Preview: Tom Clancy's The Division hands-on
Bring out your dead!
The Dark Zone rises
The area I was most excited to experience was the Dark Zone -- a tense multiplayer area where players can be hostile towards other players. While we weren’t recommended to enter the Dark Zone until level 10 (since AI enemies in there are a higher level), we did so anyways, as did every other group. What the Dark Zone delivers is everything that it promised. It is tense, you can’t tell friend from foe, and I want to spend all of my time in there.
The Dark Zone has its own currency that you earn there, as well as loot that can only be found in the Dark Zone and brought out of it once you successfully evac it. The thing is, everyone can see that you have contaminated gear on you by the very visible yellow back on your backpack. So possible hostile players could gun for you and try to take it by taking you out.
We encountered groups of other players in there. Sometimes we were already engaged in a firefight with NPCs, and non-hostile players would help take them out. Then we’d emote to each other to be careful, and back away from each other cautiously. And then a group of three hostile players (known by the red hostile symbol and a countdown showing how much longer they’re hostile for) came and killed us. For no freakin’ reason. So we respawned, grouped up, and decided to hunt them down when they were attempting to evac contaminated gear. We got the jump on them and took them out, picked up their contaminated gear, and then evaced it ourselves. How’s that for karma?
That’s honestly what I love about the Dark Zone. It’s that you don’t know who will help you and who will stab you in the back. And I was assured that it won’t just be a bunch of a-holes running around ruining it for other people. You drop more when you die while hostile. And if you’re hostile long enough, non-hostile players will get bounties for the hostile ones. In my experience, non-hostile players would group up and help each other survive the dangerous area.
It’s a harder knock life for us
The last thing I got to do in my hands-on time with The Division is take over my operative at level 20, decked out with every skill (and you can change which are active at any time) and fully purple gear and mods. It was here we were able to see the perks that purple weapons have and how much more powerful they are. I also got my first taste of the final abilities for each tree, which are activated with LB and RB at the same time. From what I saw, they were group buffs (damage or defense) or a group heal.
We also got to play around with the ability mods. Each ability has different modifications you can choose from that will change the way the ability functions. So a team of four players can all have the same ability, and that same ability can do something different for each player potentially. I played around with the seeker ball that explodes when it finds an enemy, and then assigned a mod that has smaller balls explode from that, leaving fire in that area. Some people just wanna watch the world burn. I am one of those people.
The mission we played was very hard. Not only did enemies take a lot more damage, but they were smarter too, attempting to flank up, getting up close to use with powerful close-range weapons, and showing more intelligence overall. A couple of timely heals and revives really saved us a few times. It was paramount that we work together with our skills and utilize the cover we had. I was told the harder missions will last from 30 to 60 minutes, and I found the length perfect. I was on the edge of my seat a few times, and we were even yelling and pointing out enemies to each other, all coming together in a triumphant exclamation when we’d defeat a tough group of enemies.
March comes in like a lion and should stay a lion
I loved my time with Tom Clancy’s The Division. It had a few graphical hiccups here and there, but they didn’t even matter with how smooth everything else was. It really alleviated any worries I had about this game being two months away from release after a what seems like a development process that took forever. The thing that wows me is that I had a blast with what I played, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg. I didn’t see end-game, or experience a fraction of what there is. I didn’t mess around with crafting. And everything that awaits me excites the heck out of me.
I went in cautious with low expectations and came away exuberant. I can compare it to Destiny in the sense that you and other players you’ll meet in the world will come together to tackle missions, level up, and get better loot. And unlike the feeling I got with Destiny early on, The Division seems to deliver. There’s already more life to this game than there was in all the Grimoire cards and Dinklebot’s dead voice.
The Division is everything I wished Destiny would have been. And so far, the wait for the game seems worth it. So with the March 8th release on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC, I wait eagerly to find you in the Dark Zone, maybe to help you, maybe to pass you by, or maybe to take a liking to that yellow pack you have on your back.