Game Break: The Division Beta
The Division, a 3rd-person shooter RPG from Ubisoft, has been a game long talked about and discussed with tantalizing videos and snipets of information. The game is set in New York City after an outbreak of smallpox has run rampant through the city on Black Friday, wiping out a decent chunk of the population and causeing chaos to ensue. Government, standard utilities, and law enforcement have all broken down in the aftermath.
This weekend we were finally given a chance to experience the world created in-game and give playing a shot with the open beta. You play as a member of the Strategic Homeland Division (SHD) or just “The Division” (go figure) tasked with staying behind and cleaning up the mess that everyone else has failed to. The first wave of your team has disappeared and you and small group of other agents are all that is left to clean up the streets, with the help of the Joint Task Force (JTF), but you have to help them first.
I spent several hours running around Manhattan completing the main story quests available (you are only given two big missions and a couple of smaller ones) and then exploring the city and some of the side missions and “encounters” as they call them.
First off, let’s talk about the city itself. As someone who has been a frequent visitor of New York I was pretty impressed with the things I could find and recognize. You start out in the “Hudson Camp” which has been set up along the river in the Chelsea Piers (and parks) and then head north east to set up your Base of Operations. It seems that this will be your hub for anything and everything in the game – with different upgradable wings and many other options, few of which were available to explore in the beta.
Your base is in the building that houses the Post Office just across 8th Ave. from Madison Square Garden. Last time I was in New York, we stayed in a hotel on W 33rd, across the street from the post office. Naturally I had to go look. Sure enough, there was a hotel right where our hotel was. This wasn’t the only building that I found and while it may seem like an insignificant detail, this is the level of detail that I like to see in a game set somewhere as iconic as New York. But I digress.
The game is beautifully rendered, and feels like New York. They spared little on the details of the environment and atmosphere of the different locations and I spent a lot of time just looking at things in the different districts. I wanted more area to explore, but unfortunately they limit your playing field in the beta.
The combat was pretty simple and easy to get the hang of – even for someone like me who is really, really terrible at aiming in shooters – and dispatching small groups of Rioters in the streets was quick and efficient. You are given a primary weapon, a secondary weapon, and sidearm as well as a plethora of grenades to choose from. Ammo and restocking points were accessible throughout missions so you didn’t feel like you were in trouble.
You only interact with two of the four major “gangs” vying for power in the city with the missions that you have access to. The Rioters, a group of thugs who you deal with in the first mission and often run into in the streets, and The Cleaners, made up of the remnants of the sanitation department, they deal death with firey results and make up most of the second mission. The Cleaners were bothersome with their stupid flame throwers, but a good enemy to deal with.
Most of the game is exploring. Locating citizens to assist, data to collect, and supplies to build up your base peppered with small battles for territory with the gangs. Missions can be done with a group of four players through matchmaking, but I couldn’t figure out how to get the system to work and ended up just doing the mission on my own. You also collect clothes and items as you explore that allow you to customize the look of your character. Clothes do not count as gear and offer no armor bonus, but many of the pieces looked pretty cool when I tried them on.
If PVP is more your thing, then you will want to venture into the Dead Zone. As you approach the east side of the city, you will notice a huge black wall built around a quarantine zone. This is the Dead Zone PVP arena that I spent all of five minutes in before I “NOPED” myself right out of there. Essentially, it is a war zone and there are no rules. You are teamed up with a group of other agents as you walk in the door and you have to take out the other team. It was confusing because people are just running around in the streets and there was no explanation as to the objective of the area until someone murdered me. Then I knew what was happening. I’ll probably give it another try, but I was not in the mood for fast combat.
One of my favorite aspects so far – it is just a little thing – is the map integration. It was really cool to have a virtual map of the city pop up around you to navigate and the GPS system was easy to follow. I could not find any good images of the system, but there is a little orange line the floats over the street to guide you in the best direction. This made it way easier to navigate your way through the city streets than just trying to run willy-nilly.
All-in-all I really enjoyed the beta and plan on picking up the finished game when it releases so that I can continue to explore the streets of a catastrophic Manhattan.
Tags: action, open beta, open world, shooter, the division