Officially announced at E3 in 2013, Tom Clancy’s The Division was an impressive looking game. It was announced as an exclusive to the new generation of consoles, and the first impressions wowed many in the gaming culture. Since it’s announcement, it was seemingly delayed for what felt like an eternity in this age of instant access to pretty much anything. It gestated for nearly three years before finally releasing March 8, 2016.
This elongated development time, however, appears to have paid off. At the time this review is being written, 6 days after release, I have played 28 hours of the game, according to my Xbox One Smartglass app. That doesn’t even count the handful of hours I put into the closed and open beta for this game.
As you may have read, I’m currently on a self imposed game buying hiatus, in an effort to play through some of the games I’ve collected and have not yet given much time to, if any. A friend of mine gave me this game as a gift, though, and I’m quite glad that this fellow Agent saw fit to have me activated! I don’t think that the experience I’ve had would have been the same in November, months after the release of the game.
This is very much a game for friends to play, as you can play with up to 3 other people. Yes, you can play solo, and I have spent time roaming Manhattan by myself, but the best experiences I have in this game are those that I can share with my friends via Xbox Live. When you play solo, you feel very much alone. When you play with friends, even just one, you realize how much you rely on each other to complete a mission, whether it be reviving one another, or just having each other’s back.
Before I move onto the typical gameplay and review portion of this article, I just want to say that if you played the beta and didn’t enjoy it, but you think you should have because of the style of game, or setting, at least rent it and give it a chance in its released form. There were only a couple of missions in the beta, and you could do very little as far as perks, talents, skills, gear and weapon modification goes.
Tom Clancy’s The Division is set in the not too distant future. A biological outbreak in Manhattan has led to the island being quarantined, and the activation of sleeper Strategic Homeland Division agents to help keep order, along with the emergency response teams.
For this game, Ubisoft created a very realistic version of Manhattan for you to run around in. I’ve heard locals to the area say that it does a very good job, and that they don’t need to use the map to get around the city, like I would! For a game to do that is quite impressive in my book, and worthy of recognition! The city has become somewhat of a ghost town, with abandoned cars, worn down building facades, and trash piled in the street (though, that has been a normal sight the times I’ve visited Manhattan…).
There are non player characters wandering the street, some in need, asking for water or food, others arguing with other people, or mourning lost ones. Also present are various gang members wielding bats, hatchets, guns, and grenades. As you would expect, the gangs are what pose the immediate threat, but as the story goes on, they aren’t the only ones you find that oppose your efforts.
At the core, this is a cover based shooter. It is also very much a role playing game. Toss in a little tactics, MMO elements, and the right amount of loot customization, then you can begin to explain what this game is.
There are six types of weapons you can use: assault rifles, light machine guns, submachine guns, marksman rifles, shotguns, and pistols. You can equip two primary weapons, along with a pistol. You can switch between primaries with a tap of the Y button (again, playing on Xbox One, folks!), or double tap the Y button to get to your pistol in those dire situations where you can’t take the time to reload, but need to fire.
Each weapon allows modding. Depending on the weapon, you can add scopes, suppressors, grips and more. The mods can greatly affect both the appearance and performance of your weapons. As you level up, you will want to constantly assess that you are still using the appropriate weapons and modifications, as this will make sure you are at your best when facing the opposition.
As you progress through the story, and complete side missions and encounters, not only do you earn experience to level up your character, you also can earn points to upgrade your base of operations. There are three wings to your base: Medical, Tech, and Security. Each wing offers various perks and talents as you unlock them, so be sure to plan out your upgrades to match your playstyle.
While you can roam the majority of the map without worrying about fighting other players, there is an area called the Dark Zone toward the center of the island. In the Dark Zone, you face harder PvE opposition, but also have to be worried about other player agents. Any other player agent in the Dark Zone could “go rogue” and turn on you, even a member of your own team! This adds an interesting element of tension to the experience. What you want to do in the Dark Zone is recover good loot. To do this, after you find loot, you have to go to an extraction point and call for a helicopter, wait ninety seconds for it to arrive, then attach your loot to a rope for extraction. Seems simple, right? The only problem is, once you call for an extraction, every player knows an extraction has been called. So, they could go and try to ambush you to steal your loot and extract it for themselves, or simply just use the extraction chopper for themselves, leaving you at peace. Oh, also, the AI might show up in full force to try to stop your extraction. It can be a very interesting minute and a half.
In all, I’m quite surprised how much I’m enjoying Tom Clancy’s The Division. After playing a similar game, and not really finding much joy in playing it, I did wonder how much I’d actually get into this game. It turns out that I feel like this game has a proper mixture of all the elements I wanted. There is a proper story, interesting side quests and encounters, and best of all: the narrative is all told to me within the game! By means of cutscenes, found intel, voice recordings, and holographic records they actually tell me the story and more all within the game! It doesn’t say, “Ok, now go to this website and read more about this.” It keeps it all within the story and doesn’t break immersion.