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.

Division concept art

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.

TheDivision ps4

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.

the division art

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…

The Division beta – impressions


One of the most hyped games for this year has to be Tom Clancy’s The Division, an open-world MMORPG set in a locked down New York after a pandemic outbreak.  I got access to the beta of the game over the weekend after pre-ordering, and I must admit it’s very good indeed.  I haven’t actually managed to partake in some of the much talked about co-op gameplay or the PVP dark zone sections, but just exploring the disaster-stricken New York streets, taking on scavenger gangs and completing side missions as well as the beta’s main mission … has been a lot of fun.

Division beta 1

screenshot captured directly from my PS4

Visually the game has had a bit of a downgrade since the initial E3 reveal but that was to be expected considering the game was first shown before the Xbox One and PS4 were even released.  But with that in mind, how do the visuals stack up in this near-finished version?  Very good indeed actually.  There are a ton of effects at work, impressive weather such as wind & snow considering the game is set at Christmas, and a wealth of detail on buildings, the road, and cars (yes you can still close that car door, folks!).  The lighting is very atmospheric and with what appears to be a dynamic weather and day / night cycle the game shows off it’s true beauty the more you play it.

division beta 2

screenshot captured directly from my PS4

Gameplay-wise (with similarities to Destiny) you create your character (well, their face and gender but I didn’t do much with this aspect when first booting up the game), and then are introduced to the world, following the storyline of an agent flown into the crisis and having to make his (or her) way to the base of operation – a hub environment that you enhance and develop as you go on missions and complete tasks.  It’s a good idea and one that will mean there’s more than just a develop character / stats excuse to keep on playing.  I wonder if this is the only base of operation or if there will be others in different areas the player can develop?  The core shooting feels good too, with an excellent cover-based mechanic that enables the player to run to various areas of cover very easily, making for some exciting encounters.  The character / NPC designs are very detailed and slickly animated making this game feel very next-gen overall.  I think it will be a game that could become quite addictive also as more missions become available and various quests are discovered.  The enemy characters at this stage seem quite samey (all violent hoodies it seems) but that could change once the game is out and we could get boss fights.  It’s too early to be sure though.

For now The Division is looking to be a solid game to invest a ton of time in so I can’t wait till March 8th!

Falling for a Titan


Titanfall-Concept-Art-HD-Wallpaper-940x1024_edited

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!

Titanfall-screenshot-2-1

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.

titanfall screensot 1

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!