Platform(s): PlayStation 4 (reviewed), Xbox One, Microsoft Windows
Publisher(s): Ubisoft & Red Storm Entertainment
Release Date: 3/8/2016
The Division handles exceptionally well with familiar gun play controls. It is an RPG with average military cover-based tactical shooting. You fight off different tiers of enemies on the streets of NYC after it’s been affected by a widespread virus. The cover system may feel clunky at first, especially since there is no crouch option, but once you get use to it everything plays smooth. This game caters to casual players offering familiar controls, augmented reality pointers and item icons on the map, as well as button indicators for interactive objects. The difficulty settings can be modified each time you enter a mission. If you aren’t at the recommended level for the mission or you don’t have suitable gear, the missions can be challenging even on a normal difficulty. In addition to the missions, different zones of Manhattan have different recommended levels. The rioters initially feel like bullet sponges but with upgraded gear, this feels more reasonable. Enemies have stamina bars and how fast you take down an adversary will absolutely be reliant on your gear and skill upgrades. The AI are overall predictable and enemy type lacks variety.
Missions offer simplistic objectives as displayed in the beta such as going from one location to another, interact with an object, defend an area or person, locate stolen resources, free hostages, and fight your way through AI to kill a boss. You can do these missions cooperatively with up to three other players, but you can also have fun doing them solo; well not as much fun. There are NPC allies that are put in some parts of missions to assist you, but this assistance still leaves doing a mission alone more challenging. Unlike Destiny, The Division can effectively be a single player experience. Once you reach max level 30, you get the option to do daily missions that are on hard and challenge mode. These daily missions offer you legendary loot and Pheonix credits. Pheonix credits allow you to purchase and craft improved legendary gear. My experience after maxing my level to 30 is every aspect of the game is funner, especially in the PVE/PVP area called the Dark Zone. Besides feeling stronger and not taking as long to take down enemies, you get way more legendary loot drops and options to purchase better gear. On the flip side, the challenge mode is unforgiving, throwing multitudes of elite enemies at you that close in really fast. I imagine this was implemented so that the desire to grind for better gear has purpose for defeating challenge mode with more ease. I do not like that the daily reset is at 8:00pm. It just seems like an unreasonable time to coordinate if you’re an adult with responsibilities. The gun play in The Division may not be ground breaking but the familiarity works too well for this game, to the point of addiction.
The hub area called The Base of Operations is full of NPC’s offering gear, upgrades and a world map full of missions to unlock. Part of this is upgrading three wings called the Security Wing, Medical Wing and Tech Wing. Each wing offers vast RPG components by providing your character with abilities, perks and talents. The three skill tree’s initially appear simplistic, but there is a handful of modifications to each ability. You can chose to focus on one skill tree or mix and match among the three. You can equip up to four talents as you level up, in addition to a special skill that is unlocked after you fully upgrade a wing or reach a certain level. Gear drops including weapons and armor, have varied bonuses and mod attachments. Gun mods include increasing stability, reload time, cooldown reduction, accuracy, critical hit chance etc. which along with perks, abilities and talents, can make the biggest different in the battlefield. Abilities include sticky bombs, turrets, tracking drones, healing or damage buffs, enemy marking, and riot shield. The abilities, talents and gear will always cater to your personal play style and not force you to stick with one type of gun or commit to any particular build. Players have to option to change their gear, abilities, specials and talents at any time. There are also consumables in the game such as an energy bar to reduce status effects, water to add 20% damage to elite’s, canned food for 40% healing and soda for 30% cooldown reduction. There are also two consumables that put fire and explosive effects on your bullets for a short period of time. Grenade variety includes incendiary, shock, EMP, tear gas, flashbang and fragmentation. Consumables, grenades and emotes can be accessed with the D-pad. These features give us a more vast and in depth RPG experience than Destiny did.
The Dark Zone “aka” PVP/PVE Zone
Some parts of Manhattan were hit harder than others, and so it’s called the Dark Zone. The Dark Zone is an area on the map that is red, where you enter through one of many gates and this is the only place where you can have a PVP encounter. This PVP experience is unique, innovative and like nothing I have played before. There are not any classic game modes like team deathmatch, free for all, capture the flag, etc. The Dark Zone is easily the best part of The Division. You get a dark zone rank in addition to your level, but you can only earn dark zone rank in the dark zone, as you can only level up you character outside of the dark zone. Your dark zone currency can only be used at dark zone vendors located in the safe zone entrance gates. There are also upgrades that include perks such as adding a dark zone vendor to the base of operations.
This zone gives you the choice to either cooperate with others or fight others, or even cooperate with others to fight others. Let me unpack this. In the dark zone there are groups of AI enemies to fight off and other players that are either alone, or with up to 3 other people. You can cooperate with your team only or with other players in the area to fight off AI, a PVE inclusion making this a combined PVP and PVE event. You also have the choice to kill other players, which will make you and your team go “rogue.” When you are rogue, you will have a red skull next to your name that will appear to everyone in that zone. Other players will most likely cooperate to kill your rogue team, because taking down a rogue player gives you more experience points, dark zone currency and access to any loot they picked up. Why would you want to go rogue then? Well besides rogue being extremely fun and making you feel like a bad ass, surviving the rogue timer gives you a larger sum of dark zone currency. Another reason people go rogue is because you can retrieve the loot drops from the player you just killed. Last time my team went rogue, we stole a yellow legendary weapon called “The Midas” and I could only imagine how hard the player raged after losing that item.
This guy had to rage – he dropped a yellow item/legendary weapon called The Midas
The Dark Zone has special and more powerful loot drops, but you don’t own that loot just by picking it up. Since the Dark Zone is the hardest hit zone in NYC, the loot there is contaminated, and cannot be used until decontaminated. The only way to decontaminate your dark zone loot is to extract it at specifically marked locations. You go to that location and use the button prompt to shoot a flare to call in a helicopter. The helicopter takes a certain amount of time to arrive and drops down a rope for you to attach your items. Once they are attached, they are sent to your stash as yours to keep, use or sell. This extraction process is not smooth sailing. You have to worry about waves of enemy AI swarming into the extraction point and even worse, other players who may want to kill you, go rogue and steal the items you tried to extract. Not only can you go rogue on other players, but you can go rogue on your own team by opening your menu into group management and disbanding from your team. I have yet to experience this first hand, but the option is there. If you want to play the dark zone, I highly recommend that you go in as a squad of four people you trust and not some randoms.
Extraordinary, but Not Perfect
While I have an outstanding amount of positives to note for The Division, it isn’t without flaws. Besides the expected server issues, lagging, and glitches, my biggest complaint is the character creation. I haven’t seen such limited choices with minimal preset faces, about 6 hair styles per gender and no option to adjust body type. Fortunately, the game gives an array of cosmetic drops, that allows you to dress up your character without affecting your stats. Another shortcoming is the lack enemy types and their behaviors are too predictable. Like most open world games nowadays, the map is too saturated with redundant side missions, encounters, and collectibles. I suppose this gives you more to do and an easier way to level up, but I would like to spend my time doing things that don’t feel like such a chore.
True to NYC
The Division has fantastic snow and ice effects. Sometimes a snow storm brews, which decreases visibility. Graphics are exceptional but not as impressive as appeared when The Division first presented itself. The apocalyptic and pandemic – ravaged NYC setting is detailed enough to recognize where you are. The fairly desolate NYC map is decorated in snow and Christmas decorations, creating a bleak atmosphere during a time that is customarily jolly. It genuinely stays true to NYC offering different calibers of graffiti, from a scribble or name tag to a portrait. There is also an outstanding amount of liter on the ground but way more than there is in real life NYC, perhaps because sanitation workers are out of commission. The NPC’s are diverse not only in appearance, but they speak different languages and NYC is a setting where you can hear many languages.
Outdoor environments include abandoned cars, trucks, barricades, phone booths, bus stops, and rubble, which supports the cover-based gameplay mechanics. Indoor environments also cater these mechanics by including office desks, apartment couches, underground train stations, etc. While NYC currently has a handful of stray cats, pigeons, and rats, the game has many rats and pigeons, no cats but many stray dogs in the open world of pandemic NYC. Sadly you can only shoot dogs and rats, yet NPC’s are invulnerable. Ubisoft maintains their reputation of creating and outstanding and genuine open world experience.
Less Sirens, More Gunshots
New York City, the city that never sleeps. Where you hear sirens, music, vehicles and talking 24 hours a day. In pandemic NYC the streets are desolate and when you walk out of a safe house you can hear gunshots from afar or close by. The gun sounds are remarkable but the sound of each gun should be a little more distinctive. For example, all of the assault rifles sound alike even though not every assault rifle is the same. You can hear the differences but there can be some improvement. I appreciated being able to hear the shells of the guns hitting the ground. Run in the streets and you can hear the snow crunching under your feet.
Enter a safe zone and the radio will be playing an eclectic variety of music. From classical to heavy metal, stay tuned!
Can't Stop Playing!
There is more free content to be released and I am leaning toward getting the season pass. I also intend to platinum this game, there are many more hours to spend in the Dark Zone and tons of upgraded gear to loot or purchase. I am enjoying every minute of this game, and I recommend purchasing this for the platform all of your friends are playing on.
While The Division has yet to become boring or repetitive for me, I fear that down the line might have the same effect on me that Destiny had. Therefore, I’m going to leave my judgment for how much I love the game now, and I am currently infatuated with The Division.
Yes, it is worth all of the hype.
- Innovative PVP
- Detailed Open World
- Thrilling Campaign Missions
- Generous Loot Drops
- Scarce Character Creation
- Mundane Side Missions
- Predictable AI Behavior
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