My first glimpse of Tom Clancy’s The Division was its E3 preview trailer which detailed a post apocalyptic New York after a pandemic, all done to the eerie tune of ‘Silent Night’. This was officially another hyped Ubisoft game trailer, but it has lived up to the excitement to become an immersive and fun shooter. However, this is not a typical third person shooter, as it has many RPG elements which fans of Destiny would recognise, with its own added elements to spice up this new shooter/MMORPG genre.
The game is set in a dystopian New York where there is an outbreak of a strain of Smallpox, which was distributed via dollar notes on Black Friday. You play as a Division agent sent into the zone because of what is known as Directive 51, which states that when emergency strikes these sleeper cells will help the city at its hardest times. It takes the player all over the city, through various main quests and side missions, which are mainly focused on killing the main boss at the end of the level. It also incorporates ‘The Dark Zone’, an area which was sealed off by the army, due to spread of infection, so high worth goods and weapons have been left behind for players to loot.
This game is all about immersion, it wants the player to feel what it’s like to live, breathe and fight in the world they have created, and it succeeds from the outset. Whether it’s the civilians you are saving, the derelict town or the multiple bad guys you are slaying, you will feel that it is your town you are saving and every fight matters. This is done via imagery with some emotive scenes and brilliant graphics, as well as scripted scenes, to provide full impact. Although, one small mishap was the lack of a voice actor for the main protagonist (yourself), other games have made this same mistake and it creates a lack of emotion for the person you are playing as.
As a shooter it plays solidly and has a steady, if not repetitive, game mechanic of cover and shoot. However, most fights are varied and can be played as solo or 4 player. The RPG elements have been blended well, including XP on kills, weapon grading and availability, as well as crafting and recalibration areas.
For most games the ‘sink or swim’ element is the multiplayer which in the Division is called ‘The Dark Zone’. This area consists of all players of a certain level, or computer controlled players. A player can kill other human characters and take their loot, but then would become a rogue agent and so would be hunted down by all other players (in the Dark Zone). My best experience was probably what the creators had intended; I teamed up with three other players when close-by 2 agents had gone rogue, and so there was there was a bounty (XP and Credits) on their head with a Dark Zone wide call for these people to be caught. This lead to a manhunt with our group, along with another 5 players, across the whole map, eventually killing these agents and feeling satisfied in the process.
This review only covers half of the beauty and beast elements of The Division; the beauty is the imagery and immersion, whilst the beast element refers to the repetitive gameplay experience. This is mainly because the game is long, both in the endgame to get the best gear and its ambitions to run a season long DLC content, continuing the experience. I truly believe this series could be what Destiny aspired to be, a shooter with a strong story that has enough customisation to keep fans of classic RPG’s happy.