Tom Clancy’s The Division: Beta

[Beta Review] NaytoE has a bash at the new Division game. See what he thinks in this in-depth critique.
The Details
  • Title: Tom Clancy's The Division: Beta
  • Web: Official Site
  • Developer: Massive Entertainment
  • Publisher: Ubisoft
  • Released: 8 March, 2016
  •  
  • Platforms: PC XBox One PS4
  • Reviewed On: PC

Swear alert! I’m a naughty boy and this article contains fowl language! Cluck Cluck Cluck!


This weekend Ubisoft blessed us with an open beta of the new Tom Clancy’s The Division, a third person, online, open-world RPG shooter. If you visit the games official website, you can be charmed with as much fluff and bull-shots as your heart desires, but that’s not what we’re here for. So let’s dive in!

 

Starting out

From the off, the beta presented me with an overly long, un-skipable video about “how to play the game”, yeah, because I need that. Apparently, this game is so unique and revolutionary, that I, a veteran gamer of way over 20 years, could not possibly figure out how to: take cover and use an inventory. Pull your head out your arse Ubi. I’m not sure how long this video lasted for, I almost fell asleep to the monotone voice of the utterly boring commentator, but it felt like quite a while (I actually managed to make myself some food and a drink before the chuffing thing had ended).

TCTDb_charcreation

The ‘wide’ range of characters I made using the randomise button. Not much variation though.

Once that had finally finished I was presented with a character maker, which was locked. The only features that worked were the gender selection and the randomise face button. The randomise face button didn’t seem very random, as all the faces were either a pale Asian dude, Afro-what-ever-country-you’re-in-because-I-can’t-use-the-word-black-guy or a middle-aged-misserable-ghostly-white-guy. No Indian’s aloud guys. I can’t quite see the point in locking this section off for the beta, but meh, what ever. I chose to play a sickly looking, slightly depressed, middle-aged white guy. You can see above some of the variations in the randomised faces. Notice how many of them look exactly the same? Well, they’re not, they were 100% different screenshots. hopefully the full game with have a whole range of different skin types, eyes, hair, hair colour (notice there’s only brown up there?) and other things.

Tom Clancy's The Division Beta2016-2-21-13-26-15

“Whiney Bitch Face” – Not sure of her name, but she’s the ‘strong female character’ of the game. And as always, she’s fucking annoying.

After creating my character I was thrown into a bog-standard cut scene, involving some typical “strong woman bitch” who I just couldn’t wait to either a) die or b) shut the fuck up. The story was some boring drawl about an explosion that killed some dude you never see and therefore don’t care about and this bitch face got hit in the face and didn’t die. Apparently it’s my job to sort some crap out, I have no idea what this crap is, what the hell is going on, what happened before, or who this whiney arsed woman is. And to top it all off, this silly cow say’s “it usually takes some time for me to trust someone” yeah, well guess what, love? I don’t give a fuck about your silly arsed feelings and if it wasn’t for the fact the game devs have disabled my guns in your vicinity, I would shoot you in the face just to make your mouth stop flapping!

I seriously hope this isn’t the real intro to the game, because if it is, wow, 10/10 for half arsing the story, it was so boring that I couldn’t give a crap about any of it, and it explained exactly nothing. Actually, who am I?

 

Out Into the World

So, we’re in the game, we can move! You get dropped off in the games “hub”, the only place in the beta where you can see other players without the risk of them shooting you in the face. There’s nothing much here, just a couple of vendors and a notice bored that highlights missions on your map for you. Honestly, I don’t think I ever came back to this area once I’d set up my ‘base of operations’.

Once I’d left the hub I headed straight for my objective marker, it’s the orange line in the screenshot below, looking around at the lovely world that’s been built here. There’s crap everywhere, literally crap, in bags, piled up everywhere. I don’t know who’s making these crap piles, because there’s not many residents knocking around town any more, and why haven’t the realised the bin men ain’t coming?

Out in the open world!

Out in the open world!

Anyway, I made my way to my objective, it was a long walk and whilst walking there precisely nothing happened. In a place described by my allies previously as being a “war zone” I encountered nothing. Just a hand full of civillian NPC’s who you can’t interact with and who constantly make remarks about me causing some imaginary harm to them. “Hey, leave me alone!”, “No, don’t do that!”, “Watch it!”, “He’s gone bad!”, “Please, leave me alone!” etc, etc. That, by the way, becomes annoying. Having every single pedestrian making out that you’ve some how harmed them from the other side of the street, it’s immersion breaking and very jarring. Just for giggles, I decided to actually harm one, so I unloaded a magazine into some little old woman who shouted at me for walking into her. But! They’re bullet proof. Nothing hurts them, which only made me question why I need to save them? On the flip side, you can kill the harmless little dogs, apparently that’s acceptable.

Tom Clancy's The Division Beta2016-2-20-15-56-14

Screw you pedestrians! I haven’t done shit to you! Now STFU!

Onwards! Once I got to my new ‘base of operations’, bitch face turned up again and gave me some orders (even though it’s apparently me who is in charge, typical woman). I needed to save and round up a bunch of people to make this place better or something. I’ve no idea why I specifically need these guys, or why I have to retrieve them alone, but I do. So I set off to the first person who needs saving, a doctor who’s being held against her will to treat some guys who like shooting other guys, who I have to shoot to make things better. Yeah…

Starting a mission for the first time is seamless. I turned up at the area and the mission just happens, no loading, nothing. Pow! Straight into the action. I take cover and pump bullets into some bad guys because they’re bad, apparently. I’m not sure here, I don’t know them, they might be nice guys just looking for meds for their mums or something, but I have to shoot them because the game told me too. The first mission was a piece of cake, it nicely show cased most of what the game had to offer, which is basically just shooting stuff till their health has gone and picking up random crap.

At the end of the mission there’s often a ‘named enemy’, who is quite difficult to kill and has quite a high chance of dropping a decent piece of equipment. Well, after 5 hours of playing, I’m still using the same weapons that I started with. I’ve found some handy mods for them, but so far, all the weapons I’ve picked up have been crap, including the “uncommon” ones I’ve found.

 

Living, Breathing World

That’s the tag-line on the website for The Division’s open world. So, how living is it? Well, let me spoil that for you, it ain’t. It’s bland, empty and devoid of life. As I’ve already pointed out, the civilian NPC’s constantly shout shit about you hurting them, even where you’re no where near them. They do appear to be going about their little lives though, I often see people moving planks of wood and rolled up carpets, people trying to break into cars or having fights over, um, not sure you can’t really tell. But the minute you approach, they stop everything, shout some crap at you for being violent or threatening them and then proceed to run away in terror. It’s not right, it breaks the immersion and makes the bystanders feel like nothing more than robots that are in the way. If it wasn’t for the fact they are bullet proof, I could happily shoot them and feel nothing.

Tom Clancy's The Division Beta2016-2-21-14-28-34

A civilian in need. If you help them, they might give you something nice.

Every once in a while someone will be interactive! You can tell that they’re interactive because some orange lines go over them and it says “scanning”. The only option with these guys is to either hold ‘F’ to give them what they want (usually water, soda, food or a medkit, the only item there that you have any use for is the medkit) or to simply walk away. Helping them rewards you with XP and on occasion the civilian will drop you an item to use (whilst writing this a woman has just shouted “God is watching you, he sees your selfishness!”, yeah? Go fuck yourself, love). This is how I have obtained all of my characters cosmetic items, meaning so far, giving civilians random crap has been more rewarding than playing missions. Walking away from a civilian in need, holds no consequences, none at all. They shout abuse at you, but they do that anyway regardless of your actions, so I don’t feel anything towards them other than “shut the fuck up”.

In the original E3 show case, the dev went on about how the weather would effect the gameplay and your strategies. Well, that’s a load of crap, there’s no weather as such, it’s just the snow particles get a little more dense. That’s it. it has no effect on anything. Typical Ubisoft Bull-fluff as per usual. So that’s the “living, breathing world”, or as I like to call it: “Empty shell for shooting in”.

 

Loot Crates

What would an RPG be without loot? Well, this game would just be a third person shooter. Loot crates can be found all over the place and they hold a variety of items. Not only is loot in crates though, helping civilians (as above) occasionally gives you loot, killing bad guys gives you loot and no doubt in time, using your credit card will give you loot. So far I’ve found lots of loot and so far none of it has been of much use. I’m still using the same weapons I started with, so the loot isn’t exactly exciting. I’ve actually stopped checking when I pick something new up, I kind of already know it’s just gonna be crap.

Tom Clancy's The Division Beta2016-2-20-17-41-9

Modifying your guns can be quite fun, though they don’t really add much to the gameplay.

One thing I did find good was the gun mods. You can alter how your gun lucks (and its stats) by equipping various gun mods, you can even change the colour of your gun (though I thought they looked rather shite). I found lots of different mods ranging from magazine upgrades to scopes and sights. They all do something different, and by different I mean they alter the numbers that you shoot at people. The only thing that makes a real difference is the scopes, but I didn’t find myself using them very often.

Tom Clancy's The Division Beta2016-2-20-17-42-37

Tom Clancy’s The Cat Walk.

You can alter how you look in the appearance menu, which lets you swap items of clothing for different pieces that you’ve found. Nothing here has any stats, it’s just cosmetics, but I found it one of the most entertaining aspects. You can change your shoes, hat, trousers, jackets and even your little sweater beneath your jacket. It’s fun yo give your character a different look without having stats effect your decisions. All of the cosmetic items I found were from helping civilians, which I actually found myself doing more and more once I realised what the potential rewards were. Guess I’m a sucker for a new blouse?

 

Combat

Honestly, there’s nothing new here. The combat within The Division is just your normal, run of the mill RPG style shooting. As you progress your targets get stronger, and by stronger I mean they get more health and have guns that take away more numbers from your health bar. There’s no tactics or strategy involved within the combat other than shoot them, hide, heal, shoot them again. Some things are aggravating, such as melee enemies who catch you off guard. Once they’re too close, you can’t shoot at them, your bullets magically warp straight through them and you’re left pretty much defenceless unless you can manage to make your own melee attack hit them. That can be awkward and random, as your melee attack doesn’t seem to hit where it looks like it’s hitting. Again, this is an area I feel needs some work, but it’s not massively game breaking.

Tom Clancy's The Division Beta2016-2-20-15-37-1

Pew pew! Standard third-person cover combat. pop-up, shoot, hide, heal, repeat.

It’s just a game of numbers and there’s nothing here to hide that fact. Getting the drop on a group of enemies doesn’t feel rewarding as they simply sponge your bullets, them being out of cover does nothing as again, they sponge your bullets. Headshots count for nothing as, once again, they sponge your bullets. How a woollen beanie hat can protect you from 30+ 5.56mm NATO rounds straight to the cranium, I will never know, but in this game, it does.

 

The Dark Zone

Which brings me onto the Dark Zone, the actual multiplayer part of the game. It’s separate from the other part of the game, a place where you can actually see other players and those players can shoot you! Shooting another player marks you and your team as ‘Rogue Agents’, making you appear red to all other players who can freely shoot you without punishment. It’s a good mechanic, until you realise that again, this is a numbers game and if that guy has more numbers, you don’t stand much of a chance. Once open combat begins, this isn’t a game of skill, it’s a game of numbers, and the guy with the biggest will win. The only way to even the playing field is by using sneaky tactics, as now you’re fighting against humans, they can’t instantly see your position, buying you a small amount of time to pump them full of lead.

I snook up on these guys and pumped them full of lead.

I snook up on these guys and pumped them full of lead.

Whilst visiting an extraction zone for the first time, I managed to sneak into a position that overlooked the entire place, I was simply doing reconnaissance to see what actually happened at these extraction zones and no one saw me enter. Some lone guy called for an extraction and when it arrived 2 other guys turned up, they were dicks and decided that 2 v 1 was fair and tried to kill the lone soldier. They didn’t count on me being there as they left themselves exposed to my hidden position and I rained holy lead upon their wretched bodies. they didn’t see it coming and even though both myself and the lone soldier were at lower levels, we managed to kill them both. I shot over my healing ability to his position to patch him up and went on my jolly way. I did later meet this player again, he rescued me from some enemy NPC’s after they had downed me.

Name and shame for the win. This guy and his friends could use their abilities over and over again without cool downs. Had infinite ammo. And took no damage from the 6 other guys hurling bullets at them. These guys are cunts.

Name and shame for the win. This guy and his friends could use their abilities over and over again without cool downs. Had infinite ammo. And took no damage from the 6 other guys hurling bullets at them. These guys are cunts.

Now the bad side. Hackers, cheaters, pieces of shit or cunts, what ever you like to call them. They’re all ready in the game. They can see through and shoot through obstacles, even buildings. They have infinite ammo, have no cool down on their abilities and take no damage. This is the part that worries me about online games, and as per usual, Ubisoft will do exactly nothing to stop it. We had it with Ghost Recon: Future Soldier, which was over ran with hackers using aimbots and wall hacks. We had it with Watch_Dogs which, when the invasion system was turned on, had hackers spawn into your game with infinite health, infinite ammunition and the ability to teleport around the map, nothing was ever done to offenders. More recently we’ve seen it happen all over again in the new Rainbow Six: Siege, wall hacks and aim bots are becoming common place in that game. Ubisoft claim to be clamping down and banning accounts, but notorious cheaters still have their accounts active and still run riot (even folks who admit to hacking and advertise it on various websites are still active). This is just the beta and already I’ve witnessed this behaviour in 3 different players and that is only from a small sample of players (at a guess I’ve only come across 25-30 players in total) so it’s a massive turn off.

I have a serious lack of faith in Ubisoft to be able to prevent or punish cheaters, their past records only reinforce this lack of faith. And to be unable to play what is essentially a huge part of the game due to cheaters is something serious.

 

PC Stuff

Tom Clancy's The Division Beta2016-2-20-15-18-15

There’s a nice set of user option sin the game, but still not quite enough.

The options in The Division are quite well rounded. The graphics options offer a range of effects and settings that can be tweaked to your systems needs. The biggest part for me though was being able to customise the GUI. As usual the GUI is insanely massive and overly intrusive. Things that should sit quietly at the sides are brought into the screen way to far and intrude on the action. The options allow you to scale these back to a more normal size. A problem I found with this though, is that not everything scales. Moving the mini-map up into the top left corner moves all the mission status text as well, but once in the dark zone, the areas level range sits over the top of your mission text, making a lovely mess of jumbled words.

Another thing that annoys the pants off me is the stupid little ammo counter that constantly sits next to your character. It’s massively intrusive and doesn’t really have any reason to be where it is. There’s no options for scaling it down, or moving its position, which I must say is disappointing. I feel it should be lower down the screen. I know why it’s here, to make it easier to see your health/ammo/abilities, but after 20+ years of gaming, this is not where my eye goes to view this info, my eyes go down and right, to the edge of the screen. It’s just jarring, mildly irritating and reinventing something that has been a standard seen the dawn of games. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Tom Clancy's The Division Beta2016-2-20-16-7-50

Santa needs a few seconds to load in, brb.

Performance is reasonably good on my rig. There’s never anything massively crazy going on and my GTX760 managed to keep smooth frames for the most part with the settings set to “high”. It does have limited VRAM though, which brings up my first concern, texture pop-in. Remember Rage? Well the textures in this game are just as bad. Going into a new area causes all the new textures to be streamed in, and when outside, this isn’t too noticeable, but when inside this becomes massively obvious.

Textures are slow to stream in, leaving objects and walls with hideous blurry textures that suddenly pop in crisp and clear (see screenshot above). I thought it may have been the limited 2GB VRAM of my ageing graphics card, so I decided to try it on something with a little more, well, double actually. Unfortunately the same problem persists on that machine too, so it would seem it’s an engine thing. This is mildly off putting, especially when you see it happen to smoke, which simply turns into a bunch of semi-transparent squares until the texture has been streamed in. Here’s hoping this is fixed at some point before launch.

 

Final Thoughts

The Division is nothing ground breaking or revolutionary, but it is fun. Running around the massive map shooting at folks up to no good is a blast and the tension certainly rises once you set foot into the Dark Zone. Playing with a group of friends will only increase the fun levels.

Unfortunately, the multiplayer part is ruined by the presence of cheaters (already) and without Ubisoft bringing down the ban hammer on all accounts found to be (or even suspected of) cheating, this game will be ruined in a matter of weeks. A policy like Valves needs to be employed, where being banned in one game, bans you in all games. It doesn’t prevent cheaters, but it’ll put a cost on it, something that does help deter some would-be cheaters.

Overall, I enjoyed most of my time in The Division, I think I may even grab a copy when it’s released. Stand by for the full review once it’s out!

 


 

HD Gallery

Judgement
Pros:
  • Looks nice. Not as nice as the trailers had us believe (typical Ubi bull-shots).
  • Intense moments when you meet another player in the darkzone.
  • Some players can be really friendly and help you out.
  • Options and customisation is good, though lacking in some areas.
Cons:
  • Poor texture streaming.
  • MMO style damage system makes combat jarring and unsatisfactory.
  • Hackers. Already...
  • Extremely basic interaction between players, NPC's and the environment. Everything feels so empty and static.
  • GUI needs massive improvement. It's oversized and intrusive, like all the other Ubisoft games.
NaytoE on FacebookNaytoE on Twitter
NaytoE
Web Master at CoupesCorner
Nathan is lumbered with all the technical stuff behind CoupesCorner. If stuff breaks, it's always someone else's fault, but he'll fix it, because he's a pretty awesome guy.

Nathan loves tactical shooters, RPG's and Bro-Ops games. Some all-time favourites of his are Black and White 2, Postal 2, the Rainbow Six series and Pokemon. He also loves playing guitar and fishing with his dad, when Lozzy isn't busy making him do stuff...
Related Posts