Players on Steam will be well versed in the problems surrounding Early Access games.
A lot of these games are poorly made, uninspired and they seek to make a quick buck with the promise of a better game “coming soon”. Still, people buy into these games, this hype with the hope of a worthy game being made.
Now, Tom Clancy’s The Division isn’t a Steam Early Access game (in fact, if Ubisoft had it their way you’d only be playing via Uplay), so why mention it at all? Well, because The Division feels exactly like an Early Access game.
We first played The Division at rAge 2015 and we weren’t exactly impressed. Our editor Nick said the guns felt like they were loaded with frozen peas, and staff writer Deon kept his mouth shut as the devlopers watched him play with hopefull eyes. He later told us it was janky at best.
It’s a good thing, then, that rAge was in October of last year, leaving Ubisoft ample time to fix up those problems and deliver a better experience. With that in mind we jumped into the closed Beta this weekend, only to find the frozen peas and jankyness right were we left them.
As a cover based shooter, The Division isn’t exactly breaking new ground. Cover mechanics have been solid ever since Gears of War (and maybe before then) and, hell, we’ve had great shooting since fighting demons from hell in Doom. Unfortunately, this game manages to mess it up.
Character movement is clunky, and the cover (while ample) doesn’t flow with the combat. But the shooting – oh, ye gods – the shooting is the biggest sin here. Guns have almost zero impact aside from moderate recoil. When your bullets hits enemies… they just kind of look at you. And then you look at them. And then maybe in between heated glances the engine figures out what’s happened and they’ll take damage.
Our favourite moment was using a sticky grenade launcher on a pair of unsuspecting thugs that were looting a body. The explosive hit, we detonated it, the goons commented on their pickings, and then after a few more moments they flew into the sky like team Rocket from Pokémon.
This lethargy extends into the rest of the beta too. An outbreak of a virus during Black Friday has brought the law of the jungle to the city and it’s up to the titular Division to regain control of the streets. As an agent on the ground, you’re only one of many, and the game tries to live a duel life by using faux MMO elements.
In certain parts of the city, Dark Zones, you’ll meet other players trying to collect items, XP and money which are exclusive to that zone. Your character then becomes split in two with separate stats for the two zones.
This also opens up a whole new can of worms to go along with the bland gameplay, as there has been widespread hacking on the PC version and, we’re taking a guess here, those Dark Zone items could potentially become premium currency.
The Division has a redeeming feature or two: it looks pretty swish on PC and there might be a good story here. But, with a release date this March and the game feels bland, lacking in impact or compelling features. To be honest, at this stage, The Division’s beta this feels like a poorly made affair – very much akin to the efforts of those fly-by-night developers on Steam.