It’s a weekend of betas so I thought I would chime in with some impressions.
Street Fighter V
The last Street Fighter V beta featured more characters, stages and a menu that teased what’s to come. It also reminded me that Street Fighter V won’t have a story mode at launch and that it will likely be filled with cutscenes like these and in-engine shots like this. I prefer the latter for consistency’s sake. I’m not holding my breath for Mortal Kombat 9 calibre story but I am expecting some genuine effort beyond the arcade mode. I would really enjoy a Street Fighter Alpha 3 style RPG-lite system though.
The matchmaking was a lot better from a skill perspective; I wasn’t being hammered by skilled players. I wasn’t pleased with the time it took to find my next opponent though. I wouldn’t mind the wait if it ensured a quality match but being paired with someone with a spotty connection after a long wait wasn’t ideal. When it worked, it was very enjoyable. I already have it pre-ordered on disc but I am considering giving up the disc for a digital copy.
The beta of the weekend was The Division. Back in 2013, I was very skeptical on The Division and believed Destiny was the game for me. Unfortunately Destiny initial outing wasn’t my cup of tea. It was a bad loot game filled with tedious grind and repetition. I fear for the same thing for The Division but that fear also extended to Diablo III.
What makes The Division so appealing for me is the Dark Zone — the lawless areas of New York City — where players can venture out to fight higher level enemies for the promise of better loot. The risky part of this equation are the other players out there who can attack and steal what my bro and I collected. I had two notable experiences in the Dark Zone.
My brother and I were pursuing this group of NPCs from one end of a street. We easily flanked them because they were facing the other way and after they were dispatched we discovered they were distracted by another three players. We encountered friendly individuals before but we’ve never encountered a group. We were sub-level 8 so I presumed everyone was friendlier but out of nowhere one of them fired some shots. I rolled back into cover and they did the same. We hunkered there ready to fight. We waited for a long nervous minute before one of them approached the middle and raised his hands and began walking towards us. A misunderstanding? A ploy? We eventually walked passed each other with fingers on the triggers ready to retaliate. As soon as they passed us, they ran off.
Once we filled out backpacks with contaminated Dark Zone loot, we had to move to one of the extraction points and fire a flare out for extraction. This was a beacon for other agents to join in on the extraction or a signal for other predatory agents to come in for easy kills. Watching the clock countdown was tense. We didn’t know if people were going to come and get us or what.
Moments like these were interesting. Can you trust other humans not kill you? The game temporarily flagged people who attacked other players as rogue agents. I accidentally hit another player outside of our group with crossfire and was flagged as rogue for about 10 seconds. I suspect killing someone would mean I was rogue for longer and be seen by all on the map as rogue.
Flagging rogue agents in the Dark Zone is smart. In theory, it helps out smaller groups to avoid treachery or indicate to others that there are assholes to take out. Unfortunately there was a bug in the beta where rogue agents were invisible and I would only appear after they’ve killed you. It was like being attacked by ghosts.
It’s also highly recommended to venture out into the Dark Zone with other players. I’m reading too many stories of lone agents being gunned down by packs of rogue agents.
A Solid Foundation?
I like what I’ve seen of The Division thus far. It runs well and is surprisingly customizable for a console game. I can tweak a number of UI elements to my liking. On a technical perspective, I can even tweak graphical effects like how aggressive the anti-aliasing work (sharpening) and whether or not to enable chromatic aberration.
On the gameplay front, there were plenty of appearance and weapon modifications to personalize as well giving players plenty of options to express themselves.
What worries me the most about The Division are the enemy encounters. Damage sponges like those found in Destiny are tedious but mopping the floor with brain dead enemies is not fun either. Playing the “Hospital” mission on Hard and going up agains the higher level enemies in level 8 Dark Zone instances felt like that right mix. I don’t expect the final game to feature smarter enemies but I hope for a better mix. What makes Diablo III’s combat work is the juggling and management of different enemy types. I began to see glimmers of that on the hard difficulty but it’s too early to say.
Cautious Optimism Continues
The Division looks like it’s the next shooter RPG loot hybrid that could grip players all over the world. It may even sink its fangs into me like Diablo III U.E did. I’m still holding onto my pre-order for now but it’s not a firm decision. There’s a lot to like about the Division (I didn’t even mention how I love all the details) but there’s also a lot to dislike (too much running around). I’m unable to make a definitive judgement call on it yet but there is something about it that’s piqued my interest.