On Black Friday, the day when American’s go crazy and spend lots of money, a smallpox pandemic, transmitted by a virus insidiously planted onto banknotes, decimates New York City. The disease, nicknamed The Dollar Flu, causes widespread chaos and Manhattan is locked down under quarantine. The Government activates sleeper agents who are part of The Division, to help emergency workers restore order. You are one member of The Division.
Of course to be part of an elite Division you need years of training, or in the case of games, development. The Division was announced at Unbisoft’s 2013 E3 press conference. The same E3 that Microsoft and Sony announced release dates and prices for the now current gen consoles. The Division looked like a killer launch game for these new consoles. But it never came. It kept getting pushed back, things were removed and things were added. All in all, a horrible sensation started to build up in the stomach of eager gamers. Had Ubisoft tried to achieve too much with The Division? Would it be stuck in development hell on an infinite loop, only to be spewed up by some accountant wanting to try and recoup some money?
Fortunately the answer was no.
Yes, The Division took longer than anyone anticipated, and probably for good reason. The game is huge and beautifully detailed. And you’ll notice, no loading to go into different areas. Well, any loading has been hidden behind the occasional press X to unlock door feature, but this seamlessly keeps you immersed in the game.
What’s more, the game is incredibly detailed. Every street, strewn with cars, trucks, debris, looks different, presents many tactical choices, fees real. But it’s more that just a few scattered objects. Climbing over a wall to access a higher point on a buildings roof I stopped to look at the wall. Sure, it had been tagged, but the concrete was cracked and warn, it looked like it was going to need some work done to it soon to prevent it from starting to fall apart. The attention to details was mindbogglingly amazing.
Cool story bro, the more cynical amongst you are probably thinking. And I know, a game is more than just good looks, but The Division delivers on game play just as much as it does in post apocalyptic beauty. On the surface it’s a tactical third person cover shooter in a living breathing world. But dive a little deeper and this amazing shooter turns out to be a solid RPG, with a base of operations to construct, which in turn unlocks new skills that can be customised in much the same way as your weapons. If you love comparing numbers, you’ll gonna have an orgasm with The Division. Me, I just want to know if my current gun is going to do more damage than my last gun, and that’s been kept simple enough to keep a wide range of gamer types happy.
Of course, it’s more than just a numbers game, sure you want to have the best armour that you can, but you can also pick up items of clothing that do nothing but change the way your character looks. So one player might want to be running around New York in full military gear, whilst another might have a leather jacked, green scarf and a woolly pom-pom hat.
As you progress you unlock more stuff, your character levels up. Simple game mechanics. In The Division, the city’s boroughs have their own levels, so as you level up, so do your enemies. But only if you enter a new area. After you’ve leveled up a bit and acquired new guns, you’ll occasionally find yourself in one of the beginner boroughs and stumble on some looters. These guys would have initially forced you into a minor gun battle forcing you to fall back and fire to take them out without suffering too much damage. Now, even though you’re not Superman, taking on lower level characters means that one or two well placed shots will take them out. It’s a nice fall back position, especially if you’ve just had your arse handed to you on a plate.
The enemies are as varied as the city streets, with several gangs fighting for control of the city, and sometime fighting each other. You’ll stumble on the aforementioned looters just walking through the city as it’s teeming with random encounters. But you’ll also have to face up to the fearless Cleaners, a group intent on purging the city with fire. These seem to bring out the most fear in the people I’ve played with. But they can also be the most satisfying to kill.
Random encounters, various collectables and such give you plenty to do, but it’s the missions that drive the story along, and introduce you to some interesting end mission bosses.
The Division is a game that can be completed playing solo, but it’s a game that just begs to be played with some friends. I’ve played about half the missions with a friend and it just magnifies the experience. Tactics really come to life when you can coordinate an attack and bring different skills and gear to the fight.
Of course a group of four make for even more fun, and becomes quite an asset if you decide to enter the Dark Zone. The Dark Zone is a PvP playground with the same leveling system for the boroughs. Co-op play is suggested, but seeing as some of the best loot in the game is found in The Dark Zone, expect to have to watch your back. Getting the loot out of The Dark Zone is one of the best features of the game. Because the area is the moist contaminated, you have to call in a chopper to take you stuff so it can be decontaminated and placed in your stash back at your Base of Operations. The trouble is, that once you call in a chopper to come take your stuff, EVERYONE in The Dark Zone knows about it, both other players and NPCs.
If timed right, other players can come in and kill you, loot your body and hook your stuff onto the chopper to get cleaned and placed in their stash. Sound brutal and it is. But if you kill another player in The Dark Zone you will be marked as a rogue agent and everyone else will see you as a red dot on the map, and know that their is a significant bounty on your head.
The Dark Zone is a lawless place that works so well within the overall game experience that The Division offers. It’s literally the icing on the cake of what is looking to be one of the best games of the year.
Rating: R16 Contains violence and offensive language.