Updated: Sep 5, 2021
Do things look ready for prime time?
It looks like I was one of the lucky few to receive an invite to the private beta without having to pre-order Ubisoft's "The Division 2." Those of us that were fans of the first Division entry know the hardships that game faced from launch issues to numerous game destroying exploits being left unchecked for months which ultimately killed the game as players abusing these exploits went unbanned and terrorized everyone in the "Dark Zone", the Division's PVP section, where higher level enemies along with loot exist. Not to mention, crucial, long awaited features were immediately locked behind a paywall which split the player base. The game went through many changes, most of which leaving players unsatisfied and left it in the barren state it is today.
The original Division had a lot of potential, this was clearly evident. The Division 2 hopes to finally capitalize on that. How does it measure up though? Let's take a look. Immediately after the whopping 46GB install you're met with a bunch of flashy animations and loud sound effects, something which the Division is known for with it's overly dramatic style. The character creation seems to be more fleshed out, although in the beta you can only randomize you character. Still, going through the process you get to see a lot of the tattoos, hairstyles, accessories, facial features, etc. that your character can have upon creation. Do we have Bethesda levels of depth here? Heck no, but this is definitely a step up from the original which was pretty bare-bones.
Once you get into the game you can definitely see that the graphics were stepped up somewhat. The game looks closer to the E3 trailer of the original, even more so once you turn on DirectX 12. Off the bat you're greeted with your initial bugs though as the cutscenes seem to be rendered for 2K and below resolutions. Jumping to 4K results in black bars everywhere. Settings wise you notice the different video options included for DX12 like ambient occlusion, fog settings, etc. Turning on DX12 results in a 10 FPS drop though, but you can gain that back by turning all shadows to low as the game's shadows are poorly optimized. The shadows are potentially the worst optimized shadows since Star Wars: The Old Republic, which for years was barely playable with shadows turned on at all. In that game, turning on shadows dropped you from 60+ FPS to less than 15.
As far as additions there's plenty of them. Most of them seem to be more busy work as one of the chief complaints in the original game was that the endgame wasn't all that and PVE was definitely lacking which made it boring. Now Ubisoft has decided to include activities like upgrading every...single...safe-house... to unlock bonus missions, new equipment, and new staff members which you can recruit to unlock more things in your main headquarters. Each staff member is in charge of different areas like crafting, medical, tech, etc. It's pretty much like the original where you had to unlock the 3 main areas (tech, security, and medical) except more drawn out and tied into the story-line.
The first combat mission has you securing the area around the White House. Gun sounds are slightly off and even more so is the stability. Guns, especially fully automatic ones tend to rapidly rise up which becomes frustrating during combat as you're constantly having to re-position your mouse or take pot shots vs. holding down the trigger for extended periods of time. Missions, including side ones are more epic than ever which means they are...even longer. It took about an hour to finish securing the White House, mainly because I encountered another bug. The game doesn't like my Logitech G910 and Razer Naga Trinity Chroma combo. So every couple of minutes or after a bunch of input, one or the other freezes (usually the keyboard,) leaving me completely vulnerable to enemy fire.
Once reaching the headquarters (which is surprise surprise... White House) you're introduced to all the new features. It seems like Ubisoft took several pages out of Activision's playbook as skill wise you now have drones, seeker mines, etc. which are all apart of the Call of Duty franchise. They even have the same functions! Seeing the drone in action later on, you definitely can tell that the stationary turret is pretty much obsolete now (R.I.P.) They've also taken a page out of Rockstar's playbook as well as players can now directly call one another for help with tasks, which rings your in-game cell phone. This became a bit of an annoyance because of the near constant rings and pings (a voice announces that "a player needs help every time.")
Sound engineering leaves something to be desired. Combat noises sound like they're farther way away than they actually are. This leaves things like explosions being pretty meh coupled with the fact that the explosions are one of the things that have been severely toned down. At several points I had grenades land within a few feet of me only to be disappointed when it sounded and felt like a pop rock went off. AI patterns are pretty easy to figure out, if you push they fallback and vice versa. The AI also goes into "whack-a-mole" mode once everyone gets positioned as well. Once you start aiming at one enemy, the others take the opportunity to pop out and shoot at you until you take aim at them. I feel like in the original Division the AI was similar to Halo's AI where the enemy would distract, flank you, etc. The enemies seem less like bullet sponges when compared to the original, but your character seems to be even more of a bullet sponge now. Here in the Division 2, rarely did I see any flanking or attempt to dodge my bullets even from the melee enemies who stupidly charge at you no matter what. At least in the original Division they seemed to duck and dodge while charging at times.
The safe-house missions seem to go on just about as long as a normal mission. My first mission was to secure a hotel which went on for about an hour. Just as I was about to go crazy from the mission going on and on, it ended abruptly. The safe-houses and streets seem to be mostly civilian controlled as well, with gangs of armed civilians patrolling the streets which you can help out. This once again helps out the monotony of the original Division by creating more busy work. Ultimately it'll end up like Spider-Man video-games where the repetitiveness of "helping out civilians in need" reaches a boring point relatively quickly, especially if the rewards aren't there.
I enjoyed the atmosphere, story, action, etc. immensely , but it's clear the game still needs a lot more work done and with a month or so left before release this doesn't look good.
Another change looks to be controlled territories/capture points. You can take a territory away from enemy gangs in-order to gain more supplies, items, support personnel, etc. You have to maintain these territories by sending them supplies as well or they lose the point. This gives the Division 2 a perpetual "capture the point" mode which again might end up being pointless if the rewards aren't enough. My first impressions aren't much, I captured a point after fighting waves of enemies as usual. Looting the boxes in the area I netted a few minor things like electronics parts and food coupled with some common weapons. I assume the higher level areas net you better rewards, but most likely nothing will come close to completing high level missions on higher difficulties. Again, just more busy work added to make the game seem less boring.
Overall, my impressions of Ubisoft's new entry aren't great. I enjoyed the atmosphere, story, action, etc. immensely ,but it's clear the game still needs a lot more work done and with a month or so left before release this doesn't look good. There's major bugs that make the game nearly unplayable. Other's have noted performance issues as well like high ram usage. Right now the major concern is if there are any major exploits that will be unearthed during launch like with the original, if so then there will be almost no hope for a long lasting good experience with the Division 2. We'll have to see if some or all these issues are ironed out before release.