Title: Tom Clancy’s The Division
Developers: Ubisoft Massive, Red Storm Entertainment, Ubisoft Reflections, Ubisoft Annecy
Release Date: March 8th, 2016
Platform: Playstation 4
Time Played: 72 hours
Concept and Execution:
The Tom Clancy series is back, and this time we’re going to New York. In Tom Clancy’s The Division, you play as a nameless special agent who the government calls upon when all else fails. The Strategic Homeland Division is made up of specialists from different parts of the military, outstanding medical personnel, and other highly skilled individuals that qualify to be a part of America’s last hope. Players are told this in a small narration before being able to customize their character. The character customization is quite limited though, and feels a bit out of place after being told moments ago in the narration that the agents of the Division “Could be anyone you know.” Fortunately, there is an aesthetic clothing system in The Division, so there is at least some diversity in appearance. My ally Abysul was sporting full military equipment, while my own character wore trendy clothes and sunglasses.
The Division is a multiplayer-3rd-person-RPG-shooter. What this means for the gunplay is, like in most shooters such as Call of Duty, shooting most enemies in the head instantly kills them. With The Division, a headshot may deal extra damage, but most basic enemies will take about three to four well-aimed shots before they’ll go down. Being an RPG, there is also a leveling system included in the game that caps out at level thirty. Thankfully no grinding is required, as there is enough to do in The Division to progress players though the levels naturally. The multiplayer aspect allows up to four friends to team up to save the city of Manhattan. In addition, there is a matchmaking system that allows players to team up for either specific missions, or band together for more than just one specific event. The Division also hosts a PvP area known as “The Dark Zone,” which offers some of the best gear in the game to those who can survive.
Starting out, players are subjected to a quick tutorial mission and then make their way to meet up with Faye Lau. Faye explains that the Division agents are being to assigned to Manhattan, where the thick of the problems have occurred. Before our silent protagonist and his spirited superior are able to board the plane carrying their commander and fly off to Manhattan, it explodes. Members of the Joint Task Force (made up of police, firefighters, military, and other volunteers) arrive on the scene, finding only the Agent and Faye left alive. Faye receives a number of injuries, including a broken leg and severe gashes from the explosion . After arriving in Manhattan, it’s up to our silent hero to save the day, with Faye’s guidance of course.
The Player is sent to establish a main base of operations, which is a post office being repurposed for the sake of the mission. Faye explains that there are three wings to the new base: Medical, Security, and Technology. Your first set of missions revolve around finding important people from the area who would be the best at running one of the three wings. This leads to the bread and butter of the missions in Tom Clancy’s The Division. You have a number of main story missions that focus on one of the three wings, and actually give you insight to the state of Manhattan and how the whole incident started. There are also a large number of side missions, which are unlocked by establishing safe houses throughout the city. Each story and side mission give you resources that can be used to upgrade one of the three wings. For every upgrade you get, you unlock new abilities, perks, talents, and/or modifications for abilities.
Tom Clancy’s The Division is an exciting new addition to the growing list of shooter RPGS. It immediately draws us in with an interesting story that grows ever more horrific with each clue you find. While you may only have a few faces to choose from for your character, there are a lot of skills and upgrades to choose from. You’re able to create your own playstyle and change things up as need be.
Concept and Execution score: 20/25
After setting up the Medical, Security, and Technology wings, players gain access to the first set of abilities from the three correlating skill trees. The more each wing gets upgraded, the more abilities players will have access to. Certain upgrades will also unlock modifications for the abilities. While you’re only able to have two abilities equipped at a time, these skills are able to be fast swapped at any time. Barring any cooldowns, any skill swapped during combat is available right away and can help change the tides of a battle. Some of the skills include: a deployable turret that fires upon any enemies within range, a pulse that outlines nearby enemies that gives agents bonuses against the marked targets, and Smart Cover, technology that reinforces any cover players may be hiding behind. Players trudging through the game solo will have to consider which skills are needed in a case by case basis. Those who engage in jolly cooperation will want to coordinate their abilities with others to get the most benefits.
The gunplay in the game is focused around the cover system. Getting shot hurts, and so players will find themselves crouched behind concrete barriers or cars, hugging the side of a building, or even hunkered down behind a stack of gymnastic floor mats to avoid being turned into swiss cheese. While in cover, one can fire blindly over cover, pop out for a moment to fire more precise shots, lob grenades, or deploy abilities to dispatch the baddies. There are twelve different enemy types throughout the game, ranging from snipers to rushers, forcing the player to change tactics based on what enemies engage them. This keeps the gameplay fresh and exciting, as no two missions are ever the same.
Much like a standard RPG, the leveling system holds you back from equipping the best weapons right away. As players progress through the story missions and take down baddies along the way, better gear and equipment will drop. Make sure to check the level requirement before trying to strap into the new loot. There is the standard color coded quality system as well. From worst to best: White is worn, Green is standard, Blue is specialized, Purple is superior, and Orange is high end. When engaging story missions, players may set the difficulty to Normal or Hard right away, and Challenging once they hit level cap. Hard mode sends more intelligent, more difficult enemies that are tougher to take down, but awards more EXP and drops better gear. Challenging is a step up from Hard, but it awards endgame gear. If player prefer not to take on Hard mode while leveling up, or if the drops are not that stellar, they may make use of the crafting system. There are also gear vendors, but the only useful items they sell tend to be grossly overpriced. Breaking down old or worthless gear, or finding the parts needed out and about on the town, is the first step for crafting. The second step requires players to complete missions to unlock new patterns to craft. The same white through orange quality tier for gear also applies to the components that players use, and if one has an abundance of a lower grade color, they can smash multiples into one better quality material.
The Division really does not remake the wheel when it comes to RPG elements. Alongside the damage or armor rating on guns and equipment, pieces of gear may have additional stat boosts. The three stats in this game are: Firearms, which increases damage with guns, Stamina, which increases the health pool, and Electronics, which impact the effectiveness of their abilities used. Certain guns, typically of higher quality, will have a stat minimum required to unlock their bonus ability that varies from weapon to weapon. If players are unsatisfied with the bonuses the gear is giving them, or if they need to alter points to get the gun upgrade, they may unlock the correct upgrade in the Technology wing that allows them to retool their points. Additionally, there are mods for the armor that can give stat boosts, as well as beneficial mods for the guns that grant things like extra stability.
The game’s HUD is actually linked with an A.I. called ISAC (Intelligent System Analytic Computer). ISAC relays information to you through the speaker on the controller. It’s a decent explanation as to why you’re able to know where to go for missions. There are also a number of “collectables” to be found lying around Manhattan, and ISAC can help you track them down. You’re able to listen to phone recordings, read reports from various agencies, find information on missing Division agents, and view Echos. Echos are recreated incidents from street cameras that show some event relevant to the crisis going on. Some of the scenes are mild, but most tend to be rather horrific or heart-wrenching. If you’re able to track down all the collectables for a specific set, you are rewarded with a piece of clothing that is purely aesthetic. Good luck, there are a lot.
On the surface, The Division appears to be a simple game. This is not the case however, for there are a number of ways to customize playstyle. With twelve different abilities, all sporting four modifications, alongside countless weapons and armor, The Division has plenty of different options to chose from.
Mechanics Score: 25/25
The hustle and bustle of the Big Apple has all but grinded to a halt. The Division takes place shortly after Black Friday in Manhattan. A strange disease only known as “Green Poison” has spread rampantly throughout the area, killing off countless people. This disease was intentionally embedded into paper bills and passed around stores during the massive shopping event. Flu-like symptoms and, eventually Smallpox, rapidly sprung up around Manhattan, infecting and killing hundreds of thousands of people. Rioters and looters emerged during the panic and sheer chaos ensued. That is where the Division come in. When all else fails, they are the cavalry that gets called in to save America.
After arriving in Manhattan, players are surrounded by more threats than allies. In various parts of New York, the Division will encounter resistance through looters, Cleaners, Rikers, and the Last Man Battalion(LMB). Looters are poorly organized thugs that band together to try their best to survive. Cleaners are deluded individuals donning improvised flamethrowers, who believe that they can burn away the Green Poison, and will stop at nothing to purge the virus. Rikers are escaped convicts from Rikers Island, who have a vendetta against all police and government officials. The LMB were private military-trained security personnel who were hired to protect high value Wall Street interests; after the outbreak they now are attempting to seize control of New York. The organized factions all present numerous problems for the city, and strongly oppose the Division agents trying to fix things.
The voice acting in The Division is quite impeccable. Many unethical and horrific events arose after the outbreak of Green Poison. The voice actors masterfully portray the fear, panic, and dread in the voices of the normal citizens who tried, and mostly failed, to survive this calamity. There were however, a few moments where the amazing voice acting failed to impress. While fighting looters, I lost count of how many Alexs I killed. “They got Alex!” shouted the vagabonds over and over again, sometimes to no one in particular. With how much dialogue is actually in the game, it is no surprise that the least menacing enemy got the short end of the stick.
The overall feel of the game was quite bleak, which was as it should have been. Christmas decorations were put up, adding a ironic festive flair to the disparity of the situation. People in dire need would approach the agent, begging for food or water. There were times I saw good people fighting over something in the streets, one civilian harassing another that I had to rescue, or the rare sight of someone trying to approach you for help, but collapsing and dying before your eyes. The Echos and recordings you find around New York add to this horrific world, begging for someone to help set things right again.
The dark tones and phenomenal voice acting certainly moved me as I waded deeper into the story. Citizens I rescued were beyond grateful, and gave me a sense of accomplishment. With the looters being the most common enemy, having them constantly repeating lines removed my immersion at times, but it was quickly brought back in line after finding another phone recording.
Atmosphere Score: 22/25
There is a certain point in Tom Clancy’s The Division that playing solo stops being fun. A few of the early missions can be done on Hard without any help, although it may take a few hours. Once you reach double digits however, the Hard missions become intense, and you’re going to want backup. If you’ve been playing the game co-op, then the challenge increases, but the difficulty isn’t too overwhelming. If players try to use the matchmaking system to find a few buddies, they’ll encounter a problem on Hard. Enemies scale to the highest level player in a party, so on Hard mode if you’re lagging behind by five levels or more, you’re just a target for the enemies to knock down. This system is implemented so level thirty players cannot powerlevel those who just started. Ubisoft wants their players to experience the story they clearly worked so hard on. While one could just play through the game on normal, the bonus loot tends to be worth the harder fights.
Story missions end with a fight against a specific named enemy. They have unique models, and some even come equipped with cool dialogue. Unfortunately, the model is just a recolored version of a previously existing elite enemy with a few added tweaks. Joe Ferro for example, the leader of the Cleaners, uses the exact same mechanics and base model for the other Cleaner bosses from previous missions. While Ferro does shout unique dialogue while trying to roast the players, he has no other selling points. I felt betrayed that the only new thing he did was throw two grenades instead of one. Ferro did, at least, drop a nice assault rifle as a reward during my playthrough,
The Darkzone offers a unique style of gameplay, with its PvP open area. If a player decides to make the trek into the arena, they most likely will be faced with certain doom. At any point in time, any player you are not allied with can open fire upon you and make your day really tough. There is direct matchmaking option for the Darkzone. If you’re trying to get some extra help, you either have to create a party outside the area and inform the other players of your intent, or try to send a party invite to players you encounter on the inside. This is risky however, as random players owe you no allegiance, and may drop from the party at any time to gun you down. Dying in that area causes you to drop any loot you may have picked up, but not secured. Thankfully the developers at Ubisoft made it so that players only drop that gear. Anything you bring in, or any gear decontaminated from the highly infectious zone has zero risk of being stolen. There are also different brackets for specific level tiers, preventing a level thirty player from killing a level twelve player over and over again. The Darkzone also offers its own ranking system and currency, that players need to get a lot of both, if they wish to loot or buy the top shelf items.
The Division is a multiplayer centric RPG, that heavily encourages players to bring or make friends to fully enjoy. While everything can be done solo, the later missions and exploration of the Darkzone become a hassle without help. Matchmaking is easy to work, but players can be matched with someone too high of a level, making Hard mode missions impossible.
Entertainment Value Score: 20/25