Review: The Division Beta

The Division Beta has been in full-swing this weekend and I spent some time playing in post-collapse New York. After abandoning the Alpha after only a short while, I wasn’t particularly excited about the Beta. However, what I found both pleasantly surprised and disappointed me.

imageThe best way perhaps to sum up The Division Beta is simply: An empty landscape full of empty promises. There is simply a lack of meaningful content in the Beta to indicate whether the game is actually worth $60 at-launch.

While the game successfully renders a post-collapse New York in rather stunning detail, there simply weren’t enough story elements or things to do in the Beta to fully flesh out the world or give clear indication as to how this tale would ultimately play out. With only one major mission available: saving a doctor in order to bring her into your headquarters to set up medical services, and about five side missions that had little bearing on any sort of story element, the Beta left me high and dry in a few short hours.

Though the world is rendered nicely, what is unclear is what state the city is in. There are a few straggling citizens wandering around the waste, and some fairly neutral canine scavengers, but there is no indication as to the “why.” Why are these people still in New York? Why are they not dead yet? Most importantly, why should I care?

With an unclear indication as to friend vs. foe on the streets, approaching each person was more an exercise in patience than it was any sort of meaningful game play tactic. One moment you could be walking through a group of a few people you thought were harmless, and the next they could suddenly be shooting at you. There is no clear indication as to threats vs. harmless citizens in the Beta, and wandering aimlessly about trying to figure it out is not exactly thrilling.

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One of the things that seems to have been slightly improved since the Alpha is the menu system and map. There is a nice overlay of the world map that you can bring up (pictured), which is helpful for trying to locate the scarcity of missions and interesting locations in the world. The way the map overlays directly on top of the streets of New York is a nice, slick feature.

The actual menu system itself is also relegated to the straight-line, flat scheme seen in the map overlay, but this doesn’t serve it as well. Flipping through the menu to access your weapons, weapon mods, gear, character appearance, etc. is dull and easy to get lost in. In addition, for all female players out there, prepare to be disappointed by the available selection of characters. There were only three available female characters to play in the Beta and they looked like direct rip-offs of the male character models, with only a slight curvature of the hips and fuller lips to differentiate. In essence, they pretty much resembled men.

But what about this Dark Zone? Well, the real question still remains: what is the Dark Zone? Again, with no real story direction or information, the Dark Zone seems to be a potential PvP zone that proved more hassle than anything worthwhile. My teammate and I stepped into this area just to investigate and found it woefully underpopulated and rather empty. There were a few enemies around, but their motivations or why we should even care enough to kill them was not indicated. In addition, any errant bullet turned you and your team into traitors who became free game for all other players to prey on, and the haphazard nature of this switch from friend to foe drove us out of the area before we had time to explore its depths.

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So, how about the actual gameplay? Well, it’s certainly not a Bungie game and the cover-based shooting mechanics took some getting used to. They’re more an acquired taste than they are an intuitive mechanism. Weapons oddly pull in unfriendly directions and there is no satisfaction in the precision of the gun play, as precision didn’t really exist in the Beta. The RPG-type elements that you can equip to your character, such as a healing burst or sticky, explosive device felt pretty standard. They added some depth to the game play options, but there is nothing overtly revolutionary to them.

All-in-all, The Division Beta simply suffers from a lack of content and presents more of a big, empty question mark than it does a tantalizing world that invites you in. In it’s current state, you and your team feel more like aimless wanderers, trying to figure out what to do next, how best to deal with the cover mechanics, and wondering why you should care about this world at all.


Quick Recap

Game: The Division Beta

Platform: Xbox One

Play Time: 2 days or about 4 hours

Pros:

  • Well-designed, post-collapse New York City
  • Quality graphics
  • Empty, wasteland feel
  • Navigating to Objectives
  • Joining up with Teammates

Cons:

  • Imprecise gun play
  • Sticky cover-mechanics
  • Dull, clunky menus
  • Unclear objectives
  • Lack of content
  • Lack of story
  • Unclear motivation
  • Lack of clarity as to friend or foe
  • Easy to ruin Dark Zone experience
  • Lack of customization depth

Would I buy for $60 on launch-day: No

How much would I spend on it? No more than $45

Overall Grade: 7.5/10


 

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