I had reservations about Tom Clancy’s The Division right from the get go and I’m not ashamed to admit it. I’m also not too proud to admit that I was wrong because over the last seven days this game has eaten my soul and hit all the right buttons to keep me coming back over and over again, often when I should be working on something else. Mixing RPG elements of character progression and skill unlocks with the ferocity, strategy and chaos needed in a third person cover shooter, The Division masterfully pulls you in and keeps you there.
During the lead up to the release of The Division the comparisons to Bungie’s online MMO/RPG, Destiny were rampant. Despite all the criticism that Destiny has received from critics and players alike the game is still one of the most played console games running even a year and a half after its release. To be fair the comparisons aren’t completely unfounded as a lot of similar elements are there, but make no mistake that the developers at Ubisoft carefully watched what Bungie did right and did wrong to tweak gameplay in The Division to not only meet its counterpart but exceed it. This should provide a long shelf life for The Division.
“Mixing RPG elements of character progression and skill unlocks with the ferocity, strategy and chaos needed in a third person cover shooter, The Division masterfully pulls you in and keeps you there.”
Now seeing as The Division broke records for the biggest opening week sales for a new franchise in history it almost seems like a moot point to even write a review but for those three or four of you still on the fence I’ll give you the 411 on what the game is all about.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year when consumerism runs rampant and shoppers head to the store like hungry packs of wolves ready to throat punch a four year old for an amazing deal on a blender. It’s Black Friday! On this most joyous of days a virus has been released that devastates the population of New York City turning it into a lawless and dangerous place full of rioters and looters. Among them are good people just trying to survive and The Division, a group of government agents sent in to the now quarantined city to restore order, discover a cure for the virus and help as many down and out citizens as they can. It’s all very 12 Monkeys (ok, not quite but you get my meaning) and very Tom Clancy… kinda.To fully understand what’s going on you’ll want to pay attention to all the lore found in collectibles and the like but something tells me that most players are just going to want to shoot things in the face.
Once you establish your base of operations you are tasked with rescuing some figureheads to build your medical, tech and security wings. Through missions given to you by said figureheads, as well as a plethora of side missions and encounters, you recover supplies to help rebuild each wing. As the wings improve you unlock skills, abilities and perks to make you Division agent an ultimately badass piece of work. Taken back to my love of Assassin’s Creed II and rebuilding the city of Monteriggioni, I was hooked. I’m a sucker for that and it kept me going out on mission after mission long after I’d promised my wife’just one more mission’. You’ll also find vendors and crafting areas where you can use materials to create your own weapons, mods and gear too. All the trappings of a fun MMO/RPG experience.
“Ubisoft Massive has done a hell of a job putting this world together and it’s as dark as it is beautiful.”
Venturing out into the streets of New York City you’ll find that hitting up a distant mission is actually harder than it looks. In classic open world RPG style you’ll be easily distracted by the many side missions, open doorways and barren alleys that are on your path. This is where a lot of what makes The Division work so well is presented to you. Ubisoft Massive has done a hell of a job putting this world together and it’s as dark as it is beautiful. Amongst the ruins of a once great metropolis you’ll find everything from intel to echos that can show you events that happened in that area earlier and more. Collectibles are everywhere. You can even find stray dogs pooping in the streets… yes, I saw this. Every building, every scan on the horizon over the rooftops of the city, every lonely, pooping dog is pretty stunning to take in. It’s a gorgeous game through and through with great lighting and weather effects almost unprecedented in a game of this scope. When the snow hits on a dark night it is almost impossible to see and if you happen to be in the Dark Zone you’re in for a scary ride not knowing what’s around every corner. There are definitely glitches here and there with clipping and some classic ‘fall into the floor’ scenarios going on but on the whole it isn’t a huge issue. With any luck they’ll be addressed in some future patches but for now they’re something you’ll have to deal with.
When you do make it out to missions it’s refreshing that Ubisoft has made it easy to find others to play with. There’s matchmaking options in your base of operations as well as in safe houses to team up with people, unlike another MMO/RPG/Shooter I know. As well, if you turn your privacy to open game in the settings (default is friends only) you will often be joined with a team of other players as you enter bigger missions. No hunting, it does it for you and you have a team to assist you. Streamlined and easy, just as it should be.
The actual gun play itself is a been there and done that affair with some odd control choices thrown in. You’ll find mods to upgrade the plethora of weapons you’ll find and you’ll hide behind things to shoot bad guys off in the distance. Nothing ground breaking and a mostly functional system aside from having what many would consider backwards controls (on both the Xbox One and PS4 versions). Where I’d usually try to mantle with the A button it’s mapped to B, while A serves as your move to cover. As well, using L3 to switch shoulders while aiming feels backwards from the usual R3 placement in other games. While I was struggling through the learning curve this resulted in several deaths from low level grunts that I am not proud of. The movement between cover and around corners can be a bit janky so if I were to really complain about something it’s that the control could use some tightening up. Not only that, the enemies aren’t your usual Tom Clancy game affair. No amount of well placed headshots will take out an enemy, with the game taking a more sci-fi/fantasy approach of bullet sponge foes that will charge you even after receiving an entire clip to the dome. Apparently the virus has made bad guys superhuman.
“With enough content to keep players busy for a long time, and a support plan from Ubisoft that should see the shelf life extend long past just the release window, you’ll likely be playing The Division for a while.”
Venturing into the Dark Zone certainly won’t be for everyone and most won’t want to even bother until they hit endgame anyway. It’s a PvP zone where you can lose it all to a rogue agent who’s decided to go on a killing spree. Agents marked as rogue have a price on their heads too and will have every other agent on the map attempting to hunt them down. There’s big risk and even bigger rewards if you can secure some of the high level loot available to you there. Just don’t go in there thinking it’s easy. I learned the hard way.
Tom Clancy’s The Division isn’t without its downfalls but is a solid example of where we’re heading with these online only, MMO/RPG/Shooter type experiences. The online portion is streamlined, finding people to play with is a breeze, and it has more loot than you’ll know what to do with. With enough content to keep players busy for a long time, and a support plan from Ubisoft that should see the shelf life extend long past just the release window, you’ll likely be playing The Division for a while. Control issues aside, if you’re itching for something to get you away from Destiny then this could be the game to do it.
*** Xbox One copy provided by the publisher ***
- Addicting upgrade progression
- Streamlined online play
- Stunning visuals
- Tons of content
- Bullet sponge enemies
- Odd control choices
- Mediocre gunplay
- Graphical glitches abound