The Division is a bit of an odd beast for me. I wasn't sure quite what it was. Some people had talked about how it was similar to Destiny, but I wasn't sure what parts of it. It at first seemed like a MMO, but that didn't seem quite right either. I got a chance to plat the beta, so here are my thoughts playing it from the perspective of someone who really didn't do a lot of background research on it.
The intro to the game seems like any other military shooter. Helicopter ride coming from who knows where, going to a city with very little background information to it. Some kind of virus had been causing the city to become much like the city from the movie "I Am Legend". Why were there random people roaming the city requesting help. They didn't look sick, just poor. Were they immune to the virus? I'm sure it will be explained in the main story, but for the purpose of the beta I guess it didn't matter.
For the single player portion of the game, I was able to play one mission set in a stadium. It didn't require a bunch of skills or know-how to get through it. It was quite easy. Nothing of note was worth mentioning in the level. The end boss was a typical bullet sponge that was more of an obstacle in your way than anything else. I know a lot of players that I talked to really enjoyed the mission, but for me it was rather boring. The only other mission that I was able to play was a search and find side mission. This one was even worse than the main story mission as it just required you to go to certain locations on the map and activate a hologram/memory sort of device that let you get a clue to the next location. By the end of it, you find the person, and thats about it. No fan fare, only a very relaxed "Thank you" from the NPC. I could have done without it if it wasn't for the lack of content in general in the beta.
The missions weren't bad really, they just didn't spark any interest in playing more. It did bring about a concern about content in the final release. Yes I know it was a beta with limited content, but it they were trying to get me interested in buying the game (let's face it, betas are glorified demos), they failed.
The gameplay was actually really spot on. The controls with exception of the grenade control was intuitive and responsive. The game is played from a third perspective which I think was the right call. I don't think I would have liked it as a FPS. Battles seemed frantic and it was nice not feeling like a super hero all the time. I liked the feeling of being able to die at any moment. It made my choices in combat carry weight and made me think about my position a lot more.
Lets talk about the elephant in the room. This game, while it looks good, looks nothing like it did during E3. That is pretty par for the course for Ubisoft. It happened with WatchDogs, and it happened here. The city looks impressive, but indoor environments, specially the indoor textures, seemed flat and objects repeated themselves too much for me to get excited about exploration. After a few buildings and being unable to tell them apart from the others, I stopped caring.
The city looked good, as I said before, but to be quite honest everything was starting to look the same. Even visual landmarks started to look the same with everything covered in snow. There was splashes of color every now and then, but for the most part the world was filled with blue and grey. This also added to the drag of exploration. I just didn't want to do it. Nothing was driving me to do it. The streets/rooms/buildings all looked the same.
The Dark Zone
Likely the main portion of the beta they wanted to test, and also the most fun. Visually nothing changed, but the mechanics did. It was a thrill knowing that other players could work with you to take out a building and at the very next moment turn on you and take everything that you had worked towards. The constant thought of that in my mind made me go out of my way to be extra helpful when I had something I wanted to get to the extraction zone. I also had a urge to be devilish when I was feeling bored and wanted to mess with someone's game. It opens the door for being a jerk in the game, but players in that zone should be aware that it could happen. The only thing I didn't like was it was all too easy to set up an ambush at entrance zones. You could get a full team (3 players) and just wait until a lone player or team to walk out into the wild. They wouldn't stand a chance. Something must be done to combat this.
So could this be the next Destiny? I don't know. I still remain neutral when it comes to this game. It has potential to be a really great game, but a worry about content and dull environments that could drag it down to eventually die out within a couple week. I would love to be wrong and have this be a Game of the Year contender that holds my attention much like Destiny.
Only time will tell.