Welp, this morning I woke up early, poured myself some coffee, and I hopped onto this game that I was EXTREMELY excited for. Let me first, though, tell you why I was excited and what my expectations were leading up to this beta.
When the Division dropped, I was interested in it, as there was finally a new, seemingly tactical military shooter on the market from the people working on the Tom Clancy franchise. OBVIOUSLY, things didn't go as planned, and not only did the hype-train destroy the game, but the blatant lies we were fed really didn't help at all, such as the cut Drone content, and all of the things shown in those first gameplay trailers, like the MUCH LARGER map with multiple darkzones, seamless PvE/PvP, rockets, and so on. The finished product looked fantastic and was very atmospheric in its details. I felt like I was in a post-apocalyptic city, and the enemies, while mostly the same, were fun. Tactically, it didn't offer up much, outside of the need to flank everything and everyone at all times. The tools you were given were either last resort items or spam items that just made things unfair in all aspects of the game. Losing? Be invincible WITH your murder machine SMG! Here's a small grenade-launcher that can one shot most players! – It just wasn't good. The bullet-sponge mechanics could be tolerated, but after many people spent hundreds of hours already traversing Destiny, bullet-sponges are not what's wanted in the shooter world. We want to feel challenged, yet badass while being challenged. Standing in one place shooting one person and going through 10 magazines to do it just to get an ugly beanie or a weapon that is worse than what you have is asinine.
The cover system and detailed world were about the only parts of the Division that made it good. The weapons FELT nice, too, though they didn't really get the balancing right.
So, I wanted the Division with no bullet-sponge gameplay. I wanted something that required thinking about your upcoming missions and how to get out of them. I wanted a tactical shooter with stealth mechanics that could compete with games like Deus Ex and Metro.
So, before I go into what I believe is missing, both from a common sense standpoint and the standpoint of my expectations, I'll say what has been done right, in my opinions.
PROS! – Atmosphere and Immersion: After the jarring intro to the beta, I was a little bit put off by where I was placed in the world. It felt less immersive to be just flown in with a small bit of Dialogue, because it doesn't really give you a feeling for the world around you. I know this MIGHT be due to this being a Beta, but it's probably more likely that it's just how the game begins. Now, after a few hours, I finally started to feel like I was a part of this world and noticing the details. I found myself crawling up on a rock on the side of a small mountain over-looking a town that had a person of interest that I had to get intel from. Being on that rock with my team hiding out in the forest as I surveyed the area and gathered the locations of the targets was pretty bad-ass. It felt like something out of Predator. I felt that having this vantage point and the ability to coordinate with my team and take different roles and paths to accomplish the mission is a great attribute of a game like this. The cover of the forest, the enemies patrolling somewhat believably down below, and the sun setting over the town as I planned my attack made for a great moment that I feel is missing in open world games like Far Cry.
Graphics: It may not be the Division in detail, but it's close enough for a world of this size. Many people are griping about rendering and draw-distance being an issue, but I have noticed very little of this, even on my obviously under-powered Xbox One. The weather system is done well, the textures are decent (at least, more decent than what we're given in other AAA open world titles like Fallout), and there are plenty of cool particle effects. I don't know why I was mesmerized by sparks and dust being kicked up from firing on a hilltop using a chopper I was in.
UI and Menus: This one is pretty easy. Let's face it, as long as we're not dealing with AssCreed's or Battlefield 1's UI and Menus, then we should be happy. This has a pretty self-explanatory set of menus and a common-sense interface. Even despite a lack of a proper tutorial in this beta, if you don't figure things out and how to get to them within about 10 minutes of messing with the game, you most likely have a peanut for a brain. You may also be a potato.
Weapon variety, customization, and utilization: The options in weapons parts and customization seem near perfect, and seeing that weapons are useful depending on what they are is something that has, for some weird reason, also been missing from games today. Being able to flip from auto to semi-auto on rifles is something needed in many military shooters, in my opinion, and it's a small detail that makes a world of difference to me. The weapons look and sound good, though the sounds sometimes feel like they lack, but this could be due to buggy audio at this point.
So far, those are the only things that seem to be alright with the game. Mostly just general stuff, obviously, though those are also the things that make or break a game.
Now, in terms of what I wish were different…
COVER: The cover system here is not good. I understood they were trying to keep some sort of system while also trying to not rely on cover as one of those mechanics that influence the game heavily, like in Gears of War or the Division (where random blocks and other things for hiding behind are conveniently strewn about). The problem with this is that cover is necessary in almost EVERY shooter, and in a Third Person shooter, it's almost essential, I feel. This "Soft" cover that simply requires you to touch a wall and lookout for a small arrow on the crosshair to know when you can pop out is frustrating, and doesn't work a lot of the time. I see my character popping out of cover in weird places, and a lot of the time end up aiming at a wall point blank, rather than down at enemies. A "hard", true cover system should be implemented, though I'm sure it's already too late in the development process to do such a thing. I guess I'll just try to get used to it.
GUNPLAY: I don't know how to describe this outside of the gunplay feeling "Floaty", almost like Fallout 4's gunplay. The guns themselves are good, but aiming just doesn't seems right. I don't know how to go into detail further, and hope that others understand what I mean by "Floaty".
Dumb AI: Whether it's a lack of interaction between AI, a lack of them doing anything in towns or their own homes, or being completely alerted when you've killed 1 bad guy on one side of town with a silenced sniper on a hill and all the others on the other side start running in your general direction, the AI is lacking severely. For a game that uses Stealth, this is NOT good. For a game set in a HUGE worldspace with many towns and people occupying those towns, the immersion breaking is Not good. The team of other ghosts, while helpful in pointing out enemies and obstacles, seems like it just does whatever it wants in unhelpful ways when you aren't giving it one of only a few options.
Helicopter Controls: They take getting used to, but they shouldn't have to. With so many games out there that have decent Helicopter mechanics, like GTA5 and Battlefield, it's a wonder how a AAA studio can still be getting them so very frustratingly wrong.
Cars driving up mountains and over large rocks: This should be self-explanatory. It's annoying and immersion breaking.
Camera: Has anyone else noticed that the OTS Camera switching randomly switches around regardless of where you have it placed? This happens to me whenever I've done a number of actions. It's annoying to have it over my right side, only for it to suddenly be on my left.
The Obvious "Clear out this outpost" repetition: Once, again, Self-explanatory. Though it's great to have the option to clear outposts with friends and to do things in a variety of ways, at the end of the day, we're still clearing out outposts in slightly different ways. I shouldn't have expected anything more than this, and while it's not a deal-breaker, it's still frustrating to see a sort of laziness in direction from a game that's 4 years in the making.
This is all I could think of at the moment (I've been in the office most of the day, anyway, so haven't had more than about 5 hours of game time).
I still appreciate the hard work that has gone into making the game what it is and don't want to trash the devs at all. No one should. These people work hard to make works of art. I think that with the community, those works of art become masterpieces.
Also, to those who say "It's a Beta! It's not finished yet!" or "It's just a tech-test! It doesn't represent the end!".
You're wrong. Even the Titanfall 2 Pre-Alpha Tech Test was basically the same as the end result, but Respawn managed to listen to complaints and fix as many of the complaints as they could. Hopefully, we will get that here, as well. I'll play a little bit more tonight, and hopefully I'll be able to make a more final verdict before the game launches!