STAFF REVIEW of Tom Clancy's The Division (Xbox One)

Tuesday, March 29, 2016.
by Brent Roberts

Tom Clancy's The Division Box art Ubisoft has always pushed the envelope when it comes to introducing the world to new titles. From Assassin's Creed to Watch Dogs they have prided themselves on creating its own stable of incredible IP's. When creating a new IP there is an amazing amount of risk taken by a developer and publisher. There is no data to base judgement calls on and everything is pushed to the breaking point. Many millions of dollars are usually on the line. Ubisoft has rolled the dice in 2016 as their their next venture into innovation has been released: Tom Clancy's The Division. Slated as a game that brings not only 3rd person shooting and gameplay mechanics, it also has an RPG experience that, like a drug, will leave you hooked.

From the initial beginning the game will seem a bit watered down in terms of content and customization. You can also check out the rewards available on Ubisoft's Uplay store as well as establish your character's ID and more. When you're done, you follow a similar launch of other games by being tossed into the fray and forcing you to fight your way through the beginning of the story. This is where you will find a basic, and I do mean basic, tutorial in terms of how to get into cover, the basics of your gear and weapon stats, and so on. The story itself is not as dynamic and very obtuse when it comes to anything worthwhile to care about. This is the first mark against The Division. If you want to create a shooter RPG, then you need to create a story that can last the duration of what we could consider an RPG story. There have been other games released under much more hype that delivered much less story and are now mocked as a wasteland of failed potential. The Division comes very close to this.

The general plot, without going into too many details, is that there is an flu-like epidemic in New York City and when the National Guard became overwhelmed The Division, a group of specialized agents, are activated. They are a select few handpicked to be the last line of defense. The first wave was sent in; however they have gone dark and now you're part of the second wave, trying to make sense of everything. Your mission: Eliminate the gangs that have taken foothold in the city, figure out the who, what, and why of the viral outbreak, and try to find an answer to what happened to the first wave. To do this you need to reestablish a base of operations and take back New York City. Are you ready?

While a tad bit comical and simplistic when broken down, you should find that when you go through the various side missions and search for collectibles, you really get to experience the pandemic that has hit New York from various points of view. This is where the real meat of the story resides. You'll experience everything from a man with asthma mistakenly being judged as a carrier of the virus being burned alive to a woman breaking down to her mother on the phone as she comes out to her and tells her that she's gay. The range of experiences far exceeds the value of the actual story. While disappointing that the main quest/story is so lacking in quality, the fact that The Division creates tons of these experiences adds a tremendous value. A value that will leave you scouring every inch of the city, and what a city it is.

Broken up into multiple sections with varying level difficulty, New York unfolds itself into a very large spectacle. Starting out, you will notice how the game encourages you to explore and rewards you for doing so. Venturing down alleyways, into police stations, drug stores, electronic vendors, parking garages and more all yield the real wealth of The Division. I will say though that there are times when going after a collectible and you'll find that you have to backtrack about 3 blocks, cross over, come back down the street, go into a side alley, hop up on top of a semi-truck, then hop up to a rooftop lounge, then head across the rooftop back to the original building where the collectible is. You'll do so much walking and running you'll hear tour guide voices saying "and if you look on your left you'll see Madison Square Garden, we're walking, we're walking..." This traversing will not only eat up hours of your life, and feel monotonous at times, but it can give you a tremendous experience that you won't forget.

As noted, the various sections of New York are broken down into experience levels. While the cap is at 30, each section of the map has its own range of difficulty so make sure you plan accordingly. Pay attention though as the map showcases a bright red section in the middle called the Dark Zone. This is The Division’s PvP area and the source of not only your greatest challenges but greatest loot. In the Dark Zone it is literally you versus everyone, so it is very wise to wait and team up before going in. You'll thank me for that last bit when you arrive. When you play in the Dark Zone you'll notice that there is an entirely separate level system in place as is the Dark Zone's financial system. Killing enemy NPC's in this area will earn you items such as cash, loot, and Dark Zone XP, all which you will use to obviously level your character up and buy some amazing gear, but here's the catch, other human Division players will also be hunting enemy NPC's as well as other Division players. Kill another player, and that’s when the Dark Zone transforms instantly. Welcome to the Rogue game.

Killing another Division player will net you a much more substantial reward, but it also puts a target on your back that other players can locate on their map and hunt you down. So congratulations, your greed has now caused the entire populace of the Dark Zone to be notified of a massive reward for your elimination. Killing players that have gone Rogue not only means you halted someone's killing, but in doing so you become Rogue yourself. And so the madness continues.

The loot that you obtain in the Dark Zone has to be extracted since it's in a contaminated area of New York, and this requires you to activate a signal to trigger a countdown to a chopper that flies in allowing you to place your Dark Zone acquired gear and it gets whisked away to be decontaminated for use. I tip my cap to you Ubisoft, the transition from both PvE to PvP is wonderful; however, there are a few issues I have to address.

First, being that the game is a 3rd person shooter, you automatically put yourself into a game category that is going up against other 3rd person shooters. The controls are similar where you press the A button to go into cover, and press the B button to vault over an object or climb, etc. With this in mind, the control scheme should work flawlessly, but sadly it doesn't. You'll get stuck on the wrong wall when you don't expect it and you'll find that you'll sometimes jump over barriers or cover when you don't want too. Sometimes the control becomes so frantic in the middle of the gunfights that you don't have time to notice that some of the enemies are now flanking you. Yes, that’s right folks, we do have enemy NPC's that actually respond to your character. Got an M60? Lay down over 200 rounds and you'll see the character hide behind cover and the word "suppressed" will appear over his head, but be careful because the enemies travel in groups so while one may be suppressed, the other 2-4 will start positioning themselves in a flanking position to attack you. Brilliant job Ubisoft.

With the mechanics sadly feeling a bit unpolished, The Division tries to bounce back with its RPG elements. Think of your character broken down into three simple self-explaining main categories: Damage, Health, and Tech. Throughout your game you will come across chests that are placed throughout New York, as well as rewards from missions, that contain weapons and gear. The gear has an overall armor rating, and then will either raise, lower, or maintain one of your 3 main categories. It's through your gear that you balance your character and find a play style that works for you. For instance, if you like to walk down the street towards a group of enemies and unload clip after clip of an M16 into them, then you better stack your character with high health gear.

Aside from this, The Division also tacks on varying RPG elements with your weapons allowing you to use modifications and customizations. You can see how various weapons work out, find those that you love to use, and then modify them to the extreme. With aspects such as increased XP per kill, or increased headshot damage, The Division does a tremendous job giving you an enormous amount of customization. It's also through the quality of this RPG system that The Division can easily become a mammoth loot grind that will bring many people joy with every moment, while others may not like this aspect. You also have the ability to use your own independent crafting table in your base of operations, and it's here that you can use stuff you break down for resources to build your own weapons, gear, mods, and everything.

In terms of the visuals, I have to say that the game does seem a little last generation in terms of graphics. The weapons seem to almost be ported over from the Ghost Recon games, and sadly the environment doesn't seem as developed as I had hoped for. There are many, and I do mean many, areas such as apartment buildings that have almost identical layouts so there isn't really any variation to a lot of the city. Yes, there are areas that are unique, but those are few and far between the mediocrity of the majority. The most unique spot of the entire map has to be your base of operations. It is here that the you will have the chance to establish and upgrade three different wings (medical, technical, security), and each of them provide you not only new abilities to use in the field, but also perks that will become a tremendous benefit. Though to upgrade these wings, you need their corresponding currency, and you gain this through their corresponding side missions.

If the layouts seem repetitive, the side missions will clearly add to that disappointment in terms of your actual actions. It seems as though there are numerous side missions to complete; however, when you break it down, there isn't that much difference in them. For example, there are some tech side missions that have you carrying supplies that apparently JTF can't find, but yet you can. Very repetitive, and then you'll go to another section of the city, find a tech side mission and guess what, you're finding more supplies. It's this repetition that leads you to feel that the main focus was creating a deep RPG experience, not the story, not the graphics, and certainly not the side mission layouts.

Without a doubt The Division is already a big contender for game of the year for many, and the accolades it's achieved are well deserved. Yes, there are faults with it; however, when stacked against the amount of quality content, the question isn't will The Division drain hours of your life away, but how many? The Division has an addictiveness that once you start playing you will find it very hard to stop, and that's something I feel we have been missing for so long in gaming. Sure you have your rehashed HD remakes, and franchise clone copies, but when you get an original IP that offers up depth and action, you have the makings of an iconic series. Honestly, I could go on and on about this game, but I have it on the TV that is five feet away from me and I can't wait to get back to New York City, so I'll just say this that The Division is a game that should NOT be missed. I hope to see you in the Dark Zone.


Please look into creating varying side missions and different experiences rather than repeating similar missions with slight changes. Also please look into finding a way to naturally traverse a little faster throughout the city as walking from safe house to discover a new safe house can be very tedious and tiresome.

Overall: 8.0 / 10
Gameplay: 8.5 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 8.0 / 10



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