There are two kinds of people in this world – those that have been holding out on buying Tom Clancy’s The Division and those of us who spent every waking moment outside of required life responsibilities collecting cell phone messages, discovering Echo’s, rescuing supplies, and killing bad guys while exploring the streets of Manhattan.
Black Friday in Manhattan was more than just another busy shopping day for New York as a smallpox virus was unleashed on the city. Referred to as “the dollar flu” and “green poison,” players sift through encounters slowly trying to piece together how the virus was introduced, who did it, and eventually gathering the tools necessary to come up with a cure.
When the epidemic was realized, the government put Manhattan in quarantine and activated a secret group of agents called “The Division.” Players enter the scene as “wave 2” Division agents, finding that the first wave was unsuccessful in securing Manhattan due to being KIA or MIA.
The initial chaos the virus inflicted on the city is compounded by several groups of gangs trying to take control of the city for their varied purposes. Convicts from Riker’s Island, known simply as ‘Riker’s’ have escaped and banded together to try and rule the city on their own. Another group dubbed ‘Cleaners’ consist of various types of city sanitation services from garbage men to janitors who are convinced that the only way to save the city is to “cleanse it” by literally burning everything and everyone in it. Eventually players encounter what is known as The Last Man Battalion (LMB), which was an independent military company hired to protect Wall Street from the various threats of the outbreak. Eventually the LMB abandoned their hired-for purpose and decided to utilize their superior training and gear to establish their own dominance over the quarantined area.
Throughout the storyline play, players uncover information through missions,
Echo’s (a compilation of a scene or event reconstructed from surveillance and various forms of other technology), phone recordings, and interaction with NPC’s that help piece together the events that have unfolded. Key figures in each of the factions are discovered and eventually encountered to some degree or another to ultimately lead the player to the final mission. While it means the end of the imminent threats to Manhattan, it doesn’t quite close the door on the smallpox virus or the implications of a supervirus in modern society. Given the popularity of the game, I would be highly surprised if there wasn’t a full blown sequel (or twelve) on top of lots and lots of DLC.
This is, unfortunately, a bit of a loaded category for the game. The Division has adopted ideas from various styles of games and incorporated them into its own vision. It’s not your standard 3rd person shooter as it is in an open world, has repeatable missions, and a pseudo end-game with advancing gear levels and a PvP enabled zone known as “the Dark Zone.” It has a compelling enough storyline to get players to max level while letting you grind for gear as long as your little heart can take and overall it’s a really fun game.
That being said, as much as the game has been a monumental success sales-wise for Ubisoft, it’s also very evident that the development team wasn’t quite as seasoned as one would expect for such a successful game. I’ll wait until the Multiplayer category to discuss the (numerous and significant) Dark Zone issues, but PvP balancing isn’t the only major problem. Far too often daily missions are not refreshing from day to day and sometimes they are not even available. Not only is this happening post-beta testing, this has occurred several times. If daily missions were a minor portion of the game, it might be forgivable to a degree but they’re pivotal for post-storyline play.
Additionally, beyond having major features nonfunctional for gameplay, players have been repeatedly discovering game-breaking glitches that allowed players to farm end-game-level gear in a very short amount of time repeatedly. Ubisoft has “fixed” several of these issues and gave bans to those players who took advantage of the situation. Unfortunately some of these “fixes” didn’t actually do anything but remove the ability for anyone to get loot, whether they exploited a glitch or not.
The developers of The Division definitely took their time on the world creation, making a pretty accurate portrayal of what a futuristic and post-major catastrophe New York City would look like. The details throughout the gameplay didn’t disappoint either with players being able to shoot lights out (even though they respawn after a few seconds), make shapes with bullet patterns, and otherwise interact with the world around them with fair “real life” accuracy (if you don’t find yourself running through the middle of the street knocking down orange cones, you’re doing it wrong).
Just like the graphics, the sounds of the game are dead on. Each gun has a distinctive shooting sound and you can hear everything from the dogs in the streets to the helicopters flying above with supply drops. Playing with surround sound headphones, the noises were eerily accurate location-wise. The New York accents were thick and the voice acting was all done rather well.
The Dark Zone. That’s the multiplayer portion of The Division and it’s relatively addictive. You basically get to run around in a super quarantined area that is under marshal law. Your fellow agents are running around the various landmarks killing named NPC’s for loot, securing supply drops that accidentally made their way into the DZ, and of course going rogue and killing each other. The trick with the Dark Zone is that all the loot that drops is contaminated and it has to be taken to an extraction point where a helicopter flies and whisks it off to clean it and very nicely put it into your stash.
That is where all the trouble comes in, as players can see when an extraction has been called and where and how long until the helicopter gets there. There is also a fair amount of NPC’s that guard the extraction areas so you’re guaranteed at least a little bit of a fight to get your stuff out. If you do happen to die in the Dark Zone you lose and you lose a lot. All of your public items that you’ve collected get dropped and you lose experience as well as Dark Zone credits. Dark Zone experience helps you get ranks to unlock gear that can be very handy. Of course anyone can pick up your dropped items and extract it themselves if they are lucky enough to do so.
Players that go Rogue do get marked, so you’ll see a red skull blip on your map as to where the general location of the agent is. After several player kills, Rogue agents have a bounty put on their head and their map marker turns yellow. Other players in the area will be alerted that there is a manhunt for the Rogue agent and essentially win quest rewards if they participate in the Rogue takedown.
There are circumstances where folks accidentally go Rogue, and thankfully the developers were aware of this so players that only fire a few times into a person will get an extremely short duration to be Rogue. The more shots and people killed means the more time to wait until your Rogue status drops.
Now all of this is fine and dandy until you find people exploiting the Dark Zone. The game itself is client-driven, so for PC players it’s relatively easy to set up a cheat or a hack to assist in killing other people in the Dark Zone. I experienced this at least twice for sure where a person had an auto-aim hack that allowed them to not only get headshots without having to aim, but they also shot two bullets. Even phenomenally geared players can’t compete against auto-hits, especially two at a time. It’s very frustrating having spent a good amount of time in the Dark Zone only to have it ruined by someone exploiting the game and leaving empty handed.
Other than the ability to cheat the game (and other people playing it), the Dark Zone is a neat place. It’s a good way to grind High End gear to either get a straight upgrade or deconstruct for parts to use in recipes. It’s unfortunate that you can only have three other people play with you at a time but it’s a ton of fun rolling through the Dark Zone with four people. It at the very least makes the Rogue and Rogue-prone people think twice before engaging.
Sadly The Division is a bit of a mixed bag. The missions and storyline were great and it’s super awesome that you can play the story missions and side missions with friends. The end-game portion is the troubling part. If you want to avoid PvP and the Dark Zone you can farm Hard and Challenging modes of the storyline missions. Incursions have also been introduced and they’re essentially automatic Challenging mode encounters but are separate from the main story. But that’s it. Other than doing the final mission on Challenging mode there is only a never-ending quest to get better gear but nothing on the content side that culminates to a “final boss” so to speak. The Division needs its own Lich King, otherwise players will probably find themselves burned out and bored from monotonous grinding.
Obviously there is a significant amount of room to expand, the game takes place in a very small part of Manhattan. DLC and other installments are sure to bring new areas to the game. As far as the story goes, this section has definitely been wrapped up but there is a huge opening for continuing it beyond the reaches of this iteration.
After about 100 hours and despite the shortcomings and shortsightedness of the developers, The Division is a solid game. It’s fun to play, especially with friends, and it’s a very good shooter. I liked it and if you can get over the drawbacks (that will hopefully be fixed at some point) then it’s a good game to have in your collection.
*We reviewed a retail copy of Tom Clancy’s The Division which was purchased by the reviewer
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