Urban Warfare: A Weekend With 'Tom Clancy's The Division'

After a few years at shows and private events, Tom Clancy’s The Division was finally playable to a large group of players this past weekend in a closed beta session. For many players, the beta was their first glimpse at the highly-anticipated title before its March 8 release date. Even though the content was limited, it provided an idea of what to expect from the full version.

Winter Wonderland

From the moment you arrive in Manhattan, you’ll have three weapons at your disposal. Assault rifles, sniper rifles, shotguns and submachine guns fill up the primary and secondary slots, and a variety of handguns are available as a sidearm. All in all, that’s three weapons to use at the beginning, which is more than enough to take out anything once you step onto the unsafe streets of New York City.

The first order of business is to set up a base of operations, which houses medical, tech and security wings. However, you’ll need to undergo certain missions to rescue the staff required to run each section. In this case, the beta’s sole story-based mission is to rescue the head of your medical staff from a group of enemies holed up in the now-abandoned Madison Square Garden.

Fight, Fight, Fight

As expected, The Division uses the traditional cover-based shooting gameplay, but the abilities of each character make each encounter very intense. In the final version, you can choose from a plethora of skills, talents and perks, but for the beta, only few skills were available, such as the ability to scan for enemies or eliminate a large group of foes with an adhesive explosive. More often than not, these skills are very useful in combat, as you’re usually outnumbered. With these skills, as well as the ability to throw a variety of grenades, you can turn the odds in your favor.

The enemies themselves are smart, as they continually move from cover to cover and find ways to flush you out with traditional grenades or a stun grenade. There are even melee units that will charge towards you for the easy kill. There are also varying types of soldiers, from the usual grunt to the leader of the group (who is more aggressive and has an additional layer of armor). 

Aside from story missions, you usually find groups of enemies scattered throughout the city, looting bodies, cornering weak civilians or fortifying a small outpost. There’s a lot of ground to cover in The Division, especially on foot, so these small encounters keep you alert as you walk from point A to point B.

Lots And Lots Of Inventory

The heart of The Division is its items. Much like Destiny, this game relies heavily on a variety of equipment and weapons to show off the strength of each player.

As previously mentioned, you’ll have three available weapons at all times, but there are other items that contribute to your stats, such as the armored vest, gloves and even the gun holster that all contribute to armor; the backpack that increases your inventory size limit; and the mask that determines which contaminated areas you can enter throughout Manhattan. If that wasn’t enough, you can also obtain additional mods for your weapons. Attachments such as scopes, quick-eject magazines and multiple underbarrel accessories are found throughout the city.

Vendors in safe areas, such as your newfound base, can also buy and sell various items, so you can unload unwanted junk or acquire better items.

The Dark Zone

Once you’re done with the story mission and the various side missions throughout the area, you can spend the rest of the time in the Dark Zone, a more challenging section of the map. Playing in this area also gives you currency specific to the Dark Zone, and you can use it to buy even more powerful items and weapons.

Unlike the items located in the rest of the map, the Dark Zone holds more valuable items, but because of the high concentration of the deadly outbreak in the area, these items need to be decontaminated before you can use them. This means you’ll have to call in a helicopter to extract your items from a specific location. The Dark Zone also has tougher enemies, which converge on these extraction areas, so players will have to work together and defend the area before extracting their items.

Most of the time, players are just running around alone or in groups to explore the area, or killing enemies for their loot. However, this is the only place in the game where player-versus-player combat (PvP) is possible. Players can kill each other for obtained loot, but you will be designated as a rogue Division agent, and other agents can hunt you down for more experience, money and loot.

Unfortunately, there wasn’t that much PvP action going on in the beta. Everyone was mostly aiming to get the higher-level items and working together to take out enemies, and if someone did turn rogue, most of the players banded together and took him or her out very quickly.

Still, the Dark Zone is an exciting place to play, as it has the higher risk of PvP and tougher AI enemies, but it’s more rewarding in terms of the items gained in the area. The single-player content could potentially be as fun if there was more to explore. You can complete the side missions and various encounters in the beta within two hours. After that, roaming around on your own becomes stagnant. If you want to do more within the beta, you’ll need to enter the Dark Zone.

The Possibilities

The Division beta showed that it can keep players entertained for a few hours, whether it’s through single-player excursions or PvP gameplay in the Dark Zone. There was also some depth in terms of the variety of items presented, although there could have been more content in terms of activities so that players could explore more of Manhattan.

But of course, this is a beta, so the game isn’t finished quite yet. The experience was more enjoyable than dull in most cases. Now, it’s up to developers to deliver on content to keep players entertained for more than just a few hours. There are high hopes for The Division, and it would be a shame to see such an opportunity squandered by Ubisoft.

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  • Celsian
    Unfortunately, there wasn’t that much PvP action going on in the beta.

    Weird, I had the exact opposite experience.
  • Celsian
    "Unfortunately, there wasn’t that much PvP action going on in the beta."

    Weird, I had the exact opposite experience.
  • envain
    If you wanted some PVP start some. Going Rogue in this game taking out another player and his gear then running for dear life is some of the most fun I've had in awhile in games. Besides the overwatch beta this was the most fun I've ever had in one.
  • BansheeMarc
    The whole map should be pvp
  • clonazepam
    I had some pretty intense firefights, and hauled out a ton of gear, all of which was terrible, and a waste of time. I'm sure that was intended due to being beta. I broadcast it for several hours without a hitch.

    As others have said, there was no FOV slider in the beta, so plenty of people felt motion sickness, probably from keyboard / mouse and being much closer to a monitor. Can anyone confirm the final version will have some adjustment?

    Also, you can only get so excited about a pair of kneepads, I mean really. How many kneepads are you going to loot over the life of this game? How drastically different yet the same will your first pair feel from your most recent?

    I like the game, I just don't put the same dollar value on it as Ubisoft (yet).