I’ve been wandering the streets of New York.
Sometimes alone. Always with others. Occasionally with friends. Frequently with strangers. Consistently on guard. Invariably on edge.
I’ve been giving food to the needy. I’ve healed friends during combat. I’ve stolen weapons from adversaries. I’ve sold rubbish to merchants. I’ve bought goods from traders. I’ve observed violence. I’ve received gratitude. I’ve gone underground. I’ve run the rooftops. I’ve got lost. I’ve lead the way.
I am The Division.
Tom Clancy’s The Division, to give it it’s full name, is Ubisoft’s latest attempt at a massive multiplayer title that can deliver the goods for all gamers. Set in New York City, straight after the outbreak of smallpox, the city is in chaos and under lockdown, with the last remaining survivors looting buildings and attempting to wipe out anyone whom they believe is infected with the deadly disease. It is up to you, as part of The Division, to help restore order. Things obviously don’t play out as simply as that though and you’ll need to join forces with the emergency response teams, create a new base of operations and help save some of New York’s most important personnel…all whilst dealing with the gangs and criminals who are littering the streets.
Visually, things come across with the very highest quality. New York may be pretty deserted but it is portrayed beautifully with Ubisoft detailing every little nook and cranny. From the open streets filled with abandoned vehicles, through the dark dank alleyways that play host to numerous backyard encounters and right up to the interiors of the buildings which you can check out, the graphics are stunning. With a weather system and day/night cycle in play that both blur your senses and those of your opponents, the whole feel of a city in chaos is extremely well created. The audio signals are well positioned and occasionally are your only hope of keeping alive. The world of The Division excels in multiple ways.
With numerous missions ready to help you progress through the campaign, and a whole load of side missions and encounters for you to stumble upon, all that you do in The Division revolves around XP and currency. It is these two things that will see your Division agent leveling up in stats, garnering new gear and being given the requisite skills needed in order to sweep through Manhattan and the various districts it brings, all whilst attempting to take back the streets from the Rioters, the Rikers and the insane Cleaners that wander the roads – flamethrowers and all.
Getting around is done on foot and the included map works well, at least once you’ve bumped into the required people who can help fill it with goodies for you. With a waypoint system that urges you on to your next goal and the option to fast travel between unlocked safe houses, getting around really isn’t that difficult. In fact, all you’ve got to worry about are where the next gangs are coming from. There is however an awful lot going on at any one time and it’s fairly easy to become distracted from the task at hand, especially as new opportunities pop up on the mini-map at a rather brisk pace. Stick to what you know though and you’ll find yourself cleaning up the streets in no time. Get distracted looking for that next little collectible (of which there are hundreds) and you’ll find the minutes turn to hours and the hours turn to days. Yes, I’ve been there – multiple times.
To survive on the harsh NYC streets, you’ll need to go equipped and The Division has a huge array of weapons on offer. You may think that you’re happy sorting out bad guys with a lovely little pistol, assault rifle and submachine gun, but it won’t be long before you pick up a new improved version – a faster firing, higher specced weapon – ensuring that the previous love of your life is cast aside, never to be returned to, usually sold for pennies or turned into scrap. With each weapon bringing a full damage rating, rounds per minute stats, differing accuracy, a multitude of ranges and stability data, you would no doubt think that the bigger the initial number, the better the firearm. Whilst this is a rough guideline to help you choose your battle companion, further bonuses and the options to mod and equip attached accessories mean that no two guns are the same and you’re very unlikely to find something that you won’t ever get on with.
Throw in a load of nades and you’re pretty much a walking, talking (well, mute) machine of destruction. And that is something which is needed from your very first minute of crowd control, right up to your last as the rather aggressive, but tactically aware, AI enemies try to hunt you down.
The options don’t end there though, as for every gun that you spend hours messing around with, there are further pieces of gear which will need equipping to ensure you stay alive during even the most intense battles. Body armor, masks and your backpack type will play a huge role in your Division experience and even your knee pads, gloves, holsters and more can be upgraded throughout. Not only are the pieces of kit in place to play a role in your survival, but the visual representation of them allows for each and every player to stand out from the crowd. Further abilities and skill mods enhance the experience even more and once you’ve whacked a few hours in, and have unlocked the various tech, medical and security wings of your base, will find that your amendable options and RPG elements increase ten fold.
The Division positively thrives for both those who are looking for a single player title, and those who prefer to team up with friends and strangers. I’ve long been a solo kind of guy, and have found every little aspect of The Division to more than cater for my lonesome needs, but team up with a mate or two or just find someone to fight alongside with the superb mission matchmaking options and you really will have no complaints. Giving you the opportunity to rake in that extra XP when going into missions or one-off fights against AI opponents who would normally be too strong for a loner, means that teaming up, helping out and relying on a stranger works brilliantly. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that The Division has given me the best online multiplayer experience and the chance to meet new online friends since way back with Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell Chaos Theory many, many moons ago.
And then we have The Dark Zone…Ah, the Dark Zone.
As a PvP competitive area, The Dark Zone shouldn’t be underestimated. Completely separate from the main campaign that The Division brings, The Dark Zone comes with its own XP, its own skills and progression system and its own unique, completely badass weapons. And it will be these weapons which will draw you, and many others, in. Sometimes in a fight to the death.
Other times however, it is The Dark Zone which really plays on the cooperative elements of The Division. Indeed, my first foray in, as a fairly low rank, saw me hiding away behind pillars and vehicles as I watched a couple of strangers from afar. The more I watched, the more I wanted to get involved in their battle, but it wasn’t until they needed help did I jump on in, healing them both in order for them to take down some highly powered AI cleaners. After playing on Xbox Live for the best part of 12 years, I half expected them to turn around, shoot me in the back and pinch my gear, but they didn’t. They embraced me and let me join their team for the remainder of the fight, helping out where my lowly rank allowed before being thanked as they went on their way into the darkness, never to be seen again. It is this combination of teamwork that really allows The Division to shine above many other titles and The Dark Zone seems to come with its own moral rules, separate even from those which cover the online multiplayer scene as a whole.
Granted, my next trip into the dark side didn’t end quite so well, but that’s exactly what I’m getting at. The chance for many to steal contaminated loot from others, or to just help themselves to the best gear is seemingly too good for many of the Xbox community to turn down but it also allows for the kinder, more helpful side of people to come out – if only out of necessity more than anything else. With a twist in the DZ tale coming in the form of extraction zones, where all contaminated loot needs to be put through a screening process prior to it being useful, it’s a place where risk takers will flourish. Die in the Dark Zone though and you can expect to lose those all important experience points too. In fact, dying isn’t an option for many and so joining a gang may be your best hope of survival.
So, with The Division being such a huge game, full of content, exploration opportunities and some of the best multiplayer I’ve seen in years, there must be something that I don’t like? After all, no game is perfect and chances are that none ever will be.
Well, if you’re into your driving, then you’re going to struggle to find much enthusiasm for Ubisoft’s latest, but should you have half an interest in any other genre, then you really should put that problem to one side and pick it up. It’s only when I begin to get really picky will any proper issues arise. Yes, there are the odd graphical glitches and there are a few moments of madness when your character will get stuck on the spot, unable to move his sorry arse down the street. Again though, is that something to knock a game that brings so much? Not on my watch.
Similarly, you may find the overall XP grind a bit too much to bear and I guess some of the missions could possibly be labeled as ‘repetitive’, but give me a game that doesn’t see that. Exploring the internals of a great deal more buildings would also have been super cool, but hey, we can’t have it all our own way, all of the time.
In quick summary, Ubisoft have more than delivered the goods with Tom Clancy’s The Division. It’s a third person shooter that will appeal to all gamers and no matter what you think, once you’ve hit the dirty streets of New York, it’ll be some time before you find yourself straying away. Whether you decide to plough through the majority of it alone or with a friend or two taking in the campaign and numerous side missions, then you’ll find a cover shooter of the utmost quality. Similarly, decide to try your hand at going rogue in the Dark Zone and it’ll drag you in even deeper, refusing to let go.
The streets of New York City have never been so good.