Tom Clancy’s ‘The Division’ Hooks From The Start
There’s something special about big cities; more so at Christmastime.
Skyscrapers and storefronts are filled with even more lights than normal, street-corner Santas are ringing their bells and pedestrians are in slightly better moods. There’s nothing that can go wrong.
Unless of course an environmental terrorist manages to infect hundreds of thousands of dollars with a new strand of smallpox just before Black Friday, thus killing everyone who comes into contact with the dollar bills.
Say hello Tom Clancy’s “The Division.”
The third-person, online tactical shooter developed by Massive Entertainment and published by Ubisoft in 2016 was recently available on a free-trial weekend through the Playstation Store. Even if I’ve said this before, it’s worth repeating, the Playstation Store is one of the systems greatest assets. Often times game publishers provide free trial periods, early beta access or free demos. If I wanted to be ultra-frugal, I never would have to purchase a game; I could simply get by by playing the hundreds of free offerings. Needless to say, I’m glad I gave this free trial a chance.
If someone is trying something new for the first time it’s probably a good idea to grab their attention from the get-go. Even though the game was free to play for the entire weekend, if I wasn’t sold in the first hour I was probably turning my free-time attention elsewhere.
The opening montage squashed any thought of leaving the game.
In typical Tom Clancy fashion, the main plot line was explained straight-away using live-action TV broadcasts — it felt like I was watching the opening to a Hollywood flick. An unknown subject infected dollar bills, hundreds of thousands of them, and dispersed them into the heart of New York City just before Black Friday. As money changed hands the germs — a new strand of smallpox — spread uncontrollably. The result was millions of fatalities, anarchy, the fall of government and a city under siege. You’re part of a military force called “The Division,” only called upon when all else has failed, to help stabilize NYC, find the culprit and find the cure.
Count me in!
There were only two reasons I was skeptical about this game and others like it; one, because it’s what they call an online co-op game. A player can join up with three other online players at any time to take on story missions or free-roam the city, killing bad guys and finding loot. I like online shooting games because it’s simple — you versus them — and you don’t have to rely on them for anything. The one thing you can count on is that they’re probably picking their zits in between headshots from their sniper rifles. The opposite, however, exists in “The Division.” Players are expected and almost forced to work together on story missions that are near impossible if attempted solo. If there are no players still playing the year-old game, then I worried there might not be much assistance.
The second concern I had was more of a stereotype I built up in my head of Tom Clancy games in general. The only Tom Clancy game I played was “Rainbow 6” from way back in the day. For whatever reason, all the memories in my head from that game are of constant use of night vision goggles and shoddy game mechanics.
I shouldn’t be surprised at this point, but this game is not “Rainbow 6.”
The graphics in this game are something to behold. The setting, New York City, is reconstructed to look and feel as lifelike as possible. It’s a crazy-fun environment to just run around in, quite frankly. And the game mechanics have improved since the early Tom Clancy days. Considering the overall size of the open-world game and all the set pieces, it’s a wonder to see the number of objects your character can hide and take cover behind should a gunfight erupt.
It’s Big, Really Big
By the time the free play weekend was over I had barely scratched the surface. I only managed to get in about seven hours before the Sunday night expiration. By no coincidence, I’m sure, Ubisoft was holding a sale on the basic version and the gold version of the game during this time — actually continuing it a few days later for those humming and hawing over the idea of dropping actual money to continue playing. Needless to say, I was sold. For $31 I picked up the digital copy of the gold edition of “The Division” which includes all three downloadable expansion packs that otherwise cost upwards of $34 on their own. It was an offer I couldn’t refuse.
It’s a good thing I made the purchase. I’ve been playing for a few more weeks now and the game has yet to disappoint … frustrate at times, but never disappoint.
I didn’t think I’d enjoy having to team up with other online players, but it’s been fun. The Playstation comes with a very basic earbud and microphone that plugs directly into the controller. Equipping this during gameplay makes communicating with other players a breeze. Depending on when you play, however, you may find you’re speaking to someone who speaks little to no English. I think I rescued some hostages with a pair of French-speaking Arabs during one mission.
Since my early missions, however, I’ve managed to make a few friends in-game and have teamed up with them on a number of occasions. Like I said, the functionality of simply seeing who is online, what mission they’re doing and clicking join to team up with them makes the online feature far less daunting then I had imagined going in.
The Dark Zone
I don’t normally try to give tips and gameplay advice in my reviews because I am not an expert, but I feel a disclaimer is very necessary to any who are new to “The Division.” Do not enter The Dark Zone of the map without some friends that you can trust. It will ruin your day if you don’t go in prepared.
In short, The Dark Zone is one part of the map where players not only fight AI but also each other. Other players won’t attack you just because, however, they’ll only attack you if you’ve obtained items within The Dark Zone. Anything you obtain inside the zone must be evacuated out by helicopter for decontamination. It’s a tedious process, but the results are rather rewarding. The zone grants access to high-end gear — and frankly, this game is all about decking out your character in the best gear so you can dominate in Player vs. Enemy and Player vs. Player modes.
Quick story on my first run through The Dark Zone; I joined a random player who asked if I wanted to go in — sure. After a short time we found a chest, I had a key (from killing enemies, I suppose) and I opened it. I excitedly took the high-end gear. A second later, the “friend” disbanded from the party and put a few rounds into my back. All loot you have on you falls to the ground when you die in the zone. He had stolen my gear … and I was sad. Lesson learned, players … lesson learned.
It may seem frustrating at first, but after you accumulate some decent gear and get used to the map, things will get easier.
Playing online games when they first became a possibility was always hampered by a players’ inability to secure fast Internet speeds. Today, players of online games are not hampered by Internet speeds, but instead by the incredible volume of games to choose from, thus limiting the number of available players. Games with an emphasis of online play often never see as high a number of users as it does during the first few weeks after its launch. There’s just too many other games, and players don’t usually stick with one game for an extended period of time.
Therein lies the rub with “The Division.” I wish I had been a part of the launch of this game when thousands more were online and playing. I see the occasional person running the streets, and usually manage to find a person or two who needs to finish the same mission I’m on, but overall the streets are devoid of other players.
I remain bullish on the game, however, given its sheer volume of content that I still have yet to explore. The story is well-written and interesting, the gameplay and customization is deep and the interaction with other players — when there has been — has been enjoyable. 8.9/10