Tom Clancy's The Division BETA PS4 Review
Released by Ubisoft
An open world, a world in chaos and a world into which you are thrown.
The Tom Clancy Division Beta went live over the weekend and offered up some idea of what to expect when the game finally hits release in March this year.
First glimpsed over a year ago, the game was delayed which was a shame given the promise that the demos I'd witnessed showed.
Loosely, you play an agent in a group known as The Division, which is activated once a devastating pandemic sweeps through NYC on Black Friday and the world starts to collapse. Chaos envelops society and without food or water, it's every man or woman for themselves. And that's where you come in - activated from your apparently sleeper cell status, it's up to you to try and restore some calm and investigate the source of the virus.
The first thing about Tom Clancy's The Division is how wonderfully realised the environment is. From a snow covered New York City that glistens with both wonder and menace, the rendering is nothing short of perfection as you hurtle around trying to achieve main game missions or play side quests which pop up without warning.
Missions initially include setting up a base camp to ensure you have somewhere to call your own, but you're faced with looters determined to take you out at any turn and who, in the desperate throes of survival, will do anything to get by.
Combat's a little trickier too, if you're used to simply going hurtling, all guns blazing. The game is predominantly based on cover tactics and requires you to utilise all of this and protect yourself. The problem is that pressing X all the way down will guarantee you go toward a cover-based spot, but removing that halfway through, will see your player stop, stand up and get blasted or beaten. I get that it's a commitment thing, but the lack of being able to commit simply by tapping a button is a frustration, particularly if you're trying to launch directly into an attack after.
Loot collection is a little more difficult as well if combat is underway and you have to really clear the enemies away before stopping to snoop, a touch which if you're trying to gear up while in combat is another source of frustration.
Shooting takes some learning too, bizarrely. It's not just point and press - aiming carefully will do more damage than blasting blindly and blazing. That makes sense but when you're overwhelmed with combatants, it makes a showdown a little trickier and needs you to strategise rather than go nuts.
That said, The Division is quite eminently playable.
Wandering around the city proves to be fertile ground with other side missions and jobs needing doing prior to following the main narrative. While areas of the game were locked off because of the BETA and needing higher XP to get to them, there are signs there will be much to do in the whole game and enough to suck your time up.
The map's rendering is nicely done too. Calling up the map overlays the whole thing over your current environment and means you can see how far you have to go and what's around you. This AR approach to a game map is a clever and inspiring touch that makes you feel connected to the world and immersed within the quest.
There wasn't time to check out the online component of the game within the Dark Zone, a quarantined area where others can join or fight against you (my money's on a little less collaboration when push comes to shove in the game's release) but the promise of Tom Clancy's The Division shows the open world premise holds up.
While there are hints that repetition of mission could become an issue, a BETA is only a taster and while record numbers signed up for this test, it doesn't look like the online game fell over at all.
Tom Clancy's The Division BETA offered up some tantalising hints of what's ahead - meshing the very best of shooters with Watch_Dogs ethics and outright chaos, it looks like the March release of this game will see the wait and anticipation finally realised and the appetite satiated.