Tom Clancy's The Division

The PlayStation 4 Difference:
At the time of this review, the PlayStation 4 version of The Division wins out easily to my PC version. Loading anything takes a third of the amount of time, the servers are more stable, and PlayStation 4 integration (parties, trophies, etc.) are more comfortable to me than Ubisoft's Uplay. I also pull out better performance per the graphics on 1080p with the PlayStation 4. If your hardware in your PC is better or newer than mine, your mileage may vary and you might be better off to invest in that iteration. The remainder of this review will focus on the PC unless I specify particular points, though I have played both extensively.
I'll come right out and say it: The Division was on my B-list at best, and I wasn't actually planning on getting it. That being said, an acquaintance in who was in two of my classes last semester asked if playing it together would be something I was interested in, and I pre-ordered it a few days after that conversation. Shortly after our first dive into New York City, my wife got a copy to join us and it snowballed from there. Tom Clancy's The Division is one of the best games I have ever had the pleasure of playing and reviewing.

In order to spread disease throughout the world, an evil scientist-type organization creates a virus that attaches particularly well to money and sets it free on Black Friday - the day where money exchanges hands the most. New York City gets real sick, real quick and after a while The Division is activated. The Division is a group of civilians that are "marked" in a way to be activated at a moment's notice. They're elite operatives who are allowed to operate without limits under the most dire of circumstances. The player(s) are all members of the second wave to be sent in, with members from the first wave coming up MIA or confirmed dead.
My straight, white, male character's visit to the Ubisoft office... They weren't interested.
Since this is a Ubisoft game, there's an awkwardly aggressive amount of homosexuality and general representation of the LGBT community. Personally, I don't care if there's a gay person or a cross-dresser in a game (as a reference to their annoying campaign for Assassin's Creed Syndicate), but it does nothing for me in the first place. Massive Entertainment feels the need for me to feel the need to be aggressively all-inclusive. That being said, there are a lot of gay characters in the game, and if someone is straight, we simply don't hear about their relationships except for one about 10 hours in.

All of this is conveyed in many ways. There are pre-rendered cutscenes (which, as a friend pointed out, were surprisingly brutal), in-engine cutscenes, dialogue and story bits scattered everywhere, and random tidbits spoken over communications by important characters during missions. Everything you and your squad do is given important meaning in the scope of things, but there are also some missions where I thought "Why am I the only one who is capable of doing this? How about I give you a gun and you can help a brother out."

I've played for 42 hours according to my Steam profile, and I've barely touched the surface. I'm level 25, with a dark zone level of 15, and I've only ever been to about half of the overall map. Some of that is due to me backtracking with other friends who aren't caught up to my progression, and the fact that I'm a completionist who can't move on until my overworld map is empty and void of any mission or collectible prompts. There's an end-game with daily missions waiting for me once I beat the main mission so realistically I could see this going well past the coveted 100-hour mark. On the PlayStation 4 version I'm hovering around 20 hours.
Every building has this same level of detail.
The Division looks awesome. I may be so bold as to say this is truly a "next-gen" game, right in the middle of our current hardware generation. Massive Entertainment's ideology that any PC should be able to play it regardless of power is just the right attitude, and the game looks and plays well on older rigs. The streets are littered with cars, actual litter, and miscellaneous everything else. The inside of buildings are what really impressed me, though. I never saw the same geometry or decor in any building, almost as if unique models and assets were created with love for every indoor area.

The sound design is The Division's weakest aspect. The in-battle music or normal sounds littering the streets were okay, but enemies will say things many times when the situation is completely different from what they're describing. For example, when I throw out a healing device that revives the team and keeps their health topped off in a certain radius, an enemy will shout "I'm gonna blow up that gun!" or something similar, which would be an appropriate reaction for a player's deployed turret, but my health pack does nothing resembling a gun nor does it pose any threat to bad guys.

Since the play sessions are always long, I usually have in-game music turned down all the way so I can listen to my own library. Everything else is turned up / down to equalize my other audio sources (Steam party chat, my music player, and the game) and I found a pretty good mix for me. I'm not saying the music is bad, but I am saying I couldn't listen to it for those longer 2-plus hour marathons. Voice over work was well enough done, but hardly better than the standard triple-A standouts and duds.
Fun fact: This is the mall the Impractical Jokers often go to in the show!
The Division is extremely well optimized for PC. On a GTX 960 SC paired with an FX-6300, I can play the game at 1080p, almost maximum settings and lock it at a rock-solid 30fps. My wife plays on my old GTX 750Ti paired with a newer i3 processor and averages 45-60fps on a mix of low and medium settings (which still look extremely good) at 900p, as her monitor is an older one with that default resolution. Running the game is hardly taxing on my hardware, because my monitoring software only read about 65-degrees Celsius on the GPU which is my preferred under-load temperature anyway.

The mechanics reminded me a little bit of Destiny with one huge key difference. Destiny was designed as an MMO first and a first-person shooter second. The Division was designed as an open-world third-person squad-based cover-based shooter first and an MMO second. This distinction alone describes my distaste for Destiny and how a game like The Division can have similar elements yet be done leaps and bounds better by switching the dominant genres around to something a gamer would understand and appreciate more.

I'd hate to use the word "standard" when describing The Division's open-world gameplay, but it is something players will be familiar with - and that's not inherently a bad thing. Much like every game within the genre, there are sub areas with a fast travel location to unlock, main and side missions to do, things to collect, and smaller activities dedicated to acquiring more resources for the home base. The Base of Operations is a unique area for every player, meaning your team can be with you in spirit, but you're the only one allowed in your base. You spend Medical, Technology, and Security points earned through gameplay (micro-transactions don't exist in the game - you get everything the old fashioned way) to upgrade the respective wings and unlock bonuses that run the gamut from generally useless to fantastic depending on the build you're going for.
There's also a lot of Ubisoft Club activities that correlate with trophies.
To dig a little more into how the game actually plays, this is a cover-based third-person shooter. The cover system is something I've been a sucker for since playing Gears of War for the first time way back in the day - and I didn't really even like that game. It's a good little high to go in with some friends and get into position by quickly going cover to cover and lighting the enemies up in one swift minute. Also, if you play with the same people, there's a lot that starts going without saying. I know my friend is going to send out a pulse identifying all hostiles and giving us a boost in damage power, and my group knows I'm going to enhance the our current cover to enable us to hunker down is need be. The Division created this synergy within a group I was brand new to.

Activities range from rescuing civilians to interrupting arms deals between two of the three evil factions roaming Manhattan, and defending the local law enforcement. Yes, I would argue that the backup military organization should have received the same training as Division operatives and be more than well equipped to take on the Rikers street gang who aren't very well off in the first place - but suspension of belief has always been important in video games. It wouldn't be much of a game if the Division wasn't needed in the first place. Doing any sort of mission in the game is fun due to the strategy and how great the controls are. Guns all have unique stats, spread across a handful of types (SMG, assault rifle, snipers, etc.) and most can be tricked out with mods and your favorite colors as long as you have the skin for it.

The three factions all have similar enemy types like one that will run at you, some that try to flank you, big boys, grenadiers, etc. With that, fighting them all feels the same, you're just dealing with different kinds of damage. The Cleaners are hazmat clad pyromaniacs who think they can stop the spread of the disease by literally burning everything infected with it and can catch players on fire, the Rikers are a street gang of looters who don't have much organization or smarts, and traitors of the Division program's first wave are combat-minded bad guys who are definitively more challenging than the former two.
A screen I took from the PlayStation 4 version. It looks great!
The main focus for most players will likely be playing online. Through the main game, parties of four in a wide instanced area of the overworld is how most groups will spend their time. The only place players run into people who aren't in their group are in safe areas or the Dark Zone. The Dark Zone is a dog-eat-dog type of free-for-all in the middle of the map. Players can enter in a group, but friendly fire is turned on and all other players within the confines of a zone can shoot, kill, and loot other players. Luckily, you can't accidentally wander into the Dark Zone, as there's two doors at every checkpoint players deliberately have to walk through.

Dark Zone levels are separate from standard game levels and don't quite offer any real perks except for access to higher areas and the ability to open better chests within the DZ. Any items acquired in the DZ need to be extracted, which is done in designated areas with a timer. This brings players together and forces a Mexican stand-off until all of your items are safe and sound. I've been betrayed many times in the DZ, and my party has been on the end of things where we've given other players the business just for the thrill.

Once you kill another player, you become marked as a rogue agent, and neutral agents are encouraged to hunt you down at no penalty to their status. It's a cool system that can start a meta-game of cops and robbers where one person will seize an easy opportunity to do some stealing and other players will bring them to justice. The rogue status goes away after a while, though - so it is possible to get away with murder if that's important to you. The Dark Zone was one of the more thrilling aspects of The Division, but I always tend to gravitate more to Player versus Environment situations and appreciate those aspects of a game more.
After a successful extraction in the Dark Zone.
In the overall scope of the gameplay mechanics, players are allotted three weapon slots (two for primary weapons, and one for a secondary firearm), and various equipment and vanity slots that make up the entirety of a character's clothing. The skills are the bread and butter of a character, and the game is very flexible when it comes to mixing, matching and switching on the fly. The three class trees available are medical, technology, and security. Medical as the name implies heals and buffs teammates, technology mainly uses deploy-able machines such as turrets and homing mines, and security is all about setting up shop and hunkering down to get things done. Every skill tree has an ultimate - but they all have fairly similar effects rather than a big flashy something-or-other.

In the beginning, the servers were shot. I couldn't get online until about 12 hours after release, and even within the first few weeks my friends and I struggled with frequent disconnects during peak hours - having to re-login and re-join the group over and over again. Another glitch happened during a main story missions where an elevator refused to open for us - making it impossible to complete the mission until my team killed itself to force the reloading of the last checkpoint. The last weird happening was an echo in the overworld map that I would activate many times, but it wouldn't count no matter the circumstances.

As a reviewer, I can't really judge this game on what it will be, because I have no doubt The Division will only get better as the year goes on. That being said, I have to judge the game on what it is at the time of review. If I were to give it a score based on how much fun I've had with it since launch, there would be a big ol' 10 out of 10 down there. I think it's great, but there are some ironclad flaws with the servers during peak hours, a main story mission on plain didn't let us complete it until we all committed suicide, and some collectibles didn't count after picking them up. I can't in good conscience say that it's perfect, but it's pretty darn close. Pick it up and lose yourself in Tom Clancy's The Division.

Let's Review:
  • Ubisoft's usual hyper-aggressive LGBT representation
  • Looks and plays great on PC and PlayStation 4
  • Clearly going places over the year as a platform
  • Great options available on consoles
  • Some kinks to iron out
Tom Clancy's The Division gets a 9 out of 10.

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