I’ve had plenty of complaints, worries, and other quibbles with Ubisoft’s upcoming shooter-MMO The Division, which wrapped up its beta yesterday.
But I’ve also had a lot of fun with the game. Here are the things I enjoyed the most so far.
1. Cover mechanics work great.
Third-person cover shooters are only fun if taking cover works the way it’s intended. Fortunately for us, The Division’s cover mechanics work great. While I don’t find the actual shooting to be anything special, I really like how well moving from one cover to the next works. It’s very smooth and satisfying and after I’d gotten the hang of it, seemed to work without a hitch.
2. Weapon customization is excellent.
I love how much you can customize your guns in The Division. Some games let you customize one or two attachments, but this one gives you tons of options and there’s a plethora of different attachments to choose from. No two guns will be the same, but not in the same way that a game like Borderlands has bazillions of guns. These ones are all more “realistic” and can be customized so that your gun is its very own unique snowflake. This should be fun to play around with more extensively in the full game.
3. The augmented reality UI is incredibly slick.
Yes, there’s problems with default key-mapping on PC, and I never could get my mouse to left-click on any menus or shoot a gun, leading me to use my gamepad exclusively, but the UI itself is great. And while there may be a few too many menus and submenus to navigate, at least the experience of navigating them is pleasant. I also like the little lines in the air that lead you to your map marker or objective. Very easy to follow and unobtrusive.
4. Seeing what your character is equipped with is really cool.
Along the same lines as the user interface is the fact that as your character runs around in third-person, you not only see the different outfits you put on, but the gear and abilities you have equipped. This definitely adds to the immersion level, and is something I’ve wanted to see more of in video games for a long time. Of course, all the loot you pick up—the unrealistic amount of loot you can pick up—remains hidden from view unless you’re in the Dark Zone, where it’s represented as a hazardous materials tube.
5. The graphics are terrific.
New York City looks incredible. The day and night cycle and the dynamic weather is simply stunning. I left the game running at one point and came back a few minutes later to find my character engulfed in a blizzard, which was both surprising and really cool to see. Christmas lights hanging from trees, pools of water reflecting the city above…everything here is simply gorgeous, graphical downgrade or no. Better yet, it looks amazing on all three platforms.
6. The Dark Zone is an incredibly cool concept.
Whether the Dark Zone turns out to be a disaster or one of the coolest implementations of a PvE/Co-Op/PvP hybrid remains to be seen. But so far it’s been one of the most interesting gaming experiences I’ve had this year and I can’t wait to see how it evolves after the full game launches. The potential for really cool emergent storytelling and organic community-building is there, but so is the potential for cheating and frustration.
7. Classless RPG system gives players lots of freedom.
I like roleplaying games that make you choose a class, but sometimes it can feel restrictive. Sometimes these classes are set in stone, other times you can choose from sub-classes (think Destiny) but still remain boxed in by your over-class. Other games, like Dragon’s Dogma or Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, allow you to pick a class and then keep switching it up until you’ve tried everything. But I really like the open-ended system in The Division, even if the beta severely restricted how we could experiment with it.
8. It’s really easy to join a group.
One thing The Division does better than almost any game I’ve played is make socializing a breeze. I’m generally a pretty anti-social gamer, so I don’t go out of my way to join a group typically. But it’s extremely easy to see who’s around and find other players to play with in The Division, which is a no-brainer for this sort of game, but still rarely executed so smoothly.
9. Load-screens are quick, well-disguised, and seamless.
Some games have terrible load times that make you wait, bored and restless, even though this is 2016 and we should have figured this out by now. The Division handles its fairly brief load times much better, by disguising them. For instance, the load screen between your base and the outdoors is that bit where you have to walk really slowly. The load screen itself is masked behind that much less jarring action, and fewer moments spent waiting means more spent having fun.
10. The mission was actually pretty good.
I’ll be honest, one mission isn’t enough to really give us a glimpse at how good the rest of the campaign will be, but I liked the first mission and I was a little disappointed when I couldn’t play more of them. I hope that Ubisoft has placed priority in making missions diverse and varied, and I hope they continue to release story content after the main game because story content is the antidote to too much loot grinding.