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Tom Clancy’s The Division 2: Viewpoint Museum, Superior Gear and a Reflection on the Open Beta

“Being a victim is more palatable than having to recognize the intrinsic contradictions of one’s own governing philosophy.” ―Tom Clancy

The Division 2′s open beta ran three weeks after the private beta, adding one new mission and raising the level cap; since the private beta, the open beta has shown that the game has become a bit more stable and responsive. After speedily making my way through the first two campaign missions, and utilising the experience bonuses to quickly hit the minimum level needed to take on Viewpoint Museum, I finally arrived at the new level. The journey here was a quick one, but upon revisiting Washington D.C. in the open beta, I found that the new setting isn’t a bad one after all – the empty streets of Washington D.C. no longer feel quite so sterile, and there are more activities to do while one is moving around on the map. Handling has also been improved since the private beta; my character feels more responsive, and I no longer stagger whenever my armour is depleted. However, some bugs in the movement system still persist: I find myself getting stuck after interacting with doors and keypads, and there was one instance where I was unable to move after attempting to open a supply drop. Beyond minor grievances with movement, which can be the difference between life and death, The Division 2′s open beta shows that the title is largely ready for launch. Even on my older computer, I was able to maintain a smooth sixty frames per second, dipping down to fifty in more intense moments, and on the whole, the gunplay feels much more satisfying at lower levels than they did for equivalent levels in The Division.

After completing Viewpoint Museum, I went back into the Dark Zone to quickly hit the maximum Dark Zone level: normalisation of gear has made the Dark Zone a lot fairer, and while I was clearing landmarks on my own, a pair of players decided they wished to go rogue against me. Equipped with a good knowledge of my preferred skills, how my weapons handled and familiarity with the mechanics as a result of the private beta, I ended up squaring off against both agents head-on and managed to defeat them. PvP combat never really was my cup of tea in The Division, but The Division 2′s normalised Dark Zone provide a rather interesting environment to fight in: all players have an equal chance here. This particular Dark Zone is a bit small, but there are other Dark Zones, including at least one where players go in with their regular stats, allowing individuals to experience the Dark Zone as they please. Besides destroying rogue agents, I also successfully completed through the Jefferson Trade Centre Invaded mission, solo, with the demolitionist specialisation. It turns out that the M32 MSGL is an absolute terror, and upon encountering the named elites, I was shocked to learn that the grenades could bring down these enemies in one shot. Again, experience with the private beta meant that I had no difficulty melting my way through the Black Task on my own. With this particular experience under my belt, I spent the remainder of my time on improving my loadout and finishing off all of the different projects to upgrade the Theatre Settlement.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • While LMGs in The Division became obsolete very quickly, I found that at all points in The Division 2, from the story missions to the endgame, LMGs were versatile, viable weapons that could hit reasonably hard and put down sustained amounts of damage downrange, making them especially useful against crowds and heavily armoured enemies. I spent most of Friday evening working my way back to the point where I could complete this mission: my progress from the private beta did not save, and I took advantage of this to run a new character.

  • The Viewpoint Museum is based off the Newseum, a museum that showcases a history of journalism. The locations of Washington D.C. are faithfully replicated, and looking at a map of Washington D.C., it is quite impressive as to how accurate The Division 2‘s D.C. are to the real-world equivalent. In the beta, much of the map remains locked, and in the full game, I imagine that players will be able to visit Capital One Arena, home of the Washington Capitals.

  • It seemed curious to be fighting a building about the history of journalism, with the intent of shutting down the True Sons’ propaganda broadcast: the True Sons are probably most similar to the LMB, being well-trained and well-organised. They were formed by a former JTF officer who was disillusioned with how things were handled following the Dollar Flu crisis, and are probably the most lethal enemy players will face until the Black Tusk arrive.

  • Despite Ubisoft’s reassurances that The Division 2 is not directed at conveying a political message about the current state of government in the United States, and the fact that the game is ultimately about showing how people can come together to survive and overcome adversity, some game journalists have insisted on pushing their own narrative. Arguing that The Division is symbolic of using force to take back a fallen system, journalists claim that it is “[disrespectful to] the intelligence of the players” to claim that the game is apolitical because of its symbolism. The page quote is one of Tom Clancy’s very own remarks, speaking succinctly to my own thoughts on the presence of virtue signalling and the excesses that accompany it.

  • While all people are entitled to their opinion, it is disrespectful to suppose that the creator’s intent is irrelevant when considering the merits of a game and its messages. It typifies games journalists of a certain type to insert their discourse into something meant to entertain players: this issue has been especially prevalent since an incident some five years ago that threw the practises of gaming journalists into the open, although I personally find the discourse that such journalists raise to be largely irrelevant to my own perspectives of a game. Simply put, gameplay mechanics and progression matter much more to me than political messages.

  • I ended up running an M249B throughout most of The Division 2: the hordes of enemies that storm the player means that for most mid-range engagements, my assault rifle would run dry after three enemies, and being caught in the open with an empty chamber spells certain death. Throughout The Division 2, I switched between the different kinds of weapons, and found that the weapons’ different performances are much more pronounced than they were in The Division: every weapon has a role to play now, and so, it is useful to carry a range of weapons now.

  • The final stage of taking back the Viewpoint Museum involves disabling EMP jammers on the rooftop, while simultaneously engaging True Sons. The EMP will prevent players from using their skills and also introduce a considerable amount of visual disruption on the screen, so it is imperative to take the jammers down right away. Once this is done, players will square off against the named elite that appears.

  • During the course of The Division 2‘s open beta, I found that enemies of all difficulties, from basic enemies right up to the named elites, all were relatively straightforwards to engage at all levels. When I first played The Division, enemies with yellow health bars were always intimidating to fight, and that The Division 2‘s enemies never invoked a sense of fear in me the same way the toughest enemies of The Division did suggest that I’ve since become more familiar with the mechanics of The Division. With this being said, the First Wave agents that were the bosses of Legendary missions were absolutely monstrosities to fight, and could easily wipe the careless teams out wholesale. I imagine that these enemies will be present for The Division 2‘s equivalent of legendary missions, such as raids.

  • Having completed the Viewpoint Museum with minimal difficulty, I had now caught up with the open beta’s experiences and soon turned my attention towards maxing out my Dark Zone rank for a second time. The Dark Zone available in The Division 2‘s open beta was about the same size as one of the sectors in The Division‘s Dark Zone, but despite this, seemed to offer plenty of opportunity for exploration. Randomly roving bands of enemies are absent, as most enemies seem concentrated around the landmarks.

  • During my run in the Dark Zone, I never bothered extracting any items since the gains from a successful extraction seems outweighed by the risk of losing it. However, I did have two separate instances where other players turned rogue in my face, hoping to score a quick kill, and I ended up pasting them on the pavement: this fellow here opened fire on me, and I happened to have my M249B out: its large ammunition pool mean that while he was stuck reloading, I could continue to lay down fire, eventually downing him.

  • I brought down another rogue agent using a superior CTAR-21: during the course of the open beta, I found two superior items in my travels, and their performance gave me a very minute edge over would-be assailants. The sum of my experiences in The Division 2‘s Dark Zone meant that it would be worthwhile to buy the game just to cause trouble for the agents that would turn rogue: normalised gear means that winning a firefight with other players boils down to better spatial awareness, weapon control and skill management. Against individual rogues, they simply stand no chance.

  • I decided to give the endgame Invaded mission another go, and this time, rolled with the demolitions expert loadout. This specialisation gave me access to the M32 MSGL, a six-shot grenade launcher. There’s a special way of improving one’s odds of acquiring signature weapon ammunition: with the marksman, it was nailing headshots, and with the demolitions expert, it’s using explosives or weak-point kills. I had no shortage of 40 mm grenades during my second solo run, and this time, with improved map knowledge, I made it through the first corridor without too much trouble.

  • I decided to save the 40 mm grenades for a named elite, and I was horrified with its effects. Unlike the TAC-50, which requires a direct line of sight and is better suited for long-range operations, the M32 MSGL’s indirect fire capabilities means that it is capable of being used against enemies in cover. I fired off one grenade in the ISAC Terminal room, and killed the named elite in one round, preventing the shutdown of the ISAC Terminal in record time. I subsequently used the grenades to annihilate hordes of enemies: the grenades appear to be capable of doing up to 500 thousand points of damage.

  • The biggest disadvantage about being a solo player is simply the risk of being flanked is increased by several fold: blindly charging into a new area without being mindful of enemy placement is the surest way to death, and I’m sure that many games journalists of late don’t know this simple, but effective trick to staying alive longer. When I entered this room, I had no idea where the enemies would spawn from, and so, threw my auto-turret into the center. The turret is very effective at whittling down health of enemies, and can be set to lock onto drones, as well: any complaints that the skills are ineffective are a consequence of not experimenting and doing some reading on what the different specialisations have.

  • I feel that for gaming journalism to be more relevant, organisations would need to encourage their staff to cultivate a more satisfactory understanding of game mechanics, as opposed to tangential matters that do not impact gameplay. For me, I had no trouble blasting my way through the Black Tusks at this point: the M249B was my go-to weapon during this run, and I was very impressed with how LMGs from The Division 2 handle: assault rifles no longer deal bonus armour damage, and extended mags have a unique set of drawbacks that force players to be mindful of how they mod their weapons. As such, for their impressive ability to suppress enemies and sustain fire, they are excellent for solo players to control large numbers of enemies.

  • When the named elite appeared, I lured him into a narrow corridor and equipped the M32 MSGL: I was fully expecting a challenging fight ahead, as the elite here has an RPG of some sort that can one-shot players from full health, but I was left speechless after absolutely shredding the elite with a single shot. This brought my second end-game run to an end, and I leave finding the demolitions specialisation one that could be very entertaining for close-quarters maps.

  • Exploration found the starting area to be revisitable, and here, I pass through the area The Division 2‘s beta began in. Compared to three weeks ago, the weather back home has remained bitterly cold, and we’ve broken some records now. Besides being the fourth coldest February in the city’s history, we’ve had more than four straight weeks where the temperatures have not broken above 0ºC. To stave off nearly a month of non-stop cold, I stepped out to an Irish Pub on Friday for some hearty Irish classics: a piping-hot Steak and Guinness pie with large chunks of beef and root vegetables proved more than sufficient for warding off the cold.

  • Having said this, it looks like temperatures will finally warm up at least a little in the upcoming while. Despite being nowhere near as warm as the atmosphere conveyed in The Division 2, anything above zero is considered balmy for me. The Division 2, being set in the summer, definitely gives off a sense of warmth, even mugginess: the lighting has vastly improved over The Division, and here, I stopped to admire the volumetric lighting streaming between the trees while pushing to complete more of the activities for the settlement projects.

  • Unlike the private beta, I had a bit more spare time available over the weekend to complete the settlement projects in full. The Division 2 offers plenty to do, and it’s clear that the game has taken the lessons of The Division to keep things engaging for players en route to the endgame, as well as during the endgame itself. With this post on The Division 2 at a close, readers left wondering about my writings in March won’t need to worry: I do have a few more posts on games upcoming, but coming up next will be a lengthy post on CLANNAD ~After Story~ as Ushio’s arc concludes, and then a reflection of why I felt the ending in ~After Story~ was one that was appropriate for the story.

  • This is my final loadout from the open beta: I ended up collecting quite a number of specialised assault rifles during my run, as well. On the whole, my final loadout for The Division 2‘s open beta proved to be rather more impressive than the one I had after The Division‘s open beta: this particular arsenal will be moot, given that all progress will reset once the game goes live, but I’m still very pleased to have found a superior CTAR-21 and backpack during my run. All of this was accomplished without using any exploits or tricks; I was able to find everything just from normal gameplay.

Overall, I spent around eight hours in The Division 2′s open beta. During this time, I acquired more specialised gear than I had expected, and even managed to find two pieces of superior gear. My experiences in The Division‘s beta and the final game showed that the superior items would appear much later in the game than they did in the beta: it wasn’t until level twenty where I began seeing purple drops. This open beta was exceptionally fun and also illuminating in that it helped me reached a more informed decision on where I stand with The Division 2. On one hand, Washington D.C. has proven itself to be a distinct and engaging setting to fight in. New mechanics show that The Division 2 has definitely applied the lessons learnt from The Division to create a more compelling experience. Crafting and inventory management has seen vast improvements over its predecessor, and this time, shooting is much more satisfying even when one has not reached the endgame. While some issues remain with the movement system, The Division 2 has made considerable strides since its private beta. All of this is very positive for the game, and I expect that fans of The Division will definitely enjoy this one upon its launch. However, having said this, I do not see myself pre-ordering The Division 2 or purchasing it shortly after release for two reasons – I already have a considerable backlog of other titles that I’d like to go through, along with quite enough to do in the foreseeable future. It does not appear in my best interest to buy a title at launch, only for it to accumulate dust in my library. Instead, what will likely happen is that into the future, once I’ve made enough headway in my backlog, I will pick up The Division 2. In all honesty, this does seem like a game that merits purchase at launch price, and I think that anyone familiar with The Division will do well to grab this one.

Tom Clancy’s The Division 2: Soloing the Black Tusks in the Endgame Invaded Mission during the Private Beta

“Brave men rejoice in adversity, just as brave soldiers triumph in war.” –Lucius Annaeus Seneca

After taking back Washington D.C. from the Hyenas, Outcasts and True Sons, the Strategic Homeland Division appear to have regained their footing over the American capital. However, the arrival of Black Tusk, a private military organisation whose objectives are shrouded in enigma. With training and gear surpassing that of even the Division’s, Black Tusk are the toughest enemies players will face: after their arrival, they take back strongholds and settlements, armed with highly sophisticated weaponry and automaton. They are the equivalent of The Division‘s Last Man Battalion, but having likely benefitted from Aaron Keener’s betrayal, are counted as even more formidable enemies. This is the faction that players fight at the end of The Division 2, and the private beta offered a chance to square off against the most lethal enemies seen in The Division since the First Wave and Hunters – upon completing the Jefferson Trade Centre mission, players gained access to three level thirty characters, one for each specialisation, and had an opportunity to take a shot at Black Tusk. I decided to attempt this mission solo: I had, after all, gone through more or less the whole of The Division, save the Legendary missions, on my own, and at level thirty, access to a signature weapon would have offered some quarter even against overwhelming odds. At least, this is what I initially thought: shortly after spawning into the Invaded mission, I found myself wiped out after setting foot into the Jefferson Trade Centre’s first corridor, being blown to bits by the exceptionally tough enemies and their liberal use of explosive drones to flush me out of cover. I was thus stuck at the first hallway, unable to advance further.

However, The Division is not known for being forgiving, and I decided to look through my inventory to see if there was another way: besides the SR-1 rifle and PP-19 Bizon, I found that I had an L86A2 available to me. The PP-19 was woefully inadequate for close quarters combat, and against my enemies, was simply not dealing enough damage, so I switched over the the L86, and the mission suddenly played differently. The SR-1 remained useful, and with this setup, I approached the mission with greater caution, slowly picking away enemies from range with the SR-1 and luring them towards my position so that they could be dispatched, one at a time, with the L86. I thus fought through the Jefferson Trade Centre’s crumbling hallways and derelict parkade, reaching the ISAC terminal, which was guarded by a named elite. The time had come to use the McMillan TAC-50 anti-materiel rifle, and even though it was close quarters, I managed to line up a shot, decimating the elite and much of his armour. Finishing him and the automaton off, I managed to prevent shutdown of the ISAC terminal. I subsequently fought through an atrium, disabling jamming devices and fending off hordes of Black Tusk soldiers, before returning to the courtyard to square off against the stronghold lieutenant. Again, the TAC-50 found its place here: two headshots, and the named elite was downed, allowing me to finish the mission in its entirety. In the release version, a pile of awards would await players, but for now, the sense of accomplishment from having finished the mission solo is not a bad substitute at all.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • When I reached The Division‘s endgame a year ago, I had a gear score of 137, and so, my priority was collecting better gear. I was reasonably well-equipped to deal with most threats of my world tier, and so, entered expecting the endgame mission to be about as difficult as a challenging mission in The Division: quite manageable if played correctly. However, here in The Division 2, I have not spec’d out my character to my liking, and so, did not have a character that was tuned to my play-style.

  • The start of this mission, however, felt more like a legendary mission: I spent quite a while trying to figure out how to get past this hallway, and it was not until I switched over from the PP-19 to the L86A2 where things began turning around. Without another player to help me deal with threats that had flanked me, I was forced to retreat and make use of my armour-repairing drone to keep alive. However, the amount of hot lead the L86 could deliver was a much-needed asset in the narrow hallways of the Jefferson Trade Centre.

  • An automatic weapon dealing respectable damage is essential for The Division, and I admit that the PP-19 was never my choice of weapon, doing far too little damage to be useful at the endgame. I traditionally run with assault rifles and the extended magazines since they have bonus armour damage, and with the Destructive perk, plus the additional armour damage conferred by the Striker’s Battlegear, I am predominantly geared for PvE. In The Division 2, extended mags will no longer be as powerful, and this is where LMGs will shine: the L86 can hold 60 rounds and this proved to be useful, allowing me to take on more than one enemy at a time before reloading, and at close ranges, their recoil is more than manageable.

  • Every version of The Division has its frustrations: in The Division 2, the drones that enemies can deploy are an irritant. They deal a non-trivial amount of damage and force players out of cover. Because one is now made to deal with them, enemies can then flank players while they are distracted. This is especially tricky for solo players – in groups, players can coordinate attacks on the enemy. I ended up burst-firing the L86 to take out drones approaching me.

  • I’ve heard nothing but frustration for some players who attempted the Invaded mission: in teams, the challenge comes from a greater number of enemies to deal with, whereas solo, the difficulty stems from being flanked. The changes in The Division 2 meant that some players found it even more difficult than The Division‘s Legendary missions, but I disagree: I’ve never beaten a Legendary mission solo before, primarily because the end of each mission has players square off against First Wave Agents that are incredibly tough.

  • One of the biggest surprises in The Division 2‘s endgame is that Black Tusk medics can revive downed enemies, rather than just healing them. This was such a shock, and also impressive as a mechanic: it suddenly becomes all the more important to take out enemy medics, since they can bring heavily armoured forces back into play. Carelessness can quickly shift the tide of battle, so one’s priority should be dealing with medics – they are vulnerable while reviving, so this is the best time to take them out of the fight.

  • The TAC-50 is one of three signature weapons in The Division 2: for the marksman specialisation, the TAC-50 is a long-range weapon that can rip distant foes apart. Chambered for the .50 BMG, the TAC-50 is lighter and more accurate, but has a lower muzzle velocity than the Barrett M82. I’m guessing it was chosen for its lower ammunition capacity and bolt-operated action (in turn conferring balance): the M82 has a ten-round detachable box magazine and is semi-automatic, while the TAC-50 runs with a five-round magazine.

  • Even though it may not be an iconic Barrett rifle, it is powerful and can blow enemy elites away: on my lonesome, I managed to clear this part on short order and secured the ISAC terminal before it could be shut down. During The Division 2‘s Invaded mission, I found that a headshot with the SR-1 deals upwards of two hundred thousand points of damage, while the TAC-50 can hit for three hundred thousand. By comparison, my M700 Carbon from The Division hits for around six hundred and fifty thousand without any damage bonuses, but it can easily reach one million damage if I’m running with sniper-oriented gear.

  • The main downside about signature weapons is that ammunition for them is incredibly rare. I found that ammunition for the TAC-50 dropped frequently enough, since I was commonly using the SR-1 and dropping distant enemies with headshots. Headshots in The Division 2 aren’t quite as satisfying as they were in The Division, where kills from headshots made a whooshing sound. While an indoors mission, the open spaces of the parkade allowed me to make good use of the SR-1: from the looks of things, killing enemies a certain way will increase the likelihood of special ammunition dropping.

  • Games journalists for major sites found the Invaded mission to feature bullet sponge enemies, a common complaint with The Division: one article I read had the author recount nigh-invincible enemies that took, and I quote “400 light machine gun bullets … to the face and [were] still standing”. As well, the author found that skills were ineffectual, barely dealing any damage. I disagree – the automatic turret is effective for dispatching drones while holding down a location, and I could drop purple enemies with a thirty rounds from the L86.

  • Special ammunition is rare, but the drop rates aren’t abysmal, either. With this being said, I can see the higher difficulty missions as definitely requiring more than one player to complete; the Raids that will be coming in The Division 2 involve eight-player teams, attesting to their difficulty, and I wager that the rewards for completing those missions will rival the exotics and classified gear of The Division.

  • With this being said, I wonder if the signature weapons will be replacing the Exotic and Classified gear sets of The Division; a part of the joy in The Division was going on excursions to find the rarest gear, and on my part, I managed to complete the Marshall Shield, which entails collecting all twenty-five of the Exotic weapons and gear pieces in the game. The Golden Rhino, a special revolver, dropped for me, and since then, I’ve now got all of the Exotics available in the base version of The Division. This was no small feat, especially considering that I went through the entire game solo except for the occasional Legendary mission.

  • The selection of Exotics in The Division weren’t bad: I’m especially fond of the Urban MDR, The House, and the Bullfrog. I wish there was an exotic bolt-action rifle in the game that acted as an anti-materiel rifle, although I know full well that such a weapon would be difficult to balance. An exotic bolt-action rifle firing .50 BMG rounds would be devastating against named elites and would render some missions too easy. The Division 2 has signature weapons fulfilling this role, using ammunition capacity to ensure that players only use the weapons under certain conditions.

  • One nice feature to have in The Division 2 would be variations of the signature weapons, which would alter gameplay slightly. For instance, players would be able to swap out the TAC-50 for the M82, allowing them to deal damage faster, but it would also burn through special ammo more quickly. Similarly, the M32 MSGL could be exchanged for a RG-6, whose smaller dimensions make it faster to reload, but at the expense of range or firing rate. Finally, the crossbow could be exchange for a compound bow: a crossbow would hit harder and be more accurate, while a compound bow would have a faster firing rate and be stealthier.

  • I ended up having enough time to beat the Invaded mission once with the sharpshooter specialisation, and when I attempted the demolitions specialisation, I found that the total absence of special ammunition meant that I could not get enough rounds into the M32 MSGL to make it effective. I imagine that a grenade launcher would be more effective for crowd control than against a single target, and a team of players with varied specialisations could be far more effective in endgame missions compared to individual players.

  • The time has come to break out the TAC-50 again and wield it against the final wave of enemies to clear this mission. To convince readers that I was, in fact, able to solo this mission, all of the screenshots I’ve provided all have timestamps. I knew that I would be squaring off against a powerful named elite here, but before that can happen, waves of Black Tusk forces appear. For my solo play, I found that the automatic turret was most useful: it can automatically lock onto drones and destroy them, or else keep an enemy distracted long enough for me to waste them.

  • As such, unlike many of the gaming journalists who found the endgame pure frustration, I managed to complete the Invaded mission of the private beta in under an hour. One of my friends remarks that gaming journalists of late are probably more equipped to deal with low-skill games (like kinetic novels written in the Twine Engine) than games that involve spatial awareness, good reaction times and a reasonable understanding of mechanics, hence their miserable experiences in The Division 2‘s endgame.

  • Two shots from the TAC-50 were sufficient to utterly destroy the named elite: this is offset by the fact that the named elite is so powerful, he can one-shot careless players. Because of my setup, I simply engaged him from range, then peeked around a corner and fired a second shot to finish the job: there is a degree of satisfaction from firing the TAC-50 owing to its powerful report. The signature weapons prima facie seem more skill-driven than the signature skills of The Division: I ended up running purely with recovery link to instantly revive myself from lethal damage and in Legendary missions, save my entire team from being sent back. Here, no such abilities exist, forcing teams to be more careful about how they approach missions.

  • Just like that, I managed to complete the endgame mission alone, with no support. Many of the other folks I’ve seen, including Jusuchin, ended up joining a group in order to complete the mission: while squadding up gives the advantage of having more guns available to prevent flanks, and also allows for teammates to revive one another, enemy difficulty is also elevated in response. Both group and solo play have their own unique challenges.

  • I ended up getting a handful of high-end items, allowing me to replace the superior gear pieces in my loadout, and during the course of the mission, also got an improved L86A2 to replace the default one I started with. It looks like the gear scores have also been raised in The Division 2, going up to 350. For now, there’s no way to optimise gear or weapons, but once the full game comes out, I’m certain that once players are able to properly tune their loadouts, the endgame will become much more enjoyable. With this post on The Division 2‘s private beta in the books, I will be writing about Ace Combat 7 in the near future, and Penguin Highway. I’m sure that Penguin Highway will be a breath of fresh air for my readers, who doubtlessly grow tired of my endless posts on games.

I note that at this point, being handed a level thirty end-game character geared completely randomly mean that this mission was already quite tricky – under normal circumstances, I would pick the gear and loadout that matches the way I’d like to play. A good assault rifle and secondary weapon would be my choices in a given mission for The Division, but given that The Division 2 has a much more balanced weapon attachment system, it suddenly dawned on me that LMGs might also have their roles to play; with their larger capacities, they are capable of sustained fire, ideal for dealing consistent damage against the tough Black Tusk units. Even the standard “grunts” with red health bars are no pushovers. Between Black Tusk’s flanking and their liberal use of equipment, they are an incredibly challenging, nigh-frustrating foe to fight. In spite of this, patience and understanding of enemy patterns eventually allowed me to prevail. Overall, the mission took me about an hour to finish: after a quarter-hour of struggling against the first hallway, I eventually found my rhythm and made my way through the remainder of the mission at a more methodical pacing. It is immediately apparent that the endgame was designed for players to group together, even though Ubisoft has made it clear that The Division 2 is more solo-friendly than the first. I’m curious to see what directions The Division 2 will take, and while I’m presently undecided about the game, I could see myself picking this title up during a good sale – the campaign itself is supposed to last forty hours, and that alone could merit the price of admissions. The question, at that stage, becomes whether or not I would have time to sit down and experience The Division 2 in all of its glory.

Tom Clancy’s The Division 2: National Treasure, The House, Rogue Agents and a Reflection on the Private Beta

“Let’s see what the second wave is made of.” –Aaron Keener, The Division

Seven months after the events of The Division, where rogue First Wave Agent Aaron Keener abducted Russian scientist Vitaly Tchernenko, the Dollar Flu has spread around continental USA, and Strategic Homeland Division (The Division for brevity) are sent in to assist survivors and recapture Washington D.C., which has fallen to criminal organisations and vie for control of the American capitsl. After securing the White House as a base of operations, players head to the theatre district and assist a settlement in retrieving their compatriots, before reactivating the ISAC servers at the Jefferson Trade Centre. Along the way, players capture strategic locations to help survivors, can go recover the Declaration of Independence in The Division 2‘s take on National Treasure, and gain their first foray into Washington D.C.’s Dark Zone. Upon finishing the Jefferson Trade Centre mission, players also gain access to three pre-made level thirty characters, where they have the chance to take on the Black Tusks, an elite military unit with equipment that gives The Division’s a run for its money. Set in Washington D.C. during a sweltering summer, The Division 2 is a world apart from the frigid winters of Manhattan: snow and cold are displaced with overgrowth and foetid pools of stagnant water. The atmospherics are completely different, and where Manhattan offered a much more cold, desolate setting, Washington D.C. feels like Alan Weisman’s The World Without Us brought to life. The more vivid, colourful environment, and settlements that have developed now that the Dollar Flu is slowly starting to recede, give the impression of a world where people have adapted and endured despite the widespread damage that has occurred. However, while the new location is vividly rendered, I personally enjoyed the Manhattan setting to a much greater extent and felt that any sequel could’ve taken players to cities like Hong Kong or Tokyo, which would have really accentuated the consequences of allowing Keener to escape during the first game. Taking the game over to Asia would also have provided the opportunity to explore Asian cities: I would have thoroughly enjoyed having my Base of Operations at the Hong Kong Convention Center and fight through the skyscrapers of Central, or evade rouge Agents in MTR stations around Mong Kwok, for instance. The atmospherics for The Division 2 aren’t as memorable as those of The Division: a sweltering summer set in the Eastern Seaboard evokes imagery of basement-dwellers wasting away perfectly good summer days poring over TV Tropes’ forums or endless image macros, which is of course, no way to spend a summer.

Handling similarly to its predecessor, The Division 2 introduces some major changes into numerous aspects of the gameplay. Gone are the days of having to balance gear for firearms, toughness and electronics points, as well as concerns about blueprints yielding obsolete equipment and having to endlessly keep track of mods for gear. All of this has been streamlined so that things are easier to manage: with the right resources, players can continuously upgrade their gear as they level up without needing to fill their inventory with duplicates. The weapon modification system has also been improved, so that attachments offer side-grades for each weapon. Each optic, barrel, under barrel and magazine mod provides a benefit for a weapon that comes at a cost. In The Division, it was viable to attach a 15x rifle scope, suppressor and extended magazines for all of one’s weapons, since it would improve headshot damage, magazine capacity and accuracy consistently. The end result of this was that players would always run these attachments, leaving the others unused. With each attachment now providing one drawback in addition to its benefits, players will be made to consider what works best for them: certain barrel attachments reduce damage against elites in exchange for more headshot damage, for instance. The health system has also been redone; players now have an armour system covering their health, and medical kits are replaced by kits that repair damaged armour, forcing players to use their skills and consumables more wisely. Vaulting has seen dramatic improvement over its predecessor: in The Division 2, players can vault over smaller obstacles more quickly than large ones. Beyond some noticeable changes, however, The Division 2 is very similar to its predecessor and entering the game, I had no troubles at all familiarising myself with the gunplay and movement systems. While many of these changes benefit The Division 2, there are also some the movement system is not as responsive or crisp of the first – I was unable to walk properly after entering the Dark Zone, and occasionally felt as though my player was not going where I was asking. Modifying weapons was quite tricky, as clicking on a slot would always send me to the optics mods first. Visibility is also reduced, making it more difficult to see enemies and properly plan out one’s engagements. Random enemy encounters can also be frustrating: players generally feel a bit weaker in The Division 2, and getting flanked by unseen enemies can result in certain death. However, for its limitations, The Division 2 does feel to be a worthy sequel to The Division, being simultaneously familiar, while also introducing mechanics that show the developers have been mindful of community feedback.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The last time I wrote about The Division, I was trying to push my post count to one thousand ahead of the blog’s seventh anniversary, and when I wrote about The Division‘s open beta, it was three years ago. According to that post, I spent most of that Saturday on campus attempting to fix my lab computer, which had failed for reasons I can’t remember. Three years later, I’m on the lawn of the White House, repelling hostile forces as twilight sets in. For this post, I’ve got thirty screenshots, and I’ll be writing about the endgame’s Invaded mission in a separate post.

  • I was fortunate to get into The Division 2‘s private beta; this was not open to everyone, and it was a stroke of luck I could experience things. After taking back the White House as the base of operations, I immediately began making my way to the Theatre to begin the campaign and side missions: the beta featured two stories and five side missions. My immediate impressions of Washington D.C. were that, while quite nice, it’s missing the same impressive atmospherics as Manhattan from The Division.

  • The first campaign mission takes players to the Grand Washington Hotel. I recall travelling to the Eastern Seaboard some eight years previously, and the hotels in this side of the world have that sense of grandeur from an older period to them. Compared to Madison Square Garden in The Division, I did find that some parts of the mission were a bit more sterile in nature in terms of lighting and colour.

  • As I fight deeper into the hotel, I entered what appears to be a banquet hall. Many hotels double as event venues for conferences, celebrations and other events, although at this point in The Division 2, it’s clear that the hotel’s seen better days. The Hyenas are among the first of the enemies encountered in The Division 2: along with the True Sons, they are the only enemies one will encounter during the private beta. The Division 2 seems to be missing an equivalent of the Cleaners, flamethrower-toting sanitation workers decked out in protective gear.

  • The cleaners were a unique and interesting enemy to fight, and their presence in The Division 2 is missed. I ended up finding an M16A2 rifle during the first mission: rifles in The Division 2 are a separate category from the assault rifles, being distinct in dealing more damage per round and having semi-automatic fire compared to assault rifles. The Division only had marksman rifles, which could either be slow-firing bolt-action rifles or the faster-firing designated marksman rifles.

  • Also absent from the private beta was the pulse: in The Division, the pulse is an indispensable tool that marks out enemy positions and when upgraded, allows players to deal additional damage against marked targets. Healing is also gone, replaced by a drone that can drop explosives on enemy positions or repair one’s armour over time. The armour repair is the preferred option, since armour is damaged very quickly. A particularly bothersome feature in The Division 2 is that players stagger whenever their armour is depleted, preventing one from ducking into cover and causing them to lose their orientation.

  • We’re now nearly halfway through February, and the month has been brutal as far as weather goes, with -20°C being the daily high and windchill of -40°C a part of each and every evening. The bitterly cold weather has not dissuaded some of my friends from gathering, and on the weekend of the private beta, I was invited to bowling and raclette. It’s been four years since I last went bowling, and this time, I got three more strikes than I did last time. The grilled meats of raclette were a welcome respite from the cold: we decide to mix things up this time, and I brought fondue beef, as well as prawns seasoned with garlic powder and black pepper, which, in conjunction with the usual sausage, pepper, mushroom and cheeses, was the perfect way to ward off the cold after bowling.

  • The evening concluded with two rounds of BANG!, a surprisingly fun card game. The next day, we went out for dim sum downtown amongst the still-frigid weather: the cold receded somewhat after har gao, deep-fried squid and beef chow fun, and I took the time to purchase some new sweaters. We also saw some ice sculptures at a park nestled amongst the skyscrapers,, but on account of how blistering the windchill was, could only stay for a few minutes. Considering how packed the weekend was, I’m surprised I managed to get as much out of the private beta as I did.

  • The side missions of The Division 2 are more varied than those of The Division, and the first one I went through entailed collecting SHD tech. In The Division, SHD tech was used to optimise gear and was used only in the endgame, but here, they act as skill points for unlocking mods and perks for the player. There are various SHD caches scattered around Washington D.C., and nearby are gear caches as well.

  • Because I have an entire post dedicated to the Jefferson Trade Center mission, I won’t be covering that in too great of detail. This mission entails reactivating the ISAC terminal before rescuing another Division agent. The summer setting does allow for some interesting phenomenon to be witnessed, such as partially flooded basements and parkades filled with disgusting algae water. It’s a very nice touch and brings to mind the writings of The World Without Us.

  • I ended up playing The Division 2 on medium-high settings, which struck a balance between maintaining a smooth sixty frames per second and preserving visual fidelity. From a graphics perspective, The Division 2 is similar to The Division in many ways. Some textures in The Division 2 are inferior, but on the flip-side, lighting in The Division 2 seems to have improved over its predecessor.

  • The parts of a narcotics lab can be seen here: during the intense firefight with the Hyenas, destroying the glassware will cause the chemicals to evaporate. The Division 2 features a new status effect: shooting at the Hyenas’s weak points releases a poison of sorts that disorients players and directly impacts their health without damaging their armour. It forces players to engage them at range, but when destroyed, it also slows the enemy down. The rushers are particularly bothersome, and so, I made it a point to have a good close-quarters weapon when dealing with enemies.

  • When I encountered my first named elite in The Division, the ensuing battle took upwards of a quarter hour, and I wondered why my weapons were so ineffective. I wished I had a marksman rifle, and looking back, it turns out that the trick to beating Madison Square Garden was to close the distance and use an assault rifle. By the time of The Division 2, I am more familiar with enemy archetypes and know that snipers have weaker armour, so I ended up closing the distance using cover and then proceeded to melt the boss. Having finished both campaign missions, I unlocked the Invaded mission.

  • One of the more amusing things about The Division 2 is that there’s frequently calls to assist other downed agents, and I invariably ended up helping no one. I get that dying during free roam is frustrating: in The Division, enemies are rare enough so that one is always prepared to handle them, even if they are a few levels higher. By comparison, reduced enemy visibility means that encounters with roaming enemies are not so straightforward, and it is possible to die from a bad flank.

  • At some point during the private beta, I came across the Urban MDR. In The Division, the Urban MDR was an exotic semi-automatic rifle that dealt bonus damage to enemies afflicted by a status effect. While handling more like a designated marksman rifle, the Urban MDR’s classification as an assault rifle allowed it to hold up to 45 rounds, and deal bonus armour damage. It was an interesting weapon to use. In The Division 2, it’s classified as a rifle and handles similarly as it once did. I immediately placed an ACOG sight on it to help with longer range engagements.

  • While recovering SHD tech from the Bureau Headquarters, modelled after the J. Edgar Hoover Building, I put the MDR to good use clearing away distant enemies. Two headshots were sufficient to down most opponents, and here, the Brutalist architectural style of the building can be seen. The Hoover Building resembles the Math Sciences Building at the University of Calgary, as well as Lakeview Square, a mixed use building I worked briefly out of during my time in Winnipeg.

  • An open beta will be running during the first week of March, and at this point, I’m wondering if it is in my interest to continue, having already obtained a reasonably comprehensive experience of what The Division 2 will entail. If my progress from the private beta carries over, then I will definitely be taking another look in more detail, since it would be a chance to see if I can improve my loadout before the open beta ends (I’ve seen players get superior items in the Dark Zone), as well as attempt the Invaded mission with the M32A1 MSGL. Otherwise, I will likely stick with Ace Combat 7.

  • Here, I arrive at the National Archives with the aim of recovering the Declaration of Independence. The mission felt distinctly like National Treasure, where treasure hunter Ben Gates (Nicholas Cage) plans out an elaborate heist to steal the Declaration of Independence with the aim of securing the next clue to a major treasure. My task is rather simpler in The Division 2: all of the immensely complex security systems have been disabled, and it was a simple matter of walking in, destroying anything that moved with the MDR and then picking it up.

  • After picking up the Declaration of Independence, it’s off to the main floor where the document is housed while on display. Players must fight a boss, but armed with the L86A2, I made short work of all enemies despite being surrounded the instant I joined the fight: here, I’ve equipped the seeker mines to act as a smart grenade of sorts. I note that The Division 2 has an impressive soundtrack: the music is well-done and rather suits the atmospherics, similarly to how The Division‘s incidental music accentuated the atmosphere in the game.

  • During control point capture events, players have the option of calling in support, which makes the fight considerably easier. The Division 2 also introduces stationary weapon emplacements: mounted M134 miniguns allow players to put an insane amount of hot lead downrange, and when used properly, can allow a player to tear enemies apart. Even named elites do not stand a chance. With this in mind, when players are at the receiving end of the weapon, they are pinned down and must move carefully – being exposed to its fire will eliminate players very quickly.

  • During my run in The Division 2, I only picked up one specialised weapon: the RPK. With extended magazines no longer quite as overpowered as they were, LMGs are modestly useful again even during the endgame, where their larger ammunition capacity means being able to deliver sustained, consistent damage against the exceptionally tough Black Tusks. Against ordinary enemies, I found that LMGs are best used at closer ranges – their recoil can be quite unruly. Shotguns have also been given a major improvement: the double-barreled shotgun I acquired was a one-shot kill, and I found a Saiga 12K that could consistently deliver two shot kills.

  • The first of the Dark Zone missions is a PvE introduction to mechanics in the Dark Zone. It was a breeze to complete, especially since I found an MPX prior to entering the Dark Zone. In The Division, the MPX was known as The House, an Exotic SMG whose special talent was dealing bonus damage with one half of the magazine. Without any downsides, this is easily the best Exotic in the game. I’ve gotten four of these over my time, and the weapon is beastly. Even though the MPX loses its Exotic status in The Division 2, it remains very powerful.

  • I encountered several players in the Dark Zone, and for the most part, everyone was friendly, preferring to work together to clear landmarks. I revived a few players who were downed in the tougher landmarks, and for the most part, found the Dark Zone to be surprisingly easy compared to its predecessor’s – my gear and weapons have been normalised, so everyone’s gear performs the same for PvP, but also allows players to hit harder against the enemies, which scale accordingly with players.

  • Once I familiarised myself with the Dark Zone, I was clearing landmarks on my own, but for the most part, I was hesitant to pick up any gear and call in an extraction: my experiences with The Division‘s Dark Zone was harrowing, and I was killed by groups of Rogues. Towards the end of The Division, however, I was powerful enough to melt individual players who had gone rogue, but I still prefer staying out of sight and away from groups, since four players could easily overpower me had they any semblance of skill.

  • I did end up focusing on clearing supply drops: for the most part, they are straightforward to finish, and armed with the MPX, I burned through enemy elites like a knife through butter. There was a strange bug during one of my attempts where the enemy elites threw grenades that staggered me, from incredible ranges, and I failed to reach the supply drop. In the chaos, another player got to it first, but because the drops don’t yield uncommonly good gear, coupled with the lack of incentive to go rogue, I let the player go.

  • The Dark Zone in The Division 2 lacks the same intimidation factor as The Division‘s: whereas The Division‘s Dark Zone had biohazard containers, hazmat equipment and coverings everywhere, plus deadly contaminated areas that evoked a terrifying feeling of dread, The Division 2‘s Dark Zone lacks the same sense of doubt and unease, acting more as a designated area for gear hunting and PvP.

  • This is why I remarked earlier that Washington D.C.’s Dark Zone, and general atmosphere, feels more like the conditions under which Tango-Victor-Tango’s original founder and co-founders discussed the formation of a site for cataloguing tropes in media: sweltering, muggy summers of the Eastern United States seem the perfect conditions to discuss creating a new website while sharing a few brewskis. I don’t drink, but I do remember walking the neighbourhood with a friend while discussing the progression of various turning points in Tango-Victor-Tango’s history years previously.

  • Unlike the beta for The Division, this time around, I did end up making the level cap for the Dark Zone: in this landmark marked “hard”, I soloed and blasted all enemies to reach Dark Zone rank ten, the cap for this private beta. The MPX served me very well against all manners of opponents, having a good firing rate, magazine capacity and damage output to handle both named elites and rushing enemies. At this point, I had a small collection of items, and I decided to give extraction a whirl to complete my Dark Zone experience.

  • Normally, when I call in extractions, hordes of enemies rush me: even with a Gear Score 289 character armed to the teeth with the six-piece Classified Striker’s Battle Gear, exotic weapons and two hundred hours of experience, the Dark Zone of The Division remains a harrowing experience. By comparison, The Division 2‘s Dark Zone feels less suspenseful: the scariest moment I had was when a player decided to hijack my extraction. I decided to fight back, knowing that I would likely die and lose items I weren’t worried about. We destroyed the first player, but then the second player, “Camobiwon”, decided to fight me. I blasted him with the MPX, his health melted away and he died nearly instantly. I ended up completing the extraction and was left to wonder if a normalised Dark Zone would lead to some more balanced PvP combat compared to The Division.

  • Here’s my final loadout for the private beta: I ended up collecting the same number of specialised items, although truth be told, the MPX handled like an exotic, with how much damage it was dealing. Subtle icons can be seen amongst the items, indicating that The Division 2 is likely taking the concept of gear sets and applying them to non-high end items, as well. Overall, this wasn’t a particularly bad run for the private beta, and having more or less done everything to be done, I would later go on to successfully solo the Invaded mission available. I will be writing about this in greater detail soon.

After reaching the level cap, I ventured into the Dark Zone to wrap up the introductory mission and also explore it: unlike the previous The Division beta, there was also the Invaded endgame mission to experience, so I did not linger. During my run of the Dark Zone, I ended up running around various landmarks and clearing them, helping the agents that I encountered. I decided to call in an extraction to see what the experience in The Division 2 was like, and found that unlike The Division, it’s not quite as harrowing, with fewer enemies rushing onto the capture point. However, I did run into two players who figured they could try and get some free stuff from me. One had already gone rogue trying to cut the rope – another player and I gunned them down. The surviving player then tried to kill me, and I subsequently ended up melting them somehow, successfully completing my extraction. With a reasonable idea of what the Dark Zone was like, I headed off into Invaded, which I will write about separately. Overall, The Division 2 looks to be a very entertaining game – Ubisoft has promised a smorgasbord of endgame activities to keep players excited, and aside from issues with movement, as well as grenade-staggering and some UI and UX issues, this sequel seems fairly solid. With this being said, even though The Division 2 has been stated to be quite doable for solo players like myself, I find that as a day-one purchase, The Division 2 is better suited for those who’ve got a few buddies they can squad up with; I can see this game as being very entertaining for players who can play with friends. As for myself, I see myself picking The Division 2 up, not immediately, but at some point in the future once I’ve seen a bit more footage of it, as well as after giving the game some time to see a few patches: by the time I joined The Division during its 1.8 patch, the game was practically flawless and remarkably enjoyable solo.

Call of Duty: WWII- A Reflection on the Open Beta

“Hot today, forgotten tomorrow. I’m not buying anything.” –James Marshall

Activision has stated that development on Call of Duty: WWII began long before negative reception to the franchise’s shift into future warfare began. The full title will release on November 3, and during the last weekend of September, an open beta was available for Steam players to try out. Offering five maps and four game modes, the beta was an opportunity for players to test the game out prior to its release. After installing the beta initially, I found myself unable to run it; the game would not load, and it was not until I reinstalled the title where the game would open. After entering my first few matches, it became apparent that the game has not been optimised fully for PC yet: frame rates dropped, the game stuttered, and death followed. When frame rates stablised, I began my own boots-on-the-ground experience, making use of the different divisions to get a feel for the gameplay. Call of Duty has always been more about small maps and fast-paced combat, as well as kill-streak rewards over the slower, more methodical and large-scale gameplay that characterises Battlefield 1. Maps feel like closed-off sets designed to give the sense of a well-designed paintball arena, rather than the wide-open spaces of Battlefield 1, and the numerous corners and hallways encourage a very aggressive, forward style of gameplay that rewards reflexes over strategy. Filled with details, from aircraft flying overhead and artillery, to muddy and damaged set elements, maps definitely exude a WWII-like atmospheric that, in conjunction with traditional movement systems, looks to return Call of Duty back to its roots. However, well-designed set pieces and premise can only carry a game so far, and the major deciding factor in whether or not a game is worth playing lies with its gameplay and handling.

During moments where the Call of Duty: WWII open beta was running with optimal frame rates, the game feels modestly smooth, although the Infinity Ward engine is definitely feeling dated. Movement is a little jagged and uneven, feeling somewhat sluggish. In a game where the goal is to move around in a high-paced environment and play the game aggressively to score points, the movement system is not particularly conducive of this particular play style, as I found myself getting stuck in geometry on more than one occasion, leading to death. Inconsistencies in movement and hit detection meant that the Call of Duty: WWII open beta felt like one protracted match on Prise de Tahure. I was dying to players coming from unexpected angles and places. Exacerbated by lag, I would open fire on players first, only for them to whip around and instantly nail me, suggesting that I had in fact been firing at air when my client put a player on screen. Performance issues aside, the chaotic nature of Call of Duty multiplayer environments and an emphasis on twitch reflexes with a high RPM weapon over finess means that Call of Duty: WWII‘s multiplayer certainly isn’t for me. This beta reminds me of my advancing age – long ago, I enjoyed close quarters combat for the rush it brought. With age comes decreasing reflexes, and I’m not able to keep up with the whipper-snappers out there now. The kind of gameplay I might have preferred a few years ago no longer feels fun to me compared to methodically picking off distant enemies and moving cover-to-cover.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Call of Duty: WWII introduces a new game mode called “War”, which is a close-quarters objectives-based match. On the “Operation Breakout” map seen in the beta, Allied Forces must capture a German outpost and then build a bridge, allowing their tanks to destroy an ammunition depot. German forces must prevent the Allies from succeeding. The game mode is admittedly similar to Battlefront 2‘s Galactic Assault, albeit a much smaller-scale version.

  • I’m not sure if this were the case in earlier Call of Duty multiplayer games, but in Call of Duty: WWII, there are different classes players can spawn in as, from the jack-of-all-trades infantry class, to the more nimble airborne class that emphasises high speed gameplay. There’s also an armoured class that can equip heavy weapons, the mountain class that is suited for long-range sniping, and the expeditionary class that dominates in close quarters.

  • Here, I equip the Bren LMG, Perrine’s weapon of choice from Strike Witches. However, despite its WWII-setting, I do not feel that Call of Duty: WWII is able to capture the Strike Witches atmospheric and aesthetic anywhere nearly as effectively as does Battlefield 1, despite the fact that the latter is set during World War One. This further stems from the very static, arena-like maps as opposed to the larger, more natural-feeling maps seen in Battlefield 1.

  • I’ve heard folks complain that the STG-44’s sight to be completely inauthentic: while it is true that modern electronic red dot sights with LEDs were developed during the 1970s, the concept of a reflex sight has been around since the 1900s. Earlier sights either depended on ambient light to function or else had a built-in light source whose operational time was constrained by limited battery life.

  • I only spent two hours in the Call of Duty: WWII open beta on account of a cold that saw me sleep most of the weekend that the beta was running, but I don’t feel like I’ve missed out on too much. By comparison, when I played through the Battlefront 2 beta last week, I had largely recovered and so, put in closer to nine hours over the Thanksgiving Long Weekend. During the moments where I was feeling a little better, I hopped into a few matches and found myself outplayed at every turn.

  • Averaging a KD ratio of less than 0.25 in almost all of my games, I’ve found the movement and handling in Call of Duty: WWII to be very poor. This is especially problematic, considering that Call of Duty: WWII is meant to be a fast-paced shooter where reflexes and high sensitivities are king: slow movements and aiming made it difficult to aim and fire, taking away from the run-and-gun style of play that Call of Duty emphasises.

  • I’ve heard that client-side modifications were widespread during the open beta, allowing people to one-shot other players with instant headshots, or else gain awareness of where all of the other players were. As I’ve mentioned in other posts, I would prefer a hardware ban for folks caught cheating as Blizzard has implemented in Overwatch: this forces all but the most resourceful of cheaters with deep pockets to think twice before using tools to bolster their in-game performance.

  • On my end, I do not believe I encountered any cheaters. The biggest enemy ultimately ended up being the game performance itself: my hardware, while four years old, is no slouch with respect to performance. Nonetheless, I saw the game dip below 15 FPS during some moments, and I could only watch as other player lined up their sights and pasted my face into the walls. The lag, coupled with the fact that the beta did not even open made the Call of Duty: WWII‘s beta a little difficult to enjoy; the Battlefield 1 and Battlefront II betas were characterised by a straightforwards setup process where I activated the installer and then joined matches without any difficulty.

  • From a visual perspective, Call of Duty: WWII looks average at best, especially when compared with some of the other titles available. Textures are a bit dull, and lighting isn’t terribly complex: in fact, I feel that the graphical fidelity of Infinite Warfare and Modern Warfare: Remastered to be superior. While this is just a beta, Call of Duty: WWII does not inspire me to give the game a go, whereas Battlefront II‘s beta convinced me that, provided the loot crate system doesn’t completely suck, the game might merit a purchase shortly after launch.

  • I saw some footage of Cr1tikal playing through the closed beta a month ago, and recalled his use of incendiary shells in the expeditionary class. In his video, Cr1tikal criticises the map design, and ultimately, makes extensive use of the shotguns to squeak by in a match before switching over to mountain class briefly. I was hardly surprised by the expeditionary class’ efficacy with incendiary shotguns and found myself doing much better than I had in previous rounds.

  • Stationary weapons in multiplayer shooters are always a death-trap, leaving users exposed to attack from behind and snipers, but here, I use one of the mounted weapons to defeat another player from a distance. Despite the splintered wooden poles, shattered concrete bunkers, muddy ditches and remnants of sandbags, the maps in Call of Duty: WWII simply do not feel as though they are World War Two settings, but rather, feel like World War Two-themed settings.

  • The under-barrel grenade launcher in older Call of Duty games was counted the “n00b tube” for its ease of use. Under-barrel grenade launchers are gone in Call of Duty: WWII, but the incendiary shells of the expeditionary class are probably going to be regarded  as fulfilling a similar vein: despite dealing the same damage as a conventional shotgun shell, the incendiary shells apply damage over time by means of burning opponents hit, and because they replenish fully on death, they are an appealing weapon for beginning players who can gain a kill even after they are killed.

  • During my time in the beta, I did not hear any complaints about use of incendiary shells and so, like Cr1tikal, I used them during the later period of the open beta. I’ve heard that the release version of Call of Duty: WWII will see several changes, and one of the top-most changes proposed will be reducing the damage dealt by incendiary ammunition.

  • During one particularly lucky short, my pellets outright took out one opponent and burned another to land me a double kill. One feature in Call of Duty that I’ve never been fond of is the killstreak system, which rewards players purely based on how many kills they’ve gotten before dying. The most infamous killstreak bonus is the tactical nuke, which instantly wins a game for the team that the player triggers it on. Overall, I prefer Battlefront II‘s system, where playing the objective and actions helping teammates will unlock battle points that can be spent on perks.

  • Despite the closed, arena-like maps, the Operation Breakout map has long, open avenues that are well-suited for sniping. The Commonwealth rifle proved fun to use: it’s a one-hit kill bolt action rifle, and coming from the likes of Battlefield 1, where I’ve acclimatised to bolt-action rifles lacking a straight-pull bolt, this weapon wasn’t too far removed from my usual play-style. I never did get around to learning the performance attributes of the different weapons, and I didn’t make it far enough to unlock most weapons. Instead, I looted weapons from other players to give them a whirl.

  • Medals are earned in Call of Duty by performing specific actions or scoring kills in a particular manner. They will confer a boost in XP, and are similar to the ribbons of Battlefield, appearing at the top of the screen. I believe they were introduced in Black Ops II, although as mentioned earlier, I’m only vaguely aware of game mechanics in Call of Duty titles and I find the game engine to be quite out-dated.

  • Some folks have asserted that Call of Duty: WWII is a blatant rip-off of Battlefield 1 for featuring similar features, including the bayonet charge and for returning things to a World War setting. At the opposite end of the spectrum, others claim that Call of Duty: WWII will cause Battlefield 1 players to switch over on account of limitations in the latter’s gameplay. Quite honestly, while Call of Duty: WWII is quite unique in both game mechanics and time period, I found that I have more fun in Battlefield 1. After one particularly tough match, I returned to Battlefield 1 and perform considerably better than I did during the Call of Duty: WWII open beta.

  • My last match during the Call of Duty: WWII beta was spent in a match of domination with the airborne class and the starting M3 submachine gun. I attached the suppressor to it and snuck around the map to get kills. Capture points trade hands numerous times during domination, and one thing I noticed is that in Call of Duty: WWII, the submachine guns do not appear to have an improved hip-fire accuracy.

  • One of the most infamous constructs to come out of Call of Duty is the notion of a “360 no scope” and “quick scope” moves. While considered to be trick-shots with little practical advantages in a real game, folks on the internet suggest that people of middle school age take the move quite seriously and consider it a viable tactic. Regardless of whether or not this is true, one thing is for sure: until the PC version of Call of Duty: WWII is optimised, trick shots will be very difficult or even impossible to pull off.

  • After this match ended, I decided to call it a day and went back to sleep with the aim of fighting off my cold. Two weeks later, I’m back to my usual self, although an occasional cough continues to persist. I usually get sick twice a year: once before winter appears in full, and once before spring completely displaces winter weather. I’m hoping that this means winter is upon us; it’s certainly been colder as of late, although forecasts show pleasant weather over the next while. Overall, I would say that I had much more fun with the Battlefront II beta than this one, and while the campaign looks interesting, I’ve got no plans to purchase Call of Duty: WWII at the moment.

Playing through the beta reaffirms the reasons behind my decision in not playing Call of Duty multiplayers, but having tried the Call of Duty: WWII open beta, there are a few things that Call of Duty does well; my favourite is the instant spawning back into a match after death. The quick time to kill is also great for high-speed engagements, even if it is hampered slightly by the movement systems. However, compared to Battlefield, which has a better movement system and larger maps that accommodate all styles of gameplay, I cannot say that I’m won over into Call of Duty‘s multiplayer aspects. The single-player elements are a different story: until Battlefield 1 introduced its war stories, Call of Duty games had consistently more entertaining campaigns, and I am looking forwards to seeing just what Call of Duty: WWII‘s story entails. From what has been shown so far, it’s a return to the European front in the later days of the Second World War, featuring a modernised take on the D-Day invasion. Overall, I am not particularly inclined to purchase Call of Duty: WWII close to launch, or at any point soon, for its multiplayer content. If the single-player campaign is impressive, I might purchase the game some years later during a Steam Sale – the game certainly does not feel like it is able to offer the value that would make buying it at full price worthwhile, but I’m always game for a good war story, even if it is a shorter one.

Star Wars Battlefront II: A Reflection of Starfighter Assault and Space Gameplay in the Open Beta

“It’s no good, I can’t manoeuvre!”
“Stay on target.”
“We’re too close!”
“Stay on target!”
“Loosen up!”

–Gold Leader and Gold Five, Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

If I had been active as a blogger back during the early 2000s, Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader would certainly have been featured as a game I would write about. Featuring ten single player missions and several bonus missions spanning the original triology, Rogue Leader boasted some of the most sophisticated visual and gameplay effects that could be run on the Nintendo GameCube, allowing players to relive the most famous moments in Star Wars. From the first attack on the Death Star to the Battle of Hoth and the Rebel Alliance’s final attack on the Emperor’s Death Star II, the game’s technical sophistication and enjoyment factor led many critics to remark that this game alone was worth buying the GameCube for, and indeed, even fifteen years after its launch, only Pandemic’s Star Wars: Battlefront II in 2005 can even hold a candle to Rouge Leader. However, this year’s reinterpretation of Battlefront II comes the closest to bringing back the sort of magic that was available in Rogue Leader, for in Battlefront II, there is the Starfighter Assault game mode that pits players against one another in beautifully written space battles. In the Battlefront II open beta, players are assigned to the Rebel Alliance or Galactic Empire over the shipyards of Fondor. In a multi-stage battle reminiscent of the Rush and Operations game modes of Battlefield, Imperial pilots must deplete the Rebels of reinforcement tickets and defend a Star Destroyer in dry dock, while the Rebels aim to take down the Star Destroyer. Players get their pick of three different classes of starships: the balanced all-rounder fighter, high-speed dogfighter interceptors and the slower but durable bombers, each of which can be customised with star cards to fit a player’s style.

The epic scale of ship-to-ship combat in Starfighter Assault is quite unlike the infantry-focused Galactic Conquest: the space battles of Battlefront II were developed by Criterion, of Burnout and Need For Speed fame. I jumped into a game and attempted to steer my X-Wing with my mouse, but promptly crashed. After switching over to the keyboard, I began learning my way around the controls, and within minutes, was pursing Imperial TIE fighters and firing on objectives. Unlike Battlefront, where starships had the manoeuvrability of a refrigerator, the controls in Battlefront II are responsive and crisp. As I became more familiar with the ships available, I began climbing scoreboards, shooting down more enemy starships and playing objectives more efficiently. The sheer scope of Starfighter Assault and the easy-to-pick-up-but-difficult-to-master design of this game mode makes it incredibly fun and with nearly unlimited replay value. While playing the Imperials, I focused on shooting down Rebel ships, and as a Rebel, there was the challenge of finishing the objectives without being shot down. Regardless of which team I played for, there was always a great satisfaction in landing killing shots on enemy starfighters and going on kill-streaks that I never was able to manage in Galactic Assault. It got to the point where I improved sufficiently to have the chance of making use of three of the four Hero ships. Automatically locking onto an enemy starfighter à la Battlefront is gone – aiming and leading shots is entirely a skill-based endeavour now, and while Criterion provides a helpful reticule to assist in aiming, it ultimately falls on players to learn how to best move their ships around. These elements come together to provide a game mode that is exceptionally entertaining to play, rewarding skill and encouraging new-time players to try their hand at flying.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Shortly after spawning into my first Starfighter Assault match, I started to use the mouse and promptly crashed into the radar dish; there’s no option to reset or centre the reticule, so if the mouse is moved slightly, it causes the vehicle to drift in one direction. Once I left the mouse alone and began flying with the keyboard, the controls became much more simple to use. Unlike Battlefront, where vehicular handling as as stiff as molasses, the controls of Battlefront II are much smoother. It took a grand total of ten minutes to become accustomed to the system.

  • There are plenty of AI-controlled fighters flying around the map so that players have no shortage of things to shoot at, and here, a seismic charge from the Slave I goes off. They were first seen in Attack of the Clone and create a devastating shockwave that can punch through asteroids. The weapon is fantastic against starfighers, and edges out Battlefront‘s thermal imploders for having the coolest sound in Star Wars; the silence and delay before the full weight of the bass creates one of the most interesting sound effects ever engineered.

  • With their powerful blasters and high durability, bombers are balanced by their lower speeds and manoeuvrability, as well as for the fact that they require more reinforcement tickets in order to spawn into if one is playing as a Rebel. The TIE Bomber makes its first appearance in a modern Star Wars game and I use it to great effect; they’re most useful against the Blockade Runners that appear to reinforce Rebel fighters, but can most certainly hold their own against X-Wings and A-Wings.

  • TIE Bombers were first seen in The Empire Strikes Back, seen dropping proton bombs on the asteroid where the Millennium Falcon was concealed. Players do not have access to the proton bombs for assaulting ground targets, but bombers get access to dual proton torpedoes and missiles. While they have a guidance system that can lock onto enemy ships, secondary weapons can be fired dumb by double-tapping on the button, making it possible to rapidly use them against slow moving or stationary targets.

  • The Rebellion’s workhorse bomber, Y-Wings have been in operation since the Clone Wars, being acquired by the Rebel Alliance before the Empire could scrap or decommission them. The last time I flew a Y-Wing was in Rogue Leader during the “Prisoners of the Maw” mission. In Rogue Leader, the Y-Wing is equipped with proton bombs rather than guided torpedoes, and the ion cannons were forward-facing, only affecting targets in front of the Y-Wing. In Battlefront II, they’re fun to fly, but the cost of spawning in makes it imperative that one focuses on objectives rather than dogfights.

  • TIE Fighters reflect on the Empire’s adherence to Soviet military doctrine: they are inexpensive to produce and the engines are incredibly effective despite their simple design. Lacking shields, a hyperdrive, life-support systems and landing gear, TIE Fighters are incredibly lightweight, and in Star Wars, are shown to be quite fragile compared to Alliance starfighters. However, the TIE Fighters of Battlefront II have a bit more durability and can fire proton torpedoes, making them remarkably fun to fly. TIE Fighters are equipped a laser barrage function that allows the cannons to be fired rapidly to deliver a blistering hail of blaster fire.

  • The Slave I requires only 2500 battlepoints to unlock; it is armed to the teeth, as all of its abilities are offensively driven: besides a concussion missile and seismic charges, it also has access to ion cannons, which slow down enemy ships. Somewhat hard to manoeuvre, it is nonetheless quite durable, and here, I managed to get a kill using the seismic charges. The blast wave is not visible, as I’ve flown from it, but the effects are clear.

  • Light and agile, the A-Wing is the fastest starfighter available to the Rebel Alliance. It is capable of extreme speed, can maintain unbreakable locks onto enemies and is armed with concussion missiles as its secondary armament. I ended up playing the interceptor class far more than I’d expected: the speed of the A-Wing and its Imperial counterpart, the TIE Interceptor, make them incredibly effective in dogfights. Overall, each of the classes have their own merits and are fun to play: they’re versatile to be used in every role, but their abilities and unique strengths allow them to excel at particular tasks.

  • X-Wings gain access to an astromech droid for providing repairs and the power to fire all four laser cannons at once in addition to the standard proton torpedoes that Luke used to destroy the first Death Star in A New HopeBattlefront II brings back the fun I’ve had flying X-Wings in Rogue Leader: for their general all-round performance, I would choose the X-Wing as my preferred starfighter in the game.

  • The visual effects above Fondor are absolutely stunning: space battles haven’t been this immersive since the days of Rogue Leader, and with the Frostbite Engine driving Battlefront II, I find myself wishing for a remastered version of Rogue Leader more than ever. Criterion has done a fantastic job with Starfighter Assault, and looking at the other maps available, it appears that rather than re-living the most famous moments of Star Wars, players will be treated to campaigns set around familiar locations for other Starfighter Assault modes.

  • The battle around Endor will be set in the ruins of the Second Death Star, and players will have a chance to fly Republic and Separatist starfighters in battles set during the Clone Wars. As well, the skirmishes between the First Order and Resistance will also be available in Battlefront II. One of the things I’m hoping to see in Battlefront II will be the appearance of Darth Vader’s TIE/x1, whose innovative designs would lead to the development of the TIE Interceptor and TIE Bomber. One cool feature from Vader’s TIE/x1 would be the inclusion of cluster missiles seen in Rogue Leader, which can lock onto and attack multiple targets.

  • The second phase of Starfighter Assault over Fondor involves Rebel ships attempting to drop the shield generator around the Star Destroyer. Rebel players must fly into a narrow passage way where the generators are held and bombard them. Imperial forces have a simple task: prevent the Rebels from getting into this corridor and damaging the equipment. In the close quarters, I’ve had considerable fun locking onto Rebel ships and, in a manner reminiscent of A New Hope‘s trench run, blowing said Rebel ships away with the TIE Fighter.

  • It suddenly strikes me that I don’t get very much time off elsewhere in the year, making me very appreciative of the extended break. The long weekends also allows me to enjoy a quieter day at home: I spent the morning drafting this talk and reading about overflights in the Cold War, before settling down to a home-made burger with lettuce, tomato, pickles and cheese, along with freshly-made oven fries. Unlike last time, we were more careful with the cooking process, so the whole of the upstairs does not smell like grilled burger. By afternoon, the weather remained acceptable, if somewhat windy, so I spent it hanging out with a friend. After enjoying some cheesecake when I concluded the walk, I continued with my quest to get all the intel in Modern Warfare Remastered.

  • Dinner tonight was a tender and juicy prime rib au jus with mashed potatoes. The pleasant smell of prime rib persisted into the evening, which saw the Calgary Flames best the Anaheim Ducks 2-0 at the Honda Center, bringing a 25-losing streak on their ice to an end. Earlier today, in speaking with a friend, we’ve now set aside some tentative plans to watch The Last Jedi: a new trailer has come out, and I’m rather curious to see what the film will entail, for Rey, who will begin training with Luke, and also for Kylo Ren. At this blog, I don’t usually talk about Star Wars, but it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that I’ve got passable knowledge of Star Wars lore. I’m quite fond of the films even if the dialogue can be a little poor (especially in the prequel trilogy, where it was downright atrocious) and if the narratives are a bit thin: the scope and scale of the special effects are always fun to watch.

  • While they never co-existed, having disappeared while being transferred to the Jedi Council for investigation, Darth Maul’s Scimitar is included at Fondor. Its most novel ability is being able to cloak and conceal itself from all enemies: I recall shooting at a player with the Scimitar, only for them to disappear. When reappearing, its blaster cannons gain a boost in power. In the thirty seconds I flew it (the match ended shortly after with a Rebel victory), I did not make use of its abilities to shoot down any players. However, the fact that I was becoming sufficiently proficient in Starfighter Assault to acquire the top-tier Hero ships shows that the game mode had been very immersive.

  • This was probably one of the best runs I had in Starfighter Assault: after spawning in as a Y-Wing and going on a seven-kill streak, on top of helping damage the Imperial Cruisers and equipment, I amassed an obscene number of battle points. I was blown out of the sky shortly after but had accumulated enough battle points to spawn in as the legendary Millennium Falcon, Han Solo’s signature ship throughout Star Wars.

  • Being Han Solo’s highly modified freighter, the Millennium Falcon is one of the most recognisable ships from Star Wars that goes on to play a major role in helping the Rebel Alliance toppling the Empire. Besides an afterburner that proved fantastic for escaping pursuing fighters and concussion missiles, the Millennium Falcon’s other ability is called “special modifications”, which temporarily boosts weapon damage and reduces overheating. Incredibly durable and agile for its size, the main disadvantage about the Millennium Falcon is that its large profile makes it a highly visible target on the battlefield.

  • One of my favourite features about the Millennium Falcon is not its combat performance, but for the simple fact that after some kills, Han Solo will say something amusing, reflective of his hot-headed, confident personality. The planet and its shipyards were first introduced in a novel for the Extended Universe and accepted as cannon with the 2015 novel Tarkin, although the name Fondor is, amusingly enough, also a brand of German vegetable seasoning.

  • Late was the hour when I managed to spawn into Poe Dameron’s Black One, a T-70 X-Wing that acts as the successor to the T-65B that the Rebel Alliance operated. Requiring more battle points than the Millennium Falcon, I had not intended to fly this, only doing so when I realised I had enough battle points to do so and because the Millennium Falcon had already been taken. Only a few minutes remained in the match, but I made use of Poe’s X-Wing to score a few kills on other players before the game ended. Similar to the standard X-Wing, players can instantly repair with BB-8, and mirroring the T-70’s upgraded weapons, Black One has access to dual torpedoes. There’s also a Black Leader ability, but I never looked into what it does.

  • The Battlefront II open beta ended this morning: it’s a quiet Thanksgiving Monday, and while it would’ve been nice to play a few more rounds of Starfighter Assault, I ended the beta off on a high note: I’ve flown all of the Hero ships in this game mode to some extent. With the open beta now over, regular programming resumes, much as it did two years ago: there’s no GochiUsa to write about, but there is Gundam Origin‘s fifth instalment, which I greatly enjoyed. We’re also a entering the fall anime season now: with Yūki Yūna is a Hero‘s Hero Chapter airing in mid-November, the only shows I really have on my radar for the presernt are Wake Up, Girls! Shin Shou and Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou. I also should write about the Call of Duty: WWII open beta, which, I should note, was note quite as enjoyable as the Battlefront II beta.

The words “pure fun” are the most suitable for describing the Starfighter Assault game mode of Battlefront II: the mode feels a great deal as though Criterion applied the lessons learned from Rogue Leader. The game modes are well-structured into distinct phases, but seamlessly woven together. Instead of purely AI opponents, players now have a chance to engage one another, adding a new degree of challenge; gone are enemy fighters that can be shot down, replaced with superior AIs and human opponents, the ultimate challengers. Because players can be assigned to different sides of the story, there is a fantastic opportunity to explore “what-if” scenarios. While I don’t think any of the most iconic missions from the trilogy or prequel appear in the full Starfighter Assault, the concept has proven remarkably fun in the open beta, coming the closest since 2005’s Battlefront II to re-creating the experience that players experienced in Rogue Leader. Coupled with authentic aural and visual elements from Star Wars, Starfighter Assault has proven to be the remastered experience of Rogue Leader that I’ve been longing to experience again since the days when I played the game on a GameCube: I am greatly looking forwards to seeing how the other maps play out, and through the open beta, it is evident that Battlefront II has made a serious effort to bring a critical component of Star Wars into the modern age. If the version we’ve seen in the open beta is an accurate representation of how the game mode will handle in the full game, this is a very compelling reason for buying this game closer to the Christmas season, when the spirit of Star Wars will be in full swing as Episode VIII: The Last Jedi premieres in theatres.