Thursday, 24 March 2016

The Division

The premise of The Division is pretty intriguing. A version of the smallpox had been spread throughout New York on Black Friday through money. It's an attack that is equally terrifying and believable. It's something that could happen and would really have a devastating effect. This is all just a frame to have a pretty excellent MMO shooter with fun RPG elements. 

Developed by Ubisoft Massive and out now on Xbox One and PlayStation 4, The Division is more than just a cover shooter set in an open New York City. There’s numbers everywhere. Those expecting a tactical shooter because the Tom Clancy name is attached then prepared to be surprised. Notice how I didn’t say disappointed? Sure, as a third-person shooter it functions really well but what’s most impressive about The Division is everything that’s added to it to create a deeper package, not a more bloated one. 

I’ll get the one downside out of the way first: the narrative. Remember I said the premise was cool? Well, the execution leaves a lot to be desired. You never care about the people you interact with nor do you care about their situations. It takes itself way too seriously and ends up falling flat in this regard. Everything else though is pretty superb. The cover shooting through New York City feels great. Your character can easily move from cover to cover and there is a great freedom to how the player moves in and out of cover to take on waves on enemies. It’s fluid and impactful keeping the core gameplay enjoyable.

But it’s all the systems beneath that will keep you invested. As you complete missions, side-missions, and encounters you will earn XP and points for one of three wings of your Base of Operations. These will give your players a bunch of skills, abilities, and passive improvements. The Division is touted as a classless MMO but there are a ton of options to suit your play style. From perks and abilities to free run of all weapon types, The Division can feel radically different depending on what you choose. If you team up with friends or even matchmake with strangers, you can take roles and play differently to suit the team.

The most interesting aspect of The Division though is the Dark Zone. This is where “your stories” happen and will more than likely be the biggest talking point with other players. In this area, other players can kill you and all AI enemies are more relentless. However, the area yields much greater rewards for your character. Simply picking them up though doesn’t mean it’s now in your inventory. You must make your way to one of the evacuation zones and call in a helicopter. Once that’s called in you have 90 seconds to put your gear on the rope and stay alive. The only problem though is that here is when you become a sitting duck and ambushes can easily occur. It’s tense and when you’re killed and have your stuff stolen it’s frustrating but you cannot deny that it gets your heart going.

You may be surprised to see just how much The Division has numbers coming out of everything but the core gameplay is incredibly solid to match. It very much feels like an introduction to MMOs but even if you are a veteran, the core gameplay is so satisfying that it’s easy to sink yourself into it for a few hours at a time. The core level cap of 30 will take a couple dozen hours to max but reaching the Dark Zone level cap of 99 will take much longer.

Bleak, impressive, and beautiful in the darkest of ways. 4/5.


Jason Redmond

The Division at CeX

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