The Division Review: Fun Open World Tactical Combat

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After dozens of hours submerged in the heart of the big apple, New York city, Tom Clancy’s The Division has left quite the memorable experience. Make no mistake, the Division is an MMORPG, however developer Massive Entertainment has saw fit to add some attractive shooting and tactical features to the mix and that is just for starters. While The Division does sometimes manage to spike ones frustration meter just a bit, The sheer level of fun and enjoyment to be had with your best buds or random Division agents scattered throughout the maps safe houses keeps us coming back for more.

You are an average male or female US citizen caught up in the middle of a devastating smallpox outbreak, which has ripped New York from within. Your genesis into the Division agency is unknown, however Massive makes it a point for each player to understand that they have decided to join the fight to save the city. Like your typical MMORPG, players are given the option of creating their Division agent with a straight-forward selection UI. Shortly after, you are thrown into the mix getting your bearing with understanding waypoints and navigation readings, which assists with getting you familiar with reaching your chosen objectives. For this iteration of the Division, Massive offer a significantly playable map size with schematic hints of unreachable locales which could be unlocked in the near future.

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Each Division agent is given their very own ‘Base of Operations’ which gives meaningful purpose to your field exploits, atop the games nontraditional narrative told through Intel which is supported by found video footage, virus video reports and informative surveillance data. Throughout your time in New York your BOA is maintained as your upgradeable safe haven with three main departments: Medical wing, Tech wing and the Security wing. Upgrading these departments enables your agent to acquire better perks, abilities, talents and equipment for those more difficult encounters as you increase your rank. In addition, your BOA becomes bettered suited to handle the needs of the New York citizens.

From the outset everything feels to scale. Having lived in New York and understanding how seemingly insignificant your presence may feel among the towering monolithic Skyscrapers, office buildings and cluttered apartment complexes, Massive does a brilliant job portraying an overwhelming New York world founded on the robust Frostbite engine. For the first several hours it was truly hard not to stare at the aftermath of the devastating outbreak. Leading up to the games launch concerns about the visual representation not being on par with previous trailers came into question, yet for the record those concerns should be completely ignored as Massive has scrutinized every nook and cranny with incredible detail, resulting in impressive eye-candy.

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Having played many third-person shooters, we were right at home with The Division. Gameplay movement works very well, making combat scenarios enjoyable. Moving around the city offers an alluring desire to scavenge as much as possible, which if done consistently and thoroughly, could lead to discovering some great loot. The Division probably has the best cover system I’ve played in years. Almost intuitive to a fault, the cover system like others (here’s looking at you Uncharted and Gear of War) allows players to take cover on almost any surface in game with a button icon attached, indicating its cover option. What makes this cover system so likable is its tactical edge of keeping your Division agent in cover from position to cover-position in quick succession. With the addition of blind firing, even while moving offers a sophisticated expression to the games gunplay.

By the time you reach level 30, your agent will have experienced an assortment of weapons, from varied assault rifles and semi-auto shotguns to sidearms and handy double barrel sawed off sidekicks, all of which can be modded in some fashion. Mods come in the form of varied skins, optics, magazine options, under barrels and muzzles.

Addressing more of the games gunplay, while the combat engagement system is simple, it works quite well and shines through when mixing it up cooperatively, utilizing vantage cover points and intelligently wielding your teams abilities and talents.

Shots fired echo in the distance almost leading you to the conflict which was often the case in the Dark Zone, which I’ll touch on a little later. Going it alone is fun if approached correctly, however playing with friends is where the savory meat is found. Again, that is not to say going lone wolf should be avoided. Testing your solo skills against the appropriately leveled enemies is a great way to master your combat skills as well as give you a peace of mind scavenging for cell phones, echoes, tools, electronic parts, fabrics, weapons parts and division tech. There is so much to find throughout your travels which adds to the overall engrossing story, which if overlooked could leave you wanting more once you’ve reached level 30.

Unlike your traditional shooter, which The Division is not, the story doesn’t interrupt your gameplay, sure early on there are occasional cut-scenes to set the stage, however from there you will not be greeted with such an approach. The story here doesn’t hold your hand, allowing you to decide when you want to check your intel for the latest narrative updates. As mentioned earlier, echoes, which are memory points throughout the city which can be heart-wrenching and cell phones with interesting messages breathe life into this desperate New York, breaking up your enemy encounters.

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Keeping you on your toes, Massive has littered the streets of New York with varied enemy types who as you increase your level become more formidable and intelligent. For the record, while higher leveled enemies can seem like bullets sponges if you’re a lower leveled agent with sub par weapons, there is no denying that enemies become smarter. Shotgun wielding enemies will run at you for the kill shot as you are trying to be healed by your comrade. While the cover system is amazing, don’t get too comfortable, enemies will flank your cover position for an accurate shot, hack your abilities and utilize grenades to pull you out of cover in order for their sharpshooting sniper to send you back to the land of respawn.

One of the most frustrating things about the game has to be how inaccurate the game respawns you back into the game. I have no problem respawning back at my chosen safe-house, however whenever playing in a mission and my team has progressed further into the lions den, whenever we would die the game would always respawn us right in the middle of enemies, to which are death was immediate. This was absolutely ridiculous and a sure killjoy leaving a bad taste in a would be great gunplay scenario.

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Fighting against the Rikers, Cleaners, Rioters or the hardened Last Man Battalion, battles are fought outside and inside buildings, contaminated areas, seemingly everywhere. After playing for several hours engaging the enemy, the standoffs can feel slightly generic when grinding to max out your level due to the games wave system which doesn’t dynamically change all so much. You are never abruptly surprised by stormtrooping enemies who suddenly crash your party as you are searching for loot or feel as though you are the prey until you enter the Dark Zone. However, Massive has done a great job making missions feel quite unique. Playing as a team certainly brings out the best from the experience.

The Dark Zone take on its own personality offering a hybrid affair of PvP and PvE which comes together brilliantly, albeit for a lack of an unforgivable penalty system that cheapens the experience at the moment. What make the Dark Zone so impressive is how it speaks to your morality and nature of greed. I’ll admit it, I have been a greedy and selfish agent, especially when roaming the contaminated streets with my fellow agents. Seeing some poor soul roaming the streets alone with a juicy yellow pack with god knows what inside, knowing you have the upper-hand can sometime feel primal, resulting in a loot gain, hopefully better weapons and bragging rights. Only if we can manage to extract out our new found goodies in time to savor the victory. However, once an agent engages another agent, the instigator and his team becomes labeled as rogue and the hunt is on.

Just like playing outside the Dark Zone, players are able to level up and significantly quickly I might add. Unfortunately as mentioned before, dying in Dark Zone offers some frustrating consequences. We have seen colleagues leveled up as high as 25 in the Dark Zone only to be dropped back to level 12 after considerable PvP engagements. I can recall several times while playing with my group alongside another group of agents in pursuit of rogue agents and NPC enemies where an agent has foolishly stepped into my line of fire while I’m pulling the trigger only to become a rogue agent myself along with my fellow teammates, and now we’re frantically running for our lives from the very agents who were on our side. While this taught me to carefully engage, the resulting level drop is brutal. What we are finding is that the very dynamic which the Dark Zone is and should be known for is not being fully maximized by players due to the level drop repercussions. However, if you do not care about leveling up to God status in the Dark Zone and want to crash the party of other agents, the fun factor here is immense. Just remember when you are alone and you see those questionable agents taking notice of your juicy yellow loot pack, what goes around comes around.

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A mutated smallpox virus has hit New York and the reality which Massive Entertainment has brought to life is a beautiful mess of devastation. Street are littered with cars, trash, dirty snow and bags of human remains. People are struggling to make ends meet, roaming the street begging for whatever Division agents can give them. On occasion you will see people walking the streets who from exhaustion can go no further and conveniently lay in the icy street to take their last breath. You find stray dogs everywhere, as well as rats who will run alongside your feet. Once I literally saw a rat fighting a bird and it looked completely real. I was blown away at the realistic puddles of water in the street revealing building reflections within view. The presentation here is remarkable and the true star of the show with gameplay as a very, very close second.

The Division is an entertaining open world game. While the nontraditional direction of the narrative could leave many wanting more if they are uninterested in doing the legwork of putting the pieces together (we highly recommend that you do), tackling the cities 16 story missions, over 70 encounters and over 50 events which are comprised of bounties, uplink repairs, missing persons objectives, procurements, rescues, supply drops and more, the Division is a robust MMORPG.

With a few tweaks to the Dark Zone and newer updates offering more dynamic gameplay, your time as a Division agent could be indefinite.

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