Exhilarating, challenging and best played with friends is the most apt way to describe the beta of the Division 2.
This past weekend I had a chance to check out the private beta of The Division 2. In the brief time I spent with the game my reflexes were tested and strategy skills were challenged along with the ability to play with friends online. If this is how the final game goes, it will be quite the experience.
If you are one that has played the Division then you will feel right at home with the sequel. The 3 to 4 hours I spent in the private beta felt like minutes because I was always headed one way to an objective which quickly resulted in a firefight forcing my teammates and I to strategise the best way forward. It usually involved a lot of shooting and one instance where I was bait. But let’s back up for one second. The game kicks off with the standard character customisation and you are immediately thrust into a tutorial outside of the White House. Once you’ve gotten a hang of the control, you need to take out a band of bandits before you enter the White House which acts as a sort of base for your activities as a member of the Division. The story of the game is the same as its predecessor with the location changing from the concrete jungle of New York to, well, the concrete jungle of Washington D.C. But if gameplay revals are anything to go by, we will see some variety in location in the full game.
Once in the White House, I was handed a main mission and some side quests. I quickly called upon my real life buddies who I have never met to join me in a virtual match. Hiding behind cover, launching healing drones and taking on foes that run at you with a knife in a gunfight, everything happens so fast it kept me on my toes. Hiding behind cover for too long is a bad idea as the enemies will flank you with grenades or change positions to get tactical advantage.
Speaking of tactical advantage, the enemies are bullet sponges and it takes more than a straight headshot to take some of them out. The enemies will move to higher ground, find a free turret to fire at you and do everything in their power to take you down. You need to move to maintain the same tactical advantage. This makes the game a lot of fun and even more when played with friends.
There was one instance where there were 5 ways for the enemies to come at us and the 4 of us (my three friends that have never met and I) needed to defend ourselves. I immediately ran out of cover to draw all the fire at me while my comrades emptied clip after clip to clear the room. Needless to say in a matter of minutes I was on the floor begging to be revived before time ran out.
Moving over to the graphics, the game looks stunning. The Division 2 is running on Ubisoft's Snowdrop engine and on the PS4 Pro hooked up to a 1080p TV, the game managed to hold its own be it in the framerate or visuals. The game is locked at 30 fps and apart from a few stutters immediately after the loading screen, I didn't notice any frame rate issues. Speaking of the visuals, the game looks beautiful with photo realistic character models and foliage that sways in the wind as it would do in real life. There are some times when you notice some off animation with the foes in the game but these are far and few to hamper the experience. There is a day-night cycle in the game but whether it affects enemy presence in the streets is something only time will tell.
Speaking of the sound, I played the game for the most part with a pair of gaming headphones which exhibited good channel separation with big bangs for the guns - no complaints here. Before I end however, there is a confession for me to make. I wasn't playing with friends, not people I know anyways. I was the random player tagging along with pro players as they need a fourth and I need to feel belonged. Needles to say they were far better skilled than me. I did tackle a few missions alone and realised that this is a game where the joy lies in sharing the pain of being the target.
I wasn't heavily invested in the first game mostly because it launched with bugs and server issues and the internet at my disposal at the time was nothing to boast of. I now, however, have three new friends who I know will be playing the game and I can't wait to jump back in with them when the game finally launches on March 15 for the PS4, Xbox One and PC. Stay tuned as we will bring you the full review of the Division 2.
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