Unless you have been living under a rock for the last twelve months, you have probably been anticipating the release of the latest offering from Ubisoft, Tom Clancy’s: The Division. Expectations for this game have been high since it was first unveiled at E3 2014 and the finished product does not disappoint. The Division is an open-world action RPG set in New York City after the release of a deadly pathogen on Black Friday. Players assume the role of an agent recruited by The Division … a secret government organisation that activates its recruits in times of emergency.
First impressions of the game have been mixed, but it is important to note not only what type of game it is, but also what type of game it is not. I described The Division as an action RPG, because despite having the combat mechanics of a third-person shooter The Division is more RPG than shooter. Players that are expecting a pure shooter may be disappointed by this, but the RPG elements should not discourage anyone that is unfamiliar with this game type from purchasing The Division.
The combat mechanics are fairly easy to master, and the RPG elements of the game do not become overly important until players reach higher levels and need to upgrade particular stats in order to take down some of the highly shielded bosses. Whether you are a shooter kind of guy, or an RPG kind of guy, you are sure to find something you like about The Division. The game has been compared – somewhat unfairly – to other games that combine elements of shooters with RPGs, such as Destiny, or Borderlands. However, it is important to note that those games are shooters more than they are RPGs. Farming, crafting, and re-rolling specs, will play a much larger part in The Division than the average Destiny player might be prepared for.
While the combat mechanics of The Division often require quick response, and coordination when playing with a squad, this can often be difficult because of how distractingly gorgeous the environment is. The attention to detail in the recreation of New York City is amazing, and I have found myself several times just roaming around looking at street art, as well as the copious amounts of graffiti strewn around the city by the enemy factions within the game. In fact, it is easy to get lost in some of the alley ways and rooftops that litter the map, but this is not a major concern as the game’s design is very intuitive with a built in GPS that provides markers to help you get to your destination. The ability to fast travel to certain locations also makes the sheer size of the map bearable. However, you should still expect to do a fair amount of sprinting in NYC, especially if you are a completionist.
There are a multitude of side missions and encounters to complete, as well as hidden clues, such as phone recordings and surveillance footage. All help to piece together the events that lead to the outbreak in the first place, and these collectables are one of the nicer touches to the game. Bungie’s Destiny was criticised for its use of grimoire cards which contained back story to the Destiny universe; however, these cards were not visible in game which frustrated many fans of the franchise. The Division actually gives you the option of taking in as much story as you want. You can complete the main missions for the basic story, but you can also find all the collectables around the map for more background… or not; the choice is left entirely up to you, and critical pieces of the back story are not hidden behind intangible objects that cannot be experienced in game.
One of the most prominent features of the map is the giant red section in the centre of it. This is the Dark Zone, which is one of the most anticipated aspects of the game. With players having the ability to go ‘rogue’ and take out fellow Division agents; not to mention taking all of the Dark Zone loot they drop. While I have only spent a few hours in the Dark Zone, I have not experienced anyone going rogue. In fact, one player accidentally shot me and went rogue, then revived me and performed a series of ‘jumping jacks’ in what seemed like an attempt to apologise. This is a little disappointing, as the Dark Zone was supposed to be the most fiercely competitive part of the game. It seems that the risk outweighs the reward for going rogue, as you lose enormous amounts of DZ experience from dying and you will rarely find any gear worth stealing off another player. It was also ridiculously easy to rank up my Dark Zone level in the short amount of time I have spent there, and these are things that Ubisoft may attempt to balance in the near future.
If you’re keen to dabble in what the Dark Zone has to offer and want to know how best to start, check out fellow JG writer – Jason Rodgers – hints and tips here.
The game performs on PS4 really well, with no discernible drop in frame-rate that I have experienced, except for a handful of situations that involved large groups of enemies with multiple explosions on screen. The servers also seem to perform well, despite the large number of players worldwide. In fact, apart from a minor hiccup on release day, and a three hour outage for scheduled maintenance, there has been no down time that I have experienced. This is critically important for a game that is always online, and Ubisoft have got that right so far.
I have only a handful of minor gripes with The Division, but these are easily outweighed by the positive aspects of the game. Character customisation is almost non-existent, apart from the myriad of neck tattoos that you can choose for your character … which is completely pointless as it is the middle of winter and most of the cosmetic items you will find will be turtle necks and scarves. Furthermore, there are only a handful of face ‘types’ to choose from, with most of the female faces looking suspiciously like male faces. Not to mention the fact that female characters have mostly short or cropped hair styles to choose from, making the androgyny even harder to bear.
It should be noted though, that there are limited opportunities in the game to stare at your character’s redeeming features, as you will spend the majority of your time looking at your character’s back as you sprint around Manhattan, or duck for cover from a large group of enemies. This makes me question why Ubisoft felt the need to allow us to create up to four characters. With little in the way of character customisation, and an enormous amount of activities to complete in the game, who has the time or desire to create a second – let alone a fourth – character?
Despite some minor gripes, my overall reaction to this game is positive. The combat and customisation is fun, and the game is visually amazing. At face value the game seems to have a lot of replayability, but with the ease at which some players have levelled up to max rank, boredom may begin to set in for some, before any of the planned expansions and events are released. Although, they could always just complete all the side-missions, encounters, and find all the collectables, not to mention the many pop culture themed easter eggs that have been placed around the map.
Is The Division worth your hard earned dollars? The answer is yes based on the amount of hours required to complete all the side-missions alone, but more importantly, you will have fun doing it.
Tom Clancy’s The Division is out now on PS4, Xbox One and PC. This review was completed on PlayStation 4 with a copy supplied by the publisher.