March 8 marked the release of the long awaited addition to the Tom Clancy franchise, The Division. The post-apocalyptic RPG was originally announced by Ubisoft at E3 in 2013, and there has been much debate on whether the game would ever see the light of day. Three years, one Alpha, two Betas and a wait that was well worth it.
It’s a hyper-realistic, modern day survival story set on the streets of Manhattan. The Division has been called in to bring order back to the streets of New York City after the release of a deadly strain of Small Pox during Black Friday. As an Agent of The Division, you battle gangs and factions that have risen amidst the chaos on the streets.
The Division has the potential to be one of the best games ever developed to date. It intertwines engaging battles with an incredibly detailed story. Cut scenes are replaced by voicemail recordings, incident reports and ECHO recreations of events in very vivid detail. The missions and encounters as you level up are challenging without being frustratingly unforgiving.
Its gameplay mirrors what has previously been established in Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell games. Moving about in third person perspective as you walk the streets, search back alleys, climb fire escapes or scavenge in abandoned apartments. During combat situations, maneuvering from cover to cover is a crucial tactic to staying alive. If you find yourself in the open for too long, the chances of ending up dead are pretty good. Sound tactics and good communication make the game an extremely enjoyable multiplayer experience. You can have up to four player squads as you free roam the streets from mission to mission. The depth of the gear, gadgets and abilities make the possibilities endless. If you aren’t lucky enough to find the best equipment from the drops, then you can collect materials and craft them to your liking.
To make the game even better, Ubisoft has taken the best of the Tom Clancy franchise and merged it with the best of the RPG mega-hit Destiny has to offer. Destiny did an amazing job of providing an open world RPG story that continually left you wanting more, whether it was collecting gear or blasting your way through a horde of enemies.
The depth of The Division is staggering. There are so many variations of gear, gadgets, weapons and clothing that your character could theoretically have a different outfit for every day of the year. The menus are easy to navigate and provide you with a multitude of possibilities using gadgets and skills. It is very easy to tweak your characters attributes to be a military tank rushing head first into battles, snipe from a distance, or even just play a support role healing players in the middle of an engagement.
From a design and usability aspect, the user interface and menus are absolutely amazing. It makes you feel like you have cutting edge technology at the tip of your fingertips without ever being overwhelmed or lost in it. Kudos to the design team for creating something this good.
The Division provides almost a one-for-one re-creation of Midtown Manhattan. You will spend quite a bit of time wandering from street to street marveling at how closely they have replicated the city. If you have any familiarity with New York City, you will easily recognize the major landmarks and even some or your favorite local spots.
There will be moments that you won’t have the ability to see much of anything at all as well. You will either be fighting off thugs in the middle of an intersection as a car burns next to you, or wandering through the middle of a blizzard not entirely sure where you are going. The dynamic weather is controlled by the Snowdrop engine. It varies so drastically, but also very realistically. The early morning sun is sometimes so bright that it is blinding and the snow can be so thick that you cannot see where you are getting shot from. Snowdrop definitely adds realism and variety to the streets of New York City.
The Dark Zone is an area sectioned off in the middle of Midtown, running east/west from Broadway to Park Avenue and north/south from 30th to 56th Street. As part of the story, this area was walled off, serving as the original and failed attempt at a quarantine area to contain the spread of the virus. It is a very open, free-for-all style PvP environment. Any gear recovered within the DZ is contaminated and needs to be extracted from different points throughout the zone.
Extractions can be tricky, as you are vulnerable to attacks from NPCs and other players for your gear as you wait for a helicopter to reach you. If you openly attack another player within the DZ, you become a Rogue Agent for a short period of time. If you are Rogue, you become visible to anyone in the zone and more than likely will be hunted down.
There are few keys to survival in the Dark Zone. Having a squad of three or four players deters most other players from open engagement. Going solo is much tougher, but still possible if you are careful. PvP is another area where communication and tactics with squad mates is extremely important. Ambushes happen regularly so egress routes are helpful and knowing how to react quickly when being attacked or attacking other groups can be all the difference to your success.
There are always ways to improve upon any game. It is strange that an NPCs can do a ton of melee damage to you, but it takes five or six melee attempts to stop them. The easiest solution is to not let them get very close to you. Other than that, the biggest issue that I have come across are some glitchy mechanics, but not nearly as bad as what was experienced in the Beta.
The Dark Zone has some limitations to gameplay, but is still a lot of fun. I was hoping that you would be able to choose a faction and fight for territory within the Dark Zone. It would add even more variety to gameplay and creating load outs for your character.
If you are looking for the frenetic fix of the a First Person Shooter like Call of Duty, then this is not the game for you. Every aspect of this game is tactical and deliberate, right down to the storytelling. All in all, the possibilities are endless and I truly cannot wait for the DLC.
Tom Clancy’s The Division Review