The Division – so is it good?


I have spent just over a week with this heavily hyped and eagerly awaited online RPG shooter.  The Division pits you as an agent called into help clean up the streets of New York of thugs and looters following a deadly pandemic.  As previously reported on here, I tried out both the closed and open betas and enjoyed them…but the main game opens up that experience massively and presents a very detailed and darkly believable world.

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So what’s it actually like to play?  Firstly creating your agent is a little basic but it gives you enough tools to form your own identity, complete with hair styles, male or female genders, tattoos, facial scars, facial hair etc.  You can also swap the clothing throughout the game to various aesthetic-only effect, and it is fun if a little less appealing than the various appearances on offer in Destiny surprisingly.

Secondly I like the game’s initial mechanic of updating your base of operations based on resources earned from various themed missions…rescue a medic, rescue a tech guy and recue a security guy etc.  It’s absorbing and makes the player seek out particular missions to gain particular resources.  For an online based game its a great single-player incentive.  The game also offers up a wealth of side missions which vary in detail but can get quite challenging too.  The game is also split into various districts that are set at certain levels that you’re best avoiding if your character’s level isn’t high enough.  One shot kills are plentiful if you dare to enter these areas at a low level.

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The multiplayer portion of the game is fairly seamless and if like me you don’t have actual friends to jump into a game with, match making with a group is easy and works well, with communication only partially necessary as the missions mostly lead you by the hand amidst being assaulted by various enemies and objectives.  On the other hand the ‘darkzone’ is not such an easily accessible place and I haven’t really had the opportunity to jump in with a team, so therefore solo excursions have meant many deaths and little to no reward as of yet.  It remains enticing, especially with the prospect of exotic loot, but for now it’s on the back burner.

Division dark zoneIt’s a game I think will take up a lot of the players time and the world is highly detailed, full of atmosphere with lots of areas to explore and random encounters to help build up your stats as you find supplies, kill bad guys and have fun.  New York City is impressively realised, that visual downgrade hardly an issue anymore as this game is a real looker; weather effects, state-of-the-art lighting and superb textures and animations all helping immersion.  One slight issue is some pretty bad pop-in especially when leaving a safe house or underground area and reaching the street – but I’m sure it’s a visual hiccup that can be patched.  I’m playing it on the PS4.

The gameplay itself, despite a strong narrative and interesting back stories and solid gunplay can get repetitive, and samey enemies seem to be a factor that you keep encountering again and again.  The various factions in the game add some variety, but the way you take them on is pretty much the same every time.  As with any MMORPG (which this is to some extent) it’s a concept and a game world that hopefully will grow and develop as time goes on.  I am enjoying it a great deal if you hadn’t realised and am only looking forward to what the developers come up with to further add to the experience.

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Will The Division be good?


I have the game coming next Tuesday and to be honest I’m a little apprehensive.  The two Betas that we had were ok, and the gameplay and combat seemed good…but I’m still not entirely sure how interesting the final game will end up being.  Will it be a game that only really comes alive when playing co-operatively, or will it work just as well (or well enough) in single player?  The world it depicts that of a post-virus outbreak near-future New York is certainly compelling and developer Massive Games has done a great job of bringing New York to gritty life, but the wow-factor of the first reveal and the final graphical downgrade still stings me.

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I have been playing a lot of Destiny lately and enjoy it on an exploration and character developing basis, and the various missions whilst a bit samey are still fun with solid gunplay mechanics and an interesting world.  Yet that has several large planet environments to explore and therefore gives some variety to the surroundings.  The Division on the other hand just has New York and as well realised as the city environment may be, for a game that is meant to last for a long time, several years in fact … one admittedly huge environment is still that – one environment.  I’m sure the various areas and districts will have their own flavour, but at this stage I’m wondering about the game’s lasting appeal for months to come.  It also niggles me the developer’s focus on The Dark Zone, a multiplayer PVP environment that for me, was never the big pull of this game and turns it into basically another multiplayer shooter but with loot and a few NPC characters to shoot.  It’s interesting but the developer seems way too focused on it and less  focused on the game’s narrative or single player / co-operative experience outside the ‘dark zone’.

I’ll offer a more rounded opinion on the game once I have played a fair bit of the final product.  At the moment though I’m a little less excited than I should be.  I’ll leave you with the launch trailer…

Falling for a Titan


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Well it’s here, after much anticipation and a teasing beta, now I have the actual game in my hands!  Yes I am talking about XBOX ONE’s much anticipated exclusive (at least as far as it not coming to PS4) … Titanfall.  Developed by ex members of Infinity Ward, the guys responsible for the highly popular shooter Call Of Duty, this futuristic online-only game breathes some much needed fresh air into what was becoming a tired genre.

The basic concept is that you fight in two teams, at first on foot, but as you battle to kill the apposing team, each player is able to launch a titan… a hulking robotic exo-skeleton not that different to the ones seen in movies like Avatar and The Matrix Revolutions.  Then you battle either in or out of your Titan, as well as being able to free-run the environments on foot with wall running, double jumps and the like.  Its a great deal of fun!

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It stings somewhat their isn’t a single-player story element, and just a bolted on multiplayer-campaign which doesn’t really do much that you can’t experience playing in the various multiplayer modes – just with added commentary and a few extra battles going on around you … it’s still games of Atrition (deathmatch) and Hard-Point (domination) overall.  A wasted opportunity … but this is at least made up for by 14 detailed and well designed maps that offer a ton of enjoyment, as does the deep and rewarded levelling and customization options.

As a big release for the XBOX ONE which continues to dwell in the shadow of PS4’s success, I think it’s a crowd pleaser overall and at least its aiming at the right audience.  Call Of Duty, Battlefield etc. all continue to dominate, so it’s a wise move making this a potential system seller.  I personally think it’s a mistake on Microsoft’s part to allow this to be released on the XBOX 360 as well, giving an excuse for the undecided console owners not to jump to a next-gen system just yet.  Halo didn’t require other formats to make XBOX sell, and neither should Titanfall.

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There has been some controversy over Titanfall’s final display resolution of 1408 x 792p compared to the much desired 1920 x 1080p of full HD (something the PS4 seems to handle with ease).  I only have a 26” 720p display so … what’s it like in reality?  Its gorgeous!!  Very smooth at an almost steady 60fps (surely most important??) and with very detailed graphics, great lighting / shadow effects and large, complex environments.  Screen-tare does rear it’s head, but isn’t that noticeable.  On my TV such shortcomings like lower resolution are a non-issue and well, with the games I have played on the XBOX ONE, such as Dead Rising 3, Forza 5 and Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition … I can firmly say they are all slick, very detailed and attractive games that make me happy with my purchase.

So if you hanker for a new breed of online shooter, or just want that excuse to go for a new console … you could do far worse.  It really is a great game … lacking a little with no single player, but as a pure multiplayer experience, its fantastic.  Prepare for Titanfall!

Answering the call


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I just had to write a few words of apreciation for what is undoubtably one of the finest experiences I have yet had in a videogame.  Infinity Ward’s exceptional Call of Duty 4 is one of the best designed, most stunning looking games on the 360 so far, and is packed with intelligent, mature real-world warfare gameplay topped with a glossy Hollywood action movie sheen.  The creators of what is easily the best war series available (not including COD 3 or any other COD spin-off not made by Infinity Ward), this latest entry jumps from the previous World War 2 settings to moden day action, and it gives the series a breath of life…and a polish & immediacy that I admit to being surprised by.  To think I had hesitated buying this game with reports the single-player campaign was too short. (for me it lasted just the right amount of time, with 3 acts and over a dozen varied missions, that warrant several replays just for their stellar experience alone (a fave being ‘All Ghilled Up’) .  Add to this an addictive, and deep multiplayer experience, that is surely the most fun I have had on XBOX Live thus far (even if I do rubbish!), with an Arcade Mode for high score retreads of your fave missions to brag to friends with – this package has the lot.  Not since Half-Life 2 have I come away from a game so satisfied. 

What it does right:

Variety – not every mission is the same

Story – unlike some war games, you’re not recreating famous battles – u have a POINT and you are a specific character (in this case, two characters).

Maturity – some shocks and twists will knock you sideways.

Presentation – Infinity Ward should get a stack of awards for one of the best looking & sounding games yet.

What it does wrong:

Linearity –  sometimes you can feel a bit ‘lead by the hand’ – not much room to make your own path.

Difficulty – Some missions seem too easy on default setting – to the point you can sometimes feel your squad are doing all the work for you.

Longevity – some missions could be longer.