‘Tom Clancy’s The Division’ Impressions From The Beta — Worth The Wait?

When Tom Clancy’s The Division was first unveiled at E3 2013, many fans and critics alike were blown away by what was deemed at the time the next generation of gaming visuals. While the mechanics in the end were shown to be nothing new, The Division is a cover-based third person shooter, and the technical demo showcased a few years back definitely impressed.

Fast forward three years and a few delays later, and it’s not the visuals that are impressing critics, but the gameplay itself. The Division is another game to follow the trend of being visually downgraded since the initial E3 reveal — fellow Ubisoft title Watch_Dogs and mega-hit The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt are two of the most clear examples of this — however, the gameplay shown off in the beta these past few days have few players actually critiquing the game for this.

Tom Clancy's The Division Beta Impressions
The Division from E3 2013. The game still looks similar, but definitely a downgrade from the initial reveal. [Image via Ubisoft]

Tom Clancy’s The Division is set in New York City, where a devastating pandemic has swept through the metropolis. As basic services fail, food and water become scarce. The city itself is plunged into chaos. Enter The Division: a group of self-reliant agents activated to avert further calamity and save society. The Division pits you as one of these agents as you’re dropped in the middle of New York City with nothing more than the gear on your back.

Having spent extensive time with the PC version of the beta this weekend, though the beta is also available on Xbox One and PlayStation 4, The Division is definitely a game that is worth looking at if you’re into shooters and role-playing games. The Division melds the two concepts together so that one doesn’t seem to take over the other, but in fact the shooter and RPG elements seem to compliment each other well.

Visually, the Snowdrop engine does look pared back compared to the early footage, but that doesn’t mean that The Division is a wholly unattractive game. The Division boasts many graphics options on PC to tinker with, and even includes some graphics sliders on console, something not done for the most part these days. While features such as global illumination are missing, the game still looks great, especially as the fog and snow pick up.

Mechanically, The Division boasts some great controls, especially on PC. Oftentimes, with developers opting to be sure that their games have tight gamepad controls, and as a result many PC titles have the keyboard and mouse controls overlooked. Thankfully, developer Massive is showing off the PC pedigree, and The Division feels well done on the PC, and thanks to the fact it’s on a computer, players can remap if there’s a quirk with the controls they themselves don’t like.

The UI is also another well-done aspect of The Division. Minimalist in its design, yet also displays plenty of information, the UI doesn’t interfere with the player, which is refreshing. Too often, shooter games tend to try and clutter your screen with so much information that it become distracting. So far in the beta, The Division has never once brought me out of the game because of something that popped up on screen. The UI is compact, and on PC you even have the option to completely move the UI to a secondary monitor if you have one available, meaning that your entire gameplay screen is reserved for just that — your gameplay.

It’s still a beta — players and critics will need to wait until the full game releases in March, but The Division is looking to shape up into one gaming’s better games to start 2016. The parallels are there with Destiny and other MMO-esque shooters, but the setting and style make the game feel altogether new. The PVP zones, the Dark Zone, makes for some tense moments. You never know who will end up going rogue and turn on their fellow agents, which adds a whole new element to the game not seen in other titles. In fact, as Kotaku boasts, this element of The Division is one of the game’s saving graces at the moment.

Playing Tom Clancy’s The Division this weekend? Sound off on your thoughts about how The Division stacks up so far.

[Images via Ubisoft]