Review Week 1: Tom Clancy’s The Division

Burnt out cars block roads, bodies lay in unceremonious piles, blood-thirsty and self-righteous gangs openly wage war with government agencies. A new virus has created a  not quite post-apocalyptic world. The so called Green Poison has ravaged the population in less than a month. A possibly deceased president has initiated directive 51 activating The Strategic Homeland Division (SHD) or simply The Division. This hyper covert group was formed to return order after a devastating event that  causes normal emergency and government services to fail.

Ubisoft’s latest AAA game The Division is, in my very humble opinion, a smash hit with some technical flaws that, while annoying, take little from the whole experience. Released less than a week ago I’ve personally helped the denizens of Midtown Manhattan for close to 40 hours. It’s been brutal, testing, but above all it has been pure tactical fun.

Concerns

Cover and Concealment

So let’s get to what I consider the worst offending flaw of The Division. Even while Ubisoft got so much right with the cover system, a key mechanic of the game, there are times where it just feels clumsy. I would get stuck trying to rise from cover or on corners while diving especially while trying to fall back.

Player taking cover in the video game Tom Clancy's The Division.
DesertFawkz77 taking cover while battling through the Russian consulate.

Moving around a corner while remaining ducked in cover is another awkward moment that never happens fast enough.  It is extremely frustrating when someone with a shotgun charges your position and you can’t get off a wall no matter how much you spam A or try to round a corner.

However, do not take this the wrong way, 95% of the time the cover system works flawlessly. The vast majority of the time the cover mechanics allow you to rush from cover to cover popping up to take those perfectly timed shots. The battle between you and the AI as you vie for better ground and angles on the each others position is exhilarating with the speed and lulls of real combat

AI

Speaking of AI, this game is a strong contestant for the most realistic enemies I’ve seen. Yes generally speaking they all pore out of tiny rooms with only one entrance but as you progress through the game they get better and better at taking advantage of cover and at times easily out flank you. The police academy mission and any fight against the Last Man Battalion were invigorating and tough while truly testing our squad cohesion.

NPCs are also smart enough to realize when they are pinned down by gunfire. When they become suppressed they will try to move while remaining behind cover to get out of the way of whizzing bullets or they will stick it out and wait until the bullets stop. Either way suppressing enemies is a great way to get other squad mates into position to take it to the enemy. However as smart as the computer is most of the time  I have seen NPCs, bosses no less,  get stuck thinking they are being suppressed and just stay behind cover as you stand feet away unloading on them until they either snap out of it or go down.

Day One Silly Things

One issue that I personally have not experienced is falling through the map. Several members of Desert Legion have reported this issue. I’ve heard that at one point walking on a particular street would cause you to instantly fall through. I realize this is something you can expect from a new release of this size and complexity but once again it’s an annoyance that may turn some players off. I’m sure this will be fixed whenever the first patch comes through.

Then we have trading or  rather the lack there of. I realize that this is coming in less than a months time but seriously how is this not a standard feature?! This has me fearing some Destiny style shenanigans. So far Ubisoft is saying all the right things and  appears to be doing everything right including listening to the fan feedback from the alpha and betas. So I will continue to give them the benefit of the doubt until they give me reason not to.

The Good

World and Story

One of the most important things games do is give us an escape to another world. The best games feel real and actions feel important to the story. The world built by Ubisoft is beautiful in its devastation. Destitute denizens roam the streets or hole up in their formerly overpriced  apartments.

The story of the Green Poison is rich and exciting. Without giving too much away one crazed scientist may be behind the worst pandemic in human history. Although I’m throwing this in the good pile there is one little issue with the story. You can easily blaze through the game and never really pick up on everything that is going on. You can accidentally or purposefully never watch the cut scenes tucked away in your pause menu. It only takes the push of 3 buttons to see these but I know that’s a few too many for a lot of players.

This world is meticulously crafted. The weather effects are incredible. Snow gathers on your character during blizzards. Fog  creates extremely low visibility. You can see footprints in the snow as you walk down the streets. Street art, tags, graffiti, posters, and notes line the walls of apartments and buildings adding to the feel of realism.

The Division Street Art
Beautiful wall mural.

This release is clearly just the tip of the iceberg. By the end of the story I was only level 28 and had a measly handful of purple items and still had not finished updating my base.

The Division charater inventory
My gear set up after finishing the final story mission.

 

You may notice my lack of Dark Zone funds and that’s because I’ve spent maybe a total of one hour in the Dark Zone. We will have an in depth podcast on the Dark Zone in the future but for now my initial impression is that the NPCs in the DZ are even more unforgiving than their non DZ counterparts and there is a surprising lack of other players running around.

There is No ‘I’ in Team

I’ve mentioned playing in a squad several times now in this review and there is a reason for that. This game is brutal. Any mistake is punished with a swift death. Move too far into enemy territory and you are quickly surrounded. Take a small piece of cover and you find yourself being peppered with rounds with no way to defend yourself. I’m not saying you can’t play this game alone, on the contrary solo play is very rewarding. But you must be very patient and smart.

Outside of MOBAs I don’t think I’ve ever played such a team centered game. Communication is key. Luckily several of the Desert Legion members and I are actually in the Infantry in the Army National Guard and we can use real tactics and commands to ensure everyone knows just where and what every member of the team is doing.

The Division The Last Battalion shotgun kill
Poor tactical decisions are swiftly punished.

 

Guns, Guns, Guns!

Guns! Real world guns! Loads of them! Each class of weapon has a very distinct feel and will drastically change your style of play. LMGs and shotguns have very satisfying kick and deliver massive damage yet have the accuracy issues we’ve come to expect from them. DMRs and Assault riffles, my personal favorites with the DMR as my main and an assault rifle for those oh shit moments and providing cover, are versatile and play nice for newer players. There is also an almost infinite amount of customization that can be done to tailor any weapon to your preferred style of play.

Conclusion

This game is beautiful, hard, and rewarding. I’ve never experienced battle in a video game as intense as this. While there are a couple minor annoyances upcoming updates and expansions will hopefully address them. Ubisoft has created the next big MMORPG that people will be talking about for a long time.

9.5/10

 Good

-GUNS
-Real life tactics
-Beautifully rendered

Not So Good

-Cover can at times be glitchy
-Falling through map
-Where is the trading!?

 

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