Each year, the market has an influx of more and more games competing not just for the spotlight, but for our time. The Division falls under a specific category of titles that require even more time than your average adventure game. Aptly called a “looter shooter”, the Division has been and still is compared to titles such as Diablo, Borderlands and Destiny. These titles share one big thing in common: you fight enemies, grab the loot dropped, and upgrade your character so you can take on the next slightly more challenging quest. The Division accomplishes this and does it well up to a point. Many of us out there find that there is a wall we figuratively hit that keeps us from continuing the grind for a stronger character. Is it fair of us to judge a game on its ability to keep us playing for 900+ hours or should it be judged on its overall experience that it divulges to the audience? The Division gives a truly “next gen” experience, with a very unique setting, and even though New York is played out these days, The Division makes it work well. Even though the overall story is lacking in ways, the insertion of collectible cell phone messages and plot devices called echoes make up for the overall lack of story and add more to the eerie setting. It has a healthy arsenal size, numerous ways to customize your character, a fresh way of using abilities in the field and an out-of-the-box approach to PvP.
With quite a few titles these days, I find myself asking “is this really a next generation game?” I feel like most of them could still run on previous generation hardware. Load times, frame rate drops, audio sync issues, server crashes and falling through the world have been constant nuisances up until recently. The Division does suffer a little from a few of these problems, but due to the scope of the world and its overcoming of other common issues that plague other titles, those small issues went unnoticed to me. The coolest feature I found in the Division is that once you load into New York, it’s a seamless experience. That means no load times at all. You can go from inside a building to the open streets, and then into a mission that takes place in the subway without a hiccup. This is what “next gen” should be. If I’m going to invest my time in a world, I don’t want to be taken out of it needlessly.
You are able to interact with the environment in astonishing ways. When I was a few hours into the game, I found out you could blow out tires, close car doors, shoot street lights/cones and yes… Shoot my name into a wall. I did this for a good hour and even after I was done, I would still compulsively close car doors during high action missions. This is environment interaction that we all want. The only thing that they could take to the next step is full environment destruction, which I feel this is still a ways away. There are some titles that do this somewhat well (such as Battlefield) but Battlefield is on a much smaller scale the The Division, which allows for it to possess such features.
An aspect that held titles such as Destiny back was the overall lack of story. Before the release, we had reservations that this would be the case for the Division as well, and unfortunately those fears were met. I can count the amount of cut scenes on one hand, and there were very few interactions with fellow agents, members of your support teams and villains. The villain factions made sense, a bunch of thugs who break out of prison would naturally happen, along with a cult mentality of trying to burn away the disease. Literally, they have flamethrowers. When it came to the Rogue Agents though, I never felt that their motivation was explained well. All we got was a few security camera clips and a handful of echoes. When I was about to complete the final mission I still didn’t really know what I was doing in the overall plot and the consequences of this fight. The saving grace of the story was the insertion of the previously mentioned cell phone messages, laptop recordings and echoes. The former two just play back a conversation or blog talking about getting sick or getting out of town. They were simple but they helped set the tone of the state of crisis. Now the echoes, they got very real very fast. What I mean is that these echoes of enclosed events are very brutal in some cases, but believable, in that I would expect these to actually happen in a time of a similar crisis.
The biggest hook to this game is its loot. That includes sights, magazines, armor, camo and of course weapons. All of the loot also has varying rarities that go from common (white) all the way to high end (gold). It has a vast arsenal of weapons and a good majority of the weapons have variants. For example I really enjoy operating with the M14 platform. Later on in the game I found a vastly superior M14 variant called to Socom. The first M14 was a Vietnam style marksmen rifle and the Socom is a very modern variant. When I found this further depth I was hooked even further. I started to collect my favorite guns such as the 1911 and M249. Of course most of the were not usable after more game play. After you find your powerful weapon of choice you can modify it by adding your attachments such as magazines or grips ect. These also come with their own perks. For example a high end magazine could have a magazine size increase perk, a fire rate perk or even a damage increase perk. All of these are random from the start so it’s not easy to aim towards a specific perk for all of your attachments such as critical hit chance. This is where the hook comes in. You tend to keep playing so that you have a small chance of a high end optic that might possibly have the perk you want. So then you can then take down the boss that much faster. The armor you find also has perks that come with them. Of course most of the perks from your armour will contribute more to your defense and tactical abilities than your overall offense. Unfortunately your armor does not affect your overall appearance that much. This is where your cosmetic items such as Coats, Hats and pants come it. These do not have any stats or perks. They are purely cosmetic.
You might ask yourself how does the Division differ itself from games such as Call Of Duty, Gears Of War or Rainbow Six? The combat revolves around your abilities after your weapons/armor. Technically there are not any specific classes you chose at the beginning of the game like other titles. All abilities are at your disposal if you so choose. You can be a “tank” if you spec your armor to be high and select abilities such as smart cover. Then you can go the DPS route and pick abilities that give you higher damage for a short time. This is where the Division differs in its shooter combat. With hundreds of bullets flying back and forth just in one battle there needs to be things such as a healing station for you and your allies. Or there needs to be a remote turret to distract the boss. The Division ability system was a very fresh take. Nothing ground breaking but very enjoyable none the less. It is best if played with a few friends with a different variety of abilities. One agent can be in charge of tech damage like the sticky grenade while another is in charge of setting up healing stations. I felt the game really punished you for tackling the game solo. Sure the AI did scale down depending how many people were playing but there was a huge difference from playing solo than playing co op.
After you conclude the main story missions, the next step is to dive into the Dark Zone. This is the Division’s take on PVP. Now this isn’t your traditional matchmaking force on force match up. Instead there are high level NPCs and rogue agents littered throughout the Dark Zone and it is every man for himself. A random player from the other side of the country can either choose to fight alongside you or can be a true Rogue Agent, kill you then take all the loot you have earned. In order to obtain the loot you have earned from NPCs you half to go to an extraction zone and extract it via helicopter. This process takes a couple minutes but as soon as your fire your flair all the NPCs in the area come for you as well as nearby rogue agents. This is awesome on paper but is not for everyone. I fully commend Ubisoft for approaching PVP this way but personally after getting killed by a squad of the same rogue agents 4 times in a row even after bouncing servers has left a bitter taste in my mouth. The Dark Zone is where all the best loot is. So If I am going to increase my Agent’s gear I half to play in the Dark Zone. Then if I keep getting killed by rogues before I can even get any loot how am I going to improve my Agent. This is where a lot of us have hit a wall. After completing the final PVE mission and fully upgrading your home base there is nothing left to do but a couple daily missions that take 20 minutes. That is if you don’t play the Dark Zone.
Up until I hit the level cap of 30 I had an absolute blast with this game. Each mission was unique in its objective and environment. After every mission I had a new gun, perk or ability to experiment with. I enjoyed exploring the detailed and accurate rendition of New York. Going after the collectibles was still somewhat of a chore but I still liked listening to every phone message and echo. After the wall was hit I felt like “ok time for the achievement clean up and then move onto the next game”. Even with the April update there is nothing holding me to The Division. It was a fantastic 30 hour experience and that is what I am going to judge it on. I thoroughly enjoyed the Division. I recommend it to almost everyone I know who plays games casually or hardcore. Even other family and friends I tell them about this game and its realistic take on a disease outbreak in New York city. The loot and shoot style of this game, while addicting might not be enough to keep most people hooked. If you looking for something to replace say Destiny, Diablo or Call of Duty this probably isn’t going to cut it, though it is a compelling experience that gamers should play.
- Seamless over world experience
- Unique and very detailed setting
- Realistic story
- Vast selection of weapons/armor
- Fresh out-of-the-box take on PVP
- Lack of overall story
- A few bugs upon release
- PVP puts a wall between its audience