Beta Report: Tom Clancy's The Division

We risk the dark and dangerous streets of a fallen New York to see if the game's open beta shows promise...

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Beta Report: Tom Clancy's The Division

Tom Clancy’s The Division – a title which makes grammar Nazis want to shoot Ubisoft in the face, trust me – is yet another game doing its best to blur the line between shooter and RPG, while also doing a good job of adding massively multiplayer and open world into the mix. We got a good taste of the game over the weekend, thanks to the game’s open beta – and so far, it’s looking like a compelling mix.

There really isn’t anything new in The Division. It treads ground that has already been covered by games as diverse as Borderlands and Destiny, while also throwing in a touch of Fallout. If it brings anything, though, it’s the game’s remarkably versatile – and pervasive – cover system, and third person action. Most other games of this ilk, even Destiny, are happy with the classic first person view of most shooters, but The Division’s cover system works best when you can relate to your physical position in the world.

It also has the added bonus of letting you see your character change as their gear improves and changes.

And there’s a lot of gear in The Division.

Even in its limited beta form – which ends tonight, so we may get even more PHAT LEWTS – I’ve already gotten a Blue sniper rifle, complete with mods, a funky secondary SMG – again modded – and trusty silenced M911 pistol. All my other gear slots are similarly complete, from armour and backpack, to cosmetic items like clothing. The cosmetics aside, each item adds to one of three main stats, which are basically shootiness, health, and skill. There are Talents and Perks to explore, and crafting, but they’re not functional in the beta.

All of this drops from badguys, can be found in containers, given to you as quest rewards, or even stolen from other players – and this is perhaps The Division’s best addition to PvP matches in an open, RPG environment.

Manhattan (where the game is set, following the mother of all disease outbreaks), is dotted with Dark Zones – areas where the virus has taken almost complete hold and no one goes. In there, there are tougher gangs, better loot, and even agents of the Division – players – that have gone Rogue. The beta has a single Dark Zone, and it plays a lot like DayZ. Every player you meet could turn on you. They may help you in a fight, but then shoot you in the back to see what’s in your backpack. At that point, though, they’re marked as ‘rogue’, and anyone can shoot them and actually get good XP out of it for taking the mad dogs down.

Being Rogue is itself a lot like wanted levels in GTA. It doesn’t last forever – but you also go up in levels if you can keep offing other agents. It’s a rather elegant system, but friendly fire – especially if you’re packing a high-damage weapon like my sniper rifle – can set you as Rogue too. Thankfully, it’s for less time, say 15 seconds as opposed to 100, which is the standard count for killing another player.

The looting side of the equation is similarly elegant. All the gear you find in the Dark Zone must be airlifted out for decontamination before you can use it. What you have to do is call in a chopper, wait for it, then attach your gear to a dropped rope. Then, the gear will be waiting in your stash back at the nearest quest hub. There’s almost a whole mini-game here, too – do you fill up your entire pack (about 20 items I think), and risk losing it all to one Rogue agent, or do you call in a chopper every few items?

Either way, the set extraction points – I think there four or five – are busy places. Each chopper can only take ten bags of gear, so you’ll see large groups calling helicopter after helicopter. Enterprising thieves also take advantage of this concentration, and you never know when one will wait for folks to run in for an evac, and toss a grenade or two into the crowd to clean up big time. Regardless, there’s always real risk, but you’re only risking what you’ve found in that given sortie. This dual-loot system (Dark Zones even have their own currency), is a practical solution to ages old problem.

This makes extraction a tense, dangerous affair – even if a shot isn’t fired, you’re waiting for the whole thing to go to hell.

In fact, given that there’s really only a half-dozen quests to do outside of the Dark Zone (they're solid, if not groundbreaking), that’s where most players are spending their time, taking on the tougher enemies, and measuring themselves against other players. In fact, it’s a lot more fun than I was expecting, and if the rest of the game’s open world quests and raids live up to the already promising material in the beta, The Division could well be a long term concern.

I for one am keen to get into the game once it launches next month.

Have you played? Let us know what you think!