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Gunplay makes The Division a cover shooter first, RPG second

The Division is a numbers game. AK47s, M4s, Glock 19s, M60s...


"There's a crunch to firefights you get from guns that spit ugly bullets rather than pretty flashing lasers."

There's a lot to get to know about The Division but understand this first: the gunplay is very good.

From there the rest of the game spins off to various corners that you can explore as you wish. If you're base-builder you can get to work customising your safe house. If you're a loot fiend, you can go hunting for the best. If you want to explore the map it's open for you from the get-go. Or try the brutal but rewarding PvP. And you can do this solo or with other players, friends or not.

But it all comes back to the gunplay. It's fast and a little twitchy. You can switch weapons, snap to cover, toss grenades and quickly move to flanking positions relatively easily. It feels like a faster version of Gears of War's trudge across a battlefield. It's less floaty than Star Wars Battlefront, and has a crunch to firefights you get from guns that spit ugly bullets rather than pretty flashing lasers.

TCTD_1601_web_screenshot_team_street_encounter (Copy)

I played around four hours of The Division last week and despite all the other (welcome) distractions that's what I kept coming back to - the combat. You're kitted out with two main weapon slots and a sidearm for back-up, so it's easy to switch between your favourites. But then the number of weapon slots is arbitrary as you have access to everything you've unlocked at all times. So you can flip from a heavy tank loadout to a sniper to a closer-quarters shotgun killer within seconds.

That's essential because fights in the open world New York switch from block to block. You can climb a building to snipe enemies at a distance, but then other goons will rush you with bats swinging if you try to milk cover for too long. There's room for tactics if you have a tight team of players. You can creep up and hit 'em hard with a little planning, but that could go to shit if you're overconfident about your abilities, or expect enemies to stand their ground and not try to outflank in return. The dynamic encounters that popped up as I hoofed it through the streets felt like they were forcing different approaches from me. Like there was life in this trashed city, and I needed eyes in the back of my ass if I wanted to stay alive.

That feeling becomes even more paranoid when you enter the Dark Zone, a PvP map which hides the best loot. Loot in the Dark Zone is coveted and contaminated. Once you've killed the AI holding it, you'll then need to make you way to an extraction point to pass it over to a helicopter crew. Setting off a flare alerts everyone in the Dark Zone, AI enemies and other players. They may leave you alone for the few minutes it takes to call in the chopper, attach the loot to a rope and wait for it to fly back to your home base. But they may not.

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"You don't even know what the loot is until it's extracted from the Dark Zone. You could have been fighting over a scrap of nothing all along."

Like Destiny loot is colour coded, with yellow and purple drops the most sought after. You'll need to be the right level before you can wield them, so the modding and crafting system for weapons and gear is where you'll really tweak your loadout until you graduate to the higher levels. It's an arsenal with almost unlimited variation, and even with just a handful of mods you're able to try different tweaks to basic weapons, so there's reasons to be hopeful of varied and devastating loadouts as players get close to the endgame.

But it's more likely during a Dark Zone loot extraction you'll be rushed by other players. If you're defending this is one of the highlights of The Division. The game is at its most tense when it's given you all the tools to play with but the outcome depends on your skills, the unpredictability of other players, the strength of your team mates.

Hunting down and stealing other player's loot isn't something that happens without consequence. If you're planning on robbing other players you need to understand that you'll be labelled rogue whenever you attack another live player whether they have loot or not. Going rogue turns you and any team mates into a high value target for a limited time for everyone within the Dark Zone. There's a price on your head with a decent reward. You'd better be confident your skills can match your greed.

But the real risk? You don't even know what the loot is until it's extracted from the Dark Zone. You could have been fighting over a scrap of nothing all along.

The Division is released on March 8 with a closed beta kicking off from Jan 28. Matt visited Malmo to play the game, with accommodation and travel paid for by Ubisoft.

Remember, if you're looking for a group to play The Division, our partners at The100.io have the perfect LFG solution.

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