'The Division' review - an enjoyable to-do list

Wednesday, 16 March 2016 10:23 AM Written by 

TheDivisionCoverIt’s been a turbulent road leading to the release of “Tom Clancy’s The Division.” It survived numerous delays that pushed its original release date from 2014 to March 7 of this year. The open world, third-person shooter is finally in the hands of fans, and the extra time spent developing the project seems to have been for the better.


Games that have the Tom Clancy brand are usually set within a realistic realm in the present or near future. “The Division” paints a grim picture of humanity in the recently-quarantined Manhattan borough. A unique strand of the smallpox virus was planted onto U.S. dollars on Black Friday by a terrorist organization. The outbreak led to a huge death toll and mass chaos, which leads to Manhattan being quarantined by the government. Somebody has to establish order within the infected zone. That’s where the Strategic Homeland Division comes in, or The Division for short. Every player in the massive game world is an agent trying to restore order in the murderous, diseased metropolis of New York.


“The Division’s” design of the lawless NYC streets is its shining characteristic. It’s not a 1-to-1 virtual replica of Manhattan, but it’s about as close as it gets. New York natives will recognize the sights and landmarks on specific street corners. Traffic and gridlock is a thing of the past in this vision of the city. Broken down cars litter the streets. Bags of trash pile up the side of buildings. Getting into a firefight in the middle of the eerily dark Time Square is a harrowing experience.


The city’s gridlock and metal barriers provide much of the cover in this third-person cover shooter. Coverage is an integral part of “The Division’s” gameplay. When trying to engage a team of enemies without it, your character will get tagged from many yards away. The coverage system is surprisingly polished for a game of “The Division’s” depth. Characters stick to coverage easily and can jump to adjacent coverage with the tap of a button.


Players will see a lot of the New York environment since much of the gameplay consists of traveling from point A to point B on foot. Most open-world games give players a vehicle for fast navigation. “The Division” is better for not having one. Experiencing the environment is essential to the game’s experience.


“The Division” by design is a direct competitor to Bungie and Activision’s shoot-and-loot “Destiny.” There’s plenty of room in the video game landscape for this genre to grow. In short, this is a game with no end. There are hundreds of story missions, side missions and tasks to complete. Even once those are all completed, the game has a unique player-versus-player arena called The Dark Zone where players can team up and attempt to get rare gear.

 

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The Dark Zone puts a clever twist on usual PvP gameplay. This is a designated area that consists of human players and NPCs. The NPCs found in The Dark Zone are more difficult than those out of the area, and therefore drop better loot. Humans can also target other human players, but that will cause those players to be marked as “rogue.” Rogue players can then be eliminated for even better loot.


Games in this genre are defined by their gear and loot. Fortunately, “The Division” has an excellent loot system that will keep players grinding for gear for hundreds of hours. The character level cap is currently 30. During the journey to in-game supremacy, players are on the lookout for gear to make them stronger like weapons and armor. Weapons add to game’s robust customization. Modifications like scopes, grips, barrels and more can all be added to firearms to give them unique perks.


Games in “The Division’s” ilk are best played with friends. Thanks to its superb online design, it makes it easier than ever to team up with friends and strangers. Players can meet up with other Division agents in need of partnership at safe houses or at the start of difficult story missions. The entire process of grouping together is made incredibly easy, which is nearly for later story missions.

 

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Since the shoot-and-loot online genre is relatively young, the games within it are still coming into their own. Each new game that comes along is essentially experiment to find out what works and what doesn’t. “The Division” does several things better than its competitor “Destiny,” but also falls short of Bungie’s popular shooter in many areas. Matchmaking is a breeze in “The Division,” and the play sessions aren’t plagued with dozens of loading screens. Starting and concluding a mission is seamless within the game world. The only loading screens that occur is grouping up or dropping out with a team, or fast traveling.


Problems arise when it comes to the stuff to actually do. “The Division” takes the quantity over quality approach. After the first two hours of the game, your character will have an enormous to-do list that only gets bigger as you progress toward level 30. Those missions don’t have much of a variety. Side missions consist of three or four variations in objectives, and those objectives are repeated based on the area of the map. Many who sink hundreds of hours into this game won’t mind the repetition since these types of games are repetitive by nature. Most just like having a list of things to do. If that’s what you like, then “The Division” will make you happy.


In its current form, “The Division” is an impressive newcomer in the shoot-and-loot genre, but success in the genre is defined by more than just first impressions. Games with no end need regular support from developers that adds new missions, gear and areas to explore. It’s too early to tell how “The Division” will evolve in the coming months and years, but the current offering is an excellent starting point.


8 out of 10

 

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