A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to play the first closed beta of the new Ubisoft open-world, Tom Clancy's The Division. Despite some bugs here and there The Division was surprisingly good. I spent more than ten hours exploring the streets of Manhattan and it was a wonderful experience, full of surprises.
I'm not a big fan of multiplayer games yet I found myself deeply immersed into what this world is built upon. Ubisoft made a lot of marketing campaign around the game and it is safe to say that it will made decent figures. But is The Division as good as it looks ?
A Gorgeous Post-Apocalyptic Setting
The scenario of The Division is quite simple. We are plunged a few years in the future where most of New-York population - and maybe other cities of the world - have been eradicated because of a virus unleashed during the Black Friday. The Big Apple is now devastated and in the throws of conflict between several armed factions:
- The Rioters: this group of thugs and criminals believes in the survival of the fittest and wants to bring chaos to New-York.
The Cleaners: armed of flamers, this group composed of former New-York blue collars, think that the only way to save the city from the virus is to wipe-out everyone left in it.
The Rikers: this group of escapees from Rikers Island who think the streets of New-York are theirs to take.
Last Man Battalion or LMB: this private military group was hired during the outbreak by Wall Streets companies to protect their assets but were left behind. They are now aiming to take over New-York and establish a new world by force.
We, the players, are all part of The Division, a special unit who thinks New-York still needs saving. Throughout the game you will come across those different factions and battle in the streets of New-York. The game takes place during the winter giving a very moody tone to it, even sometimes cynical with all the Christmas decorations left behind.
Little is known about the game scenario - because there is a solo adventure - but New-York is simply gorgeous. You really find yourself immersed into it. Of course there is a little downgrade in quality when compared to the E3 2014 footage, but that does not change the fact that The Division looks incredible on screen. The game has this "I Am Legend" feel that makes it really compelling. Playing on a laptop with medium settings, the game was constantly at 40 FPS, something rather surprising for a beta.
A Range Of Activities
While the map was not entirely accessible there were enough activities to entertain you for some 20 hours. In The Division you have a base of operation where you can buy ammo, new weapons or clothes . It should be pointed out that the base is the only place where you cannot be seen by other players, even those of your own team, because it represents your personal progression in the game.
The main missions are divided into three entities: the medical, the tech and the security wing. You will have to upgrade those three parts to restore your base. In the closed beta, only one mission involving the medical wing was available. A beautiful mission by the way, set in the Madison Square Garden and incredibly faithful to reality from what I heard.
Despite the very small amount of main quests, a lot of side missions requiring to help soldiers against enemy factions or taking back locations from the Rikers were available and sufficiently interesting to keep you entertained for a few hours.
The ECHO missions are also another part really interesting of the game. Those side quests are like investigations showing what the New-Yorkers went through during the outbreak. All you can see are frozen orange shadows but you are hearing the screams, the violence that happened during the plague making the purpose of those missions really effective.
The Dark Zone
I kept the best for last. The Dark Zone is the main feature of The Division and the real MMO component of the game. The Dark Zone is an abandoned part of New-York where the virus is still active. Your main objective is to find ressources still contaminated and evacuate them by helicopter. Those ressources will then be available in your base.
While everyone is part of The Division, this place is all about the survival of the strongest. You'll have to watch your back every time you go into the Dark Zone and keep your loot tightly close. That's why the game is even more enjoyable with a team. Killing one other member of The Division will make your team renegade and you will be tracked by everyone on the map. People tend to avoid this kind of situation but one stray bullet and everything goes to hell.
I once found myself with my team in front of two other Division agents and not knowing if we could trust them we stayed a few minutes with our weapons drawn at each other. Luckily it didn't end in a bloodshed but it could have gone either way. The Division really is a game that plays with your nerves. You can't even know if you can trust the people in your own team as they could at any moment decide to take your loot for themselves.
There was some concerns about the quality of the new Ubisoft IP but they have been swept away by this first beta. The game is diabolically immersive and despite a few bugs, that will hopefully be rectified by March, The Division could well be the ultimate multiplayer experience people were waiting for. In the meantime a second beta will run from February 19 to 21 if you want to make your mind up about the game.
The Division is set to release in full on March 8th 2016.