Bullets flying past my head. Explosions deafening me. Laser sights follow targets like a moth to a flame. People falling around me.
This is one moment I experienced from playing The Division Beta, as five of us fought against three rogue players down a street. It was intense, nerve-wracking and the most important part; fun.
I was surprised by how much I enjoyed The Division Beta. Not only had I heard many negatives about the game; no singleplayer mode, online-only. However, when I finally played it, it was thrilling, and kept me hooked.
There were two different areas available in the beta; regular New York, where it was PvE, and the Dark Zone, where PvP came into effect. The regular area is large and expansive (though this was only a small portion of the map, which gives me high hopes about the size of the playable area upon release), and focused on completing missions to improve your main headquarters, in order to improve and upgrade it.
Only two main missions were available in the beta, and one side mission (which I unfortunately didn’t get to play), but they added variety to the usual style of missions we get in MMOs. One mission involved us rescuing a doctor from some Rioters (a local faction) and escorting her to safety on a rooftop. The other had us repairing a power station and defending an engineer for the Cleaners (one of the other factions) as he got it up and running. Despite the limited number of missions, they gave us two fairly different situations, and it was a welcome breath of fresh air from the usual cut-and-paste missions in MMOs.
The Dark Zone, however, was where the real fun comes in (at least for me). Players, usually in teams of four at most, enter the Dark Zone in the hunt for new gear. The best and rarest gear spawns in the Dark Zone, and so if you want an edge, you’ll need to go in there. Players can carry up to six pieces of contaminated gear at a time, found on enemies, in crates, and on other players, and once they reach the maximum amount, they must extract their gear. This is when the fear and paranoia begins to set in. In the Dark Zone, not only are the AI mobs a threat, but so are other players. At any time they could fire upon you, kill you and take your gear, and so you begin to worry about who you can really trust. A group of players gather at your extraction zone, and you’re unsure whether to stay and risk being gunned down, or take the relatively safe but also risky option of running to another extraction zone. An instance of this is when I went to extract some blue gear (rare), and suddenly a rogue player fired a grenade into the centre of my group and killed us all, and made off with the loot.
The Dark Zone feels very DayZ-esque, minus the zombies; you don’t know who you can trust and who is really just after your gear. Rogue players run through the streets, gunning down anyone and everyone they can find (sometimes rogue groups will work together, meaning you occasionally get a large group of eight rogue players running around), and when you have loot that you really want, it becomes a terrifying game of dodging between alleyways in order to avoid others, and heading for empty extraction zones to ensure nothing happens to you. This is an incredibly fun mechanic and adds a tension that many other games such as this lack; do you pull the trigger on another player in order to save yourself, and risk becoming rogue and gaining a bounty?
The abilities add interesting new methods of fighting. There are three skill trees – Healer, Tech, and Security – that have their own abilities to use. Healers have a scanner ability to find enemies in the area around you, Techs have turrets that can be deployed on most surfaces to provide suppression on enemies, and Security have ballistic shields to give them extra damage protection. Not many abilities were available in the beta, but from what we’ve seen so far, they look like they’ll add various play styles to choose. You can also add mods to your abilities, which provide even more variety.
A lot was missing from the beta, such as perks, crafting and the faction system, but from what we’ve seen so far, it seems Ubisoft know what they’re doing, and I’m excited for the full release.