The Division’s open beta is fantastic on PC

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You have my undivided attention

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With The Division only a few weeks away from launch, Ubisoft is giving prospective players an opportunity to see what the open-world shooter has to offer. This weekend, the publisher is hosting an open beta test, which is something I’ve been looking forward to since EGX, when an overly-guided demo left me confused as to what the game was actually about. Now, I’m excited to say, I’ve finally had the chance to to do a bit of off-roading. 

In addition to that, it’s given me an idea of what state the PC port will be like at launch. While betas are of course subject to change, and this is long before game-specific drivers for the full release are available, I am genuinely shocked at how fantastic The Division’s PC port is shaping up.

With The Division launch being only a few weeks away now, Ubisoft has been running an open beta test for all to see what’s on offer. When I played it at EGX I was hand-held and guided by the PR rep so much that I left still not knowing what The Division actually was, so I was excited to do a bit of off-roading in this test.

It’s also an excellent chance to get an idea of what state the PC port will be in at launch. While betas are of course subject to change, and this is long before game-specific drivers for the full release are available, I am genuinely shocked at how fantastic The Division’s PC Port is shaping up.

Right now, performance is a minor problem. I tested the game’s “Ultra” quality preset and struggled to maintain a steady 60 frames-per-second, even on my GTX 980 and i7 4790k processor. The frame rate averaged in the 50-55 range  during regular play and dropped as low as 45 when areas were loading. It never descended below 40 and and didn’t fluctuate rapidly enough for it to be an especially apparent issue.

One hitch I did notice was a fair amount of texture and detail pop-in while moving through the world. Sometimes, signs would remain blurry messes until I got fairly close, where they’d then snap back into the visual quality they should’ve been. It’s by no means as bad as Rage’s texture pop, but it was still a bit distracting at times.

Just to re-stress the point, this is a beta test running on pre-existing drivers, and even then these problems are very minor ones. To get the performance I did was impressive, and absolutely within reasonable expectations for a game that isn’t yet being presented as a finished product.

What really, really impressed me about The Division’s PC port are the option menus. I have never seen a PC game, much less an Ubisoft game, cram in so many options. Not only is there full key remapping, but it includes a ready-made left-handed configuration for those who prefer to play with OKL; rather than WASD.

The graphics options are immense, including everything from two separate types of anti-aliasing and standards like ambient occlusion and depth of field, to more obscure stuff like chromatic aberration and whether or not the wind will affect snow. Even for people like me who generally know what each setting does, it’s almost overwhelming be presented with so many settings. But that’s definitely a good thing!

Almost every bit of the HUD can be re-sized, moved about, or hidden entirely, much like you can in many more standard MMOs. I opted for a less intrusive HUD that vanished when I didn’t it for a while, and found that to work fantastically.

It even features options for third-party hardware, like Logitech’s LED keyboard and eye-tracking functionality, so the game responds to what part of the screen you’re staring at. There’s so much stuff here I’ve never seen before, it was impossible not to walk away impressed.

Going into the Dark Zone, the PvP section of The Division, was an unusual experience. The previous beta test was reportedly rife with cheaters, which had Ubisoft promising a fix. However, from my limited time spent with it, I’m not entirely sure those problems have been totally resolved just yet.

In the hour and a half I spent trudging around, I only ran into a few rogue agents (the ones you can safely kill) because of the low player population in the Dark Zone. But from those few rogues, there were still a couple I could comfortably accuse of being cheaters; they were moving ridiculously fast, zipping all over the place in such a way that made it impossible to kill them. They didn’t seem to have aimbots or anything as severe as that, but to it was a bit frustrating to see a band of marauders almost teleporting around the map. That was one encounter out of an admittedly not very long session, but how that scales up to a large-scale full release does worry me a bit.

Despite that, my experience with the beta was still almost entirely positive. I haven’t really paid much attention to The Division since playing it at EGX, but now that I’ve had time to look at some of the PvE content, I’m totally on board with and, dare I say it… am actually excited for the final game.

The environments are ridiculously detailed, the missions are varied, the shooting feels great, and the light role-playing game mechanics work well with letting players choose their own play style. I can really see myself dropping a lot of time into this game.

I don’t want to make any solid conclusions about The Division’s PC port until I’ve got my hands on a finished build, but, judging from the beta, PC gamers are in for a treat when it rolls around. It’s a gorgeous experience (with a few small performance problems at the moment) that has by far the most detailed palette of options I’ve ever seen.

Let’s hope The Division continues to impress when it launched on March 8!

Right now, performance is a minor issue. I played the game on the Ultra quality preset and struggled to maintain a steady 60FPS, even on my GTX 980 and i7 4790k processor. On average I’d be sat at roughly 50-55FPS in regular play, with things dropping down to 45 or so when areas were loading. It never dropped below 40, though, and the framerate didn’t fluctuate rapidly enough for it to be an especially noticeable problem.

Another problem I did notice was a fair amount of texture and detail pop-in while moving through the world. Sometimes, signs would remain as blurry messes until I got fairly close where they’d then snap back into being the normally high-quality they should’ve been. It’s by no means as bad as Rage’s texture pop, but it was still a bit distracting at times.

Just to re-stress, this is a beta test running on pre-existing drivers, and even then these problems are very minor ones. To get the performance I did was impressive, and absolutely within reasonable expectations for a game that isn’t yet being presented as a finished product.

What is really, really impressive about The Division’s PC port are the options menus. I have never seen a PC game, much less an Ubisoft game, have so many options crammed in. Not only is there full key remapping, but there is also a ready-made left-handed configuration for those who prefer to play with OKL; rather than WASD.

The graphics options are immense, with everything from two separate types of anti-aliasing and standards like ambient occlusion and depth field, to more obscure stuff like chromatic aberration and whether or not the wind affects snow being available as options. Even for people like me who generally know what each setting does, it did border on the overwhelming to be presented with so many settings. But that’s a good thing!

Almost every bit of the HUD can be resized, moved about, or hidden entirely, much like you can in many more standard MMOs. I opted for a less intrusive HUD that vanished when I wasn’t using it for a while, and found that worked fantastically.

There’re even options for third-party hardware like Logitech’s LED keyboard, and eye-tracking functionality to have the game respond to what part of the screen you’re looking at. There’s so much stuff here that I’ve never seen before, it’s impossible to not be impressed.

Going into the Dark Zone, the PvP section of The Division, was an unusual experience. The previous closed beta was reportedly rife with hackers, resulting Ubisoft promising to fix it before launch. From my limited time spent with it, I’m not so sure those problems have been totally resolved just yet.

In the hour and a half I spent trudging around, I only ran into a few rogue agents (the ones you can safely kill) because of the low player population in the Dark Zone. But from those few rogues, there were still a couple who I could comfortably accuse of being hackers; they were moving ridiculously fast, zipping all over the place to make it impossible to kill them. They didn’t seem to have aimbots or anything as severe as that, but to get a band of marauders almost teleporting around the map was a bit frustrating. It was one encounter out of an admittedly not very long time playing, but scaling that up to a large scale full release does worry me a bit.

Despite that, my experience with the game has still been almost entirely positive. I’d not really paid much attention to The Division since EGX, but now that I’ve had time to look at some of the PvE content, I am totally on board with it and am, dare I say it… actually excited for the final game.

The environments are ridiculously detailed, the missions are varied, the shooting feels great, and the light RPG mechanics work well with letting players choose their own playstyle. I can really see myself dropping a lot of time into it!

I don’t want to make any solid conclusions about The Division’s PC port until I’ve got my hands on a finished build. But, judging from the beta, PC gamers are in for a treat when it rolls around. It’s a gorgeous game (with a few small performance problems at the moment) that has by far the most detailed options menu I’ve ever seen.

The Division, you now have my undivided attention. Let’s hope you continue to impress when you launch on March 8.


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