hostiles alone can be a hassle since they do tend to feel as if they are soaking up any bullets shot at them. Even what would seem like a fatal headshot is shrugged off as just a flesh wound. The realistic tone of the game is blurred here because of it but it does not take away from the overall fun of gun fights. To add on, where would the challenge be if you can just headshot enemies and call it a day? Every engagement I encountered was unique in location, strategy, and behavior of looters with the behaviors standing out the most. Hostiles reacted to my actions, knew what I was doing if they saw me doing it, and shared that info to their groups through communication. It was amazing to see in a tactical shooter like this where information is key in fire fights. It could be easily compared to the way enemies behave in the PlayStation 3 and 4 hit, The Last of US by Naughty Dog developers. This made outsmarting them all the more rewarding, especially when it’s you against a group of 3 or 4 looters, the experience bar hits the cap, and you reap the mods and drops you rightfully earned.
After leveling up, I gained access to my first option of skills from three separate skill trees: “Medical,” specializing in Healing and providing intelligence, “Tech,” providing gadgets and drones for the fight, and “Security,” providing protection and defense to the team. I found myself sticking with the Medical skill tree for the ability to scan the area for hostiles which proved its worth time and time again.
The loot found in The Division is categorized by a color system (Plain white being common drops, blue being rarer than white, then purple, and finally orange for the rarest loot. Enemies wandering the common areas can reward blue drops but if you’re looking for purples or oranges, The Dark Zone is where to go.
The Dark Zone is the Player Vs. Player area of New York City. Here Agents can group up, search for the best loot, and extract them. The Dark Zone is considered extremely contaminated by the virus that started the New York evacuation. This means that any loot confiscated cannot be used until extracted by either extraction points across The Dark Zone, or taken through Dark Zone Checkpoints around the Dark Zone. When extracting through extraction points, every player in the area is notified of it and they have the option to investigate and take action if they choose. More than once did I have to defend my partner and I’s extraction from rival groups trying to pirate our finds. It was an exhilarating experience to have everything on the line, all my weapons, my mods, and my Dark Zone Credits and Experience if I lose. I never understood what the reason was for these attacks from Rogue players, until I decided to do some hunting for myself.
Going Rouge was an intense experience that I suggest every player try at least once in their play through. Maybe it was my sadistic nature kicking in but when the notification for a nearby extraction pops up on my HUD, I have to think twice about whether I think I could handle fighting off once a fellow agent, and the onslaught of every other agent chasing me down. Dying while rouge makes you lose more Dark Zone experience than regularly dying out there. If you’re a successful pirate and manage to get away from the mob of rouge-killing agents long enough for the Rouge Meter to countdown then you’re in the clear. Just hope your victim didn’t write down your username and hunt you down.
As you can see, the beta set up a good premise for those who wanted just a taste of what The Division. had to offer. The beta definitely proved that even with a slight downgrade in graphically quality, it still delivers what it promised, a 4-player co-op, third person shooter with an RPG blend. I look forward to seeing those who still cares about the abandoned New York City in the open beta starting this week Feb. 19 – Feb. 21. Hopefully a share of my experience gave you glimpse of what’s to come during Tom Clancy’s The Division’s release in March.