Tom Clancy’s The Division was initially revealed many moons ago, and it created an explosion of excitement when eyes first laid on the title. It looked different—albeit Watch Dogs did too—and it seemed to deliver something worthwhile for the gaming industry. Now, in 2016, we finally have been able to experience the game hands-on. It was well worth that wait.
In a Black Friday massacre, the city of New York has received an immeasurable amount of devastation. Buildings are burning, people are dying, and the society as we know it is utterly falling apart. Hope is fading fast. The Division is a highly skilled arsenal of killers with no rules. They’re sent in to perform a job; one that no one else could. When disaster strikes the Big Apple, you’re the last hope for the remaining civilians. No pressure, though.
As you traverse this broken mess of a city, you’ll be tasked with an immense amount of activities in an attempt to rescue New York from complete destruction. Certain parts of the city seem as if they have already reached that point. For being on fire most of the time, it looks pretty great. As your helicopter initially lands in the heart of the city, you’re briefed on the current situation through a few cutscenes. Don’t get too attached, however. You’ll only spend a few moments with these characters: most of your time will be devoted to firing thousands of bullets into the skulls of your foes. Tom Clancy’s The Division doesn’t spend an abundance of time fulfilling the status quo for narrative, which is partially unfortunate. The premise is fantastic; it could have lead to a gripping storyline for the title. However, its lack of focus doesn’t detract from the overall experience very much.
Most of your time will be devoted to firing thousands of bullets into the skulls of your foes.
Though you will wish you had spent more time developing a relationship with the characters, the living world of The Division delivers a narrative in a different spectacle than we’re used to in video games. Much of The Division’s backstory arrives through echoes and old tapes you’ll gain access to as you progress through the game, rather than through living characters. These additions are incredibly tiny but ultimately meaningful. (A decent amount of people will most likely skip directly through these small narrative touches though they will be missing out.) Through graphically gorgeous video footage, we’re able to ascertain small glimpses of what exactly happened as New York fell into a growing turmoil. Don’t misunderstand me; these little aspects do not make up for a forgotten narrative. However, they provide purpose to my murdering spree, which is more than alright for me. After watching a Cleaner light an entirely innocent civilian on fire as she screamed in terror, begging for mercy, I had more than enough reason to crush every single one that crossed my path.
Rather than through living characters, much of The Division’s backstory arrives through echoes and old tapes.
If that isn’t enough reason for you, there is also the simple fact that shooting your weapons in The Division is incredibly fun and satisfying. You’ll switch between possibly hundreds of weapons as you progress through the main storyline, and practically every single one is a blast. Sure, I could probably kill every single enemy quickly with an assault rifle, but why not attempt to snipe someone with a shotgun? I’ll at least have the story—the story of my death. Every firefight isn’t simple; you cannot possibly sprint your brave soul into a room filled with numerous enemies and expect to come out on the other side alive. The Division rewards strategy, not sheer bravery. If you remain in cover and continually act smart with your movements, you’ll do perfectly fine. Throughout the city of New York, you will find no shortage of cover, either. Between doors, walls, desks, pieces of rubble and your other teammates, if you look for it, you’ll find a place to hide your precious self. The Division’s cover system performs nearly perfectly as well. You can sprint between various cover spots with ultimate ease. It feels snappy and responsive, always ready to save your character from an unfortunate situation.
The world of New York is filled with broken down cars and civilians in need, and through this, it builds a world that feels alive, even though nearly everything is seemingly dying. Though the apocalypse is slowly approaching, there are a decent amount of humans occupying the streets. These people are either arguing with each other or attempting to warm themselves in the cold winter; regardless, they’re alive. Alongside this, you’ll experience encounters and side missions, which are two separates things you will certainly spend your time with during your escapade in The Division. Side missions are the larger events that will reward your character with a decent amount of experience between main missions. Unfortunately, they fall into the often-visited trap of feeling incredibly similar after completing them seemingly hundreds of times. Certain ones, like Bounties, remain enjoyable by the end. However, you’ll more likely be completing these missions simply because of the amount of experience they grant your character, rather than out of pure enjoyment. Encounters are smaller events that don’t reward an immense amount of experience, but can be enjoyable nonetheless. These vary from supporting JTF troops, virus research, mercy drops, and the like. You’ll use the rewards from these moments to build your Base of Operations, which unlocks perks and skills for your character. If you haven’t noticed a growing trend, practically everything you do in The Division connects elsewhere. More than anything else in The Division, however, your primary goal is to achieve level thirty, which is the current level cap.
Once you’ve finished the side missions and encounters within a particular area, you’ll probably attempt to finish the main storyline mission attached to that burrow, which are incredible highlights for The Division. These tasks include great level design, fun mechanics, and enough enemies to fill a football stadium. Averaging nearly thirty minutes in length, they are no stroll in the park, either. Before entering the mission, I highly recommend teaming up with either a few of your friends or strangers. Thankfully, both work incredibly well. It’s still possible to team up with horrible players, but I only experienced it once. Most of the time, the sheer number of targets for the enemies can make up for pure skill in The Division.
Practically everything you do in The Division connects elsewhere.
The places these missions are located in especially highlight the gorgeous nature of this world. Everything is crisp and beautiful, even your character. As you manage your way through these engaging missions, you’ll eventually complete The Division in its entirety, which will take twenty to thirty hours. Obviously, that isn’t the end, however. Upon reaching this level cap, you are introduced to daily missions and the loot system finally opens up. You’ll upgrade your weapons rapidly as you level up during the main game, which means that a lot of the loot that you encounter will become weak rather quickly. When you reach level thirty, great gear is here to stay. Through performing the daily mission and entering the Dark Zone, you’ll acquire new and improved equipment that will turn your character into a living, breathing murder machine.
Upon reaching this level cap, you are introduced to daily missions and the loot system finally opens up.
Speaking of the Dark Zone, you’ll probably spend a decent amount of time in this area of the game, which is the portion of New York that was destroyed the most horrifically. With no hope left, our last chance is to salvage what is left of the zone and grab some neat loot. The main hook of this area is that you can attack other players, though the reward for doing so isn’t exactly, well, rewarding. To retain the loot you grab in the Dark Zone, you are forced to extract in specific areas that will undoubtedly acquire the attention of other players and AI. If you die before this point, everything you picked up lies near your dead body, ripe for the taking. If you happen to shoot other players, you’ll become a “Rogue” agent, meaning there is now a bounty placed on your head. There is a reward for killing you. There is a counter above your head, which counts down the amount of time you’ll remain in this state before you become non-hostile again. If you can reach that point, you’ll receive a reward, though it isn’t nearly worth the trouble. Upon entering the Dark Zone, you’ll quickly notice that nearly no one takes advantage of this aspect of The Division; it simply isn’t worth the risk of my losing my precious loot I’ve sought after for hours. It’s a flawed system, but it’s also a system that is a work-in-progress. Though the Dark Zone’s main purpose is lost at the current moment, this portion of the game remains the most promising. With several small tweaks, this could be your new obsession. Until then, your best bet for rewarding loot in the endgame is through Daily Missions.
Tom Clancy’s The Division isn’t a perfect title, but it’s a great one nonetheless. A flawed Dark Zone and monotonous side missions won’t spoil the fun of an engaging, worthwhile adventure for your agent. Through a breath-taking spectacle of a world, you’ll become the murderer of thousands of enemies, and you’ll probably have a blast while doing so. The Division holds an immense amount of promise for the future, as the game changes over the course of the next year. Currently, The Division is a great game; imagine what it will be as it progresses.