*This isn’t meant to be a full review of the game, merely my thoughts on the open beta release. I played it on the Xbox One and I really don’t think there would be much difference between platforms, other than slight graphical tweaks.
If you’ve never heard of the game, you are a member of the Ghosts, a secretive and elite Special Forces team sent to Bolivia in order to take on the Santa Blanca drug cartel. You approach this via a bottom-to-top plan of attack that involves you destabilizing the cartel and moving your way up the chain until you get to the head, the mysterious El Sueño. You are given carte blanche in this and can take whatever steps are necessary and in whatever order you deem to be most efficient to accomplish your goal and complete your mission. You and your Ghosts are in enemy territory and won’t be getting any official help from the US Government, so you must rely on yourselves and the Rebel faction of Kataris 26.
Character generation in the game is pretty extensive. You can choose from premade Ghosts, male and female, or you can dive into the deep end and customize away. I made my guy as close to my Division agent as I could and jumped into the game.
Yup, I’m a bad ass.
I played the game from beginning to end of the beta and was immediately sold on it–so sold on it that I went ahead and purchased not just the game, but the season pass. The game can be played both solo and co-op, but is best played with a squad of friends.
- Map Size and Environment: The beta gives you access to two sections of the overall map, the provinces of Itacua and Montuyoc. Itacua is the starting zone of the game and is there to get you familiarized with the various systems and skills that you will use while taking the Santa Blanca Cartel down. Getting thru Itacua took me and my squadmate a couple of hours, as there was just so much to do besides the main story missions. The challenge and difficulty level rose quite steeply once we made it to Montuyoc, which made the game that much more fun. I played until the beta servers were brought down and I still hadn’t explored all of Montuyoc province. While the maps for these two areas were large, they were both small parts of a much larger whole when the rest of the world map was taken into consideration. The environmental effects in the game were dynamic and immersive. There was a definite day/night cycle and the weather could go from bright and shiny to tempestuous and torrential. This could be used to your advantage as it was a whole lot easier to sneak around on the enemy at night or when it was stormy.
- Squad and NPC AI: When you’re not running around in co-op mode with your friends, the three other members of your squad are computer controlled. They follow your directions and are key to clearing out enemy encampments. They aren’t stupid bots either. They can spot enemies that you miss and know to hide in and shift positions in order to not give away the team’s presence. In the idle moments between firefights, they talk shop and tell jokes and stories back and forth. It was quite apparent that whoever wrote the team dialogue was familiar with the environs around Ft. Bragg and Fayetteville (where I happen to live) as one of my favorite bars was name dropped (I just might have to get me a Black and Tan the next time I go to Sharkys, just like one of the guys mentioned). As you advance around the map, you can rescue rebel militia held prisoner by the cartel. One they are free, they will either run away or they will arm themselves and indirectly aid you, as they will either attack and kill the enemy or distract them so that you can accomplish your mission.
- Weapons and devices: As with every FPS ever made, there is a whole cornucopia of weapons to choose from. Assault rifles, submachine guns, sniper rifles, etc… Each one of them is customizable within the in-game gunsmith using parts and mods that can be found at various places around the map. You can change weapon load outs to fit your mission at various ammo boxes that you run into in your exploration. You also have access to various devices to aid you in your mission, such as grenades, mines, lures–but my favorite is the recon drone. The drone comes in handy when you scout the various mission zones. You can mark targets for your squad mates to acquire and eliminate, thereby helping you to complete your various objectives.
- Vehicle controls: Just like in every other modern open-world sandbox game, there are a plethora of vehicles that you can commandeer and steal. From motorcycles to minibuses to exotic sports cars to armored personnel carriers to airplanes and helicopters, you can get into it and drive or fly around to your heart’s content. Vehicle controls are something that Ubisoft hasn’t quite mastered. Some cars drive without any problems while others steer like they’re fixing to fall apart. Flying is intuitive but I’ve seen it be implemented far better in other games. The other thing that I didn’t like was the fact that you can’t adjust the camera when you’re in a vehicle–the camera is stuck in a position that’s above and behind your vehicle. I really wish that one could get a first-person view when flying or at least have some sort of targeting reticule when flying in an armed helicopter. This one is a tiny gripe, but I wish that you could either turn the radios in vehicles off or at least turn the volume down–you can only hear the same canned audio over and over again before you get tired of it.
- Repetitive Gameplay: This isn’t a truly fair thing to say, but as fun as the gameplay was, it could get repetitive and boring. I say it’s not fair to say because this was a beta after all and not the full game experience. What IS fair to say is that the gameplay isn’t anything that one hasn’t seen before, especially if you’ve ever played this type of game before.
Overall, I had a fun time playing the open beta and can’t wait until the full release on March 7th. The game will be available on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC.