Reader strych9 writes:
Tom Clancy’s The Division is a third person squad-based massively multiplayer online (MMO) cover shooter that takes place in New York City following the outbreak of a deadly disease known as “The Green Poison” and the subsequent quarantine of the city. Players take on the role of a Division Agent, a highly trained member of an elite group of sleeper agents activated to engage in operations to restore order in the event of a major catastrophe and track down any perpetrators.
The game has been out for a year and three expansions have been released.
This is an MMO shooter game which was somewhat novel when it was first discussed. The MMO aspect of the game was pulled off fairly well and the result is what gamers would expect: a shooter that’s somewhat gear-centric with different builds allowing a player to specialize their abilities to suit their play style or the situation.
Weapons and gear are granted in an MMO style of “drops”. These items come in various colors that denote the quality of the item as well as, usually, a required level the player must attain before they can use the item. The game also utilizes multiple currencies which are obtained in various ways and can be spent at specific vendors for gear ranging from accessories to armor to guns and of course, your appearance.
There are multiple aspects to The Division, many of which will be familiar to those who’ve played other MMO games. There’s a general PvE aspect which consists of story line missions. These take place all over central Manhattan (game zone to expand in the future) and can be done solo or with a team with the difficulty scaling to the highest ranked person in your team.
There are also missions that you can take on solo or with a group which are similar to the dungeon aspect of a game like Rift, or World of Warcraft as well as “Incursions” which are effectively a four-man raid. The game is squad-based; you and up to three friends can play together in the same group, but with the addition of a program like TeamSpeak you can have multiple groups that work together in the Dark Zone (DZ).
Weather varies and can affect things tremendously but it’s always winter in this game. While it was originally suggested the game’s seasons would follow the actual seasons but this never came to be.
PvP combat in the base game is confined to an area known as “The Dark Zone” a highly contaminated area of the city where players can battle both AI and other players for loot and DZ currency. Lootable items within the DZ cannot be used immediately, unless they come from one of the periodic supply drops, the way that items obtained via PvE can be. Instead they must be extracted at specific locations by calling in a helicopter.
These locations are where you’ll find the majority of PvP combat as teams fight to protect their extractions from those who want to kill them and take their gear, DZ funds and DZ keys. Inside the DZ attacking or killing other players will result in you and your friends (if they’re close to you when you attack someone else) going “rogue”, a status that has a timer based on how many other players you kill and which marks you on the map for everyone on the server to hunt down and try to kill.
Going rogue and hunting rogues is fast paced and rewarding. The chaos of that type of combat will spike your blood pressure and, win or lose, probably have you talking a lot of trash. I really can’t think of another game that has the kind of pressure and excitement in DZ PvP that is offered by The Division.
You’ll also be faced with choices to help other people who are not in your squad or let them die and take their gear (assuming you survive whatever is killing them). Making friends by helping out can significantly strengthen your position in later combat while making enemies will generally result in people looking for revenge. DZ servers are based on your DZ rank.
You can’t play with people in another bracket so “power leveling” isn’t going to happen but you’re also not going to run into a group of people who seriously outrank you and therefore have significantly better weapons and gear. Your DZ rank is completely separate from your PvE rank but both affect what bracket you will be placed in.
As previously noted; this is a cover shooter. While your gear will greatly determine your survivability and numerous other aspects of your abilities you’re generally not going to be able to simply stand in the open and trade shots with other players or AI. Appropriate use of cover and perks such as a pulse, which functions like radar for other people and AI, grenades of various types and skills like turrets and healing stations is key to surviving many parts of this game whether you’re in PvP or PvE.
No matter what you do, you will take damage and you’ll take a fair amount of it. The game also differentiates between cover and concealment so some stuff you hide behind will get let you get shot up if it’s not bullet proof.
In recent years the gaming world has moved towards downloadable content (DLC) which usually isn’t free. The Division is no different. So far the game features three DLC’s which you can purchase individually or get for “free” with the Season Pass. In order the DLC’s are Underground, Survival and Last Stand.
Underground amounts to a set of customizable dungeons that take place in subways and sewers. In this game type the map is randomized so it’s not the same thing over and over again. You can select features to make each mission harder and therefore grant better rewards. You can play this with your friends. Max squad size is, as always, four.
Survival is a single player add-on to the game. It comes in two flavors, PvP and PvE. The player starts out somewhere in Manhattan with a pistol and a hazmat suit and must fight their way into the DZ to extract, preferably with antivirals picked up along the way.
Your character has a disease that gets progressively worse and will eventually kill the character. Life expectancy can be extended with medications and painkillers found littered around the city. Better gear, including armor, weapons and clothing can be picked up along the way but the enemy in this game type is not solely AI or other players but also the cold. Until you’ve geared up your clothing you will slowly freeze to if outside or not next to a fire barrel.
Last Stand is flat out eight-on-eight PvP that comes in a various game types which are assigned randomly. Your abilities reflect the gear you’ve collected elsewhere in the game (except Survival) and like other portions you can swap your gear around for a build that works best for the situation you find yourself in. Unfortunately this game type is new and therefore hacking and glitching are still somewhat common. If you get a server without that kind of nonsense then it can be extremely fun and every bit as pulse pounding as the DZ.
Guns and Gear
This being TTAG, we’re here to discuss guns so let’s get to it.
The Division features a wide variety of weaponry ranging from pistols to DMR’s to LMG’s. For the most part the weapons actually exist in real life, though there are a few “named” weapons with special perks that are generally based on a real weapon but don’t actually exist while other named weapons and gear are named for something in real life.
Just like real life, shot placement matters a lot. If you build a gun that’s powerful but unstable, inaccurate or poorly ranged for the distance you’re shooting, it’s basically useless because most of your “paper DPS” isn’t actually hitting the target. Less power with more controllability will generally yield better results unless your entire plan is to stick the weapon in someone’s face. If that’s your plan, well good luck and be prepared to die a lot.
Each weapon in the game the has passive perks the usability of which are determined by the gear you’re wearing, which while very nice in the game, is rather unrealistic. I’m unaware of any real world company with the capability to add 154% headshot damage to your SOCOM M1A or give it the ability to heal you for doing damage or killing a target, but remember, this is an MMO so part of this is balancing things out for a game experience as opposed to pure realism.
Weapons are customizable with real world items such as laser designators, a variety of sights, silencers, muzzle breaks and other attachments. These items actually are reasonably realistic for a game of this type. For example an Osprey suppressor can’t be slapped on a rifle, but it can be swapped around on various pistols and subguns regardless of caliber and without switching a piston.
While this isn’t perfectly realistic they took a stab at it and found a happy medium. Still on the less realistic side of things, even if you have a quad rail on that police M4, you can’t put more than one fore-end attachment on it, so you can’t attach a grip and a laser. While somewhat annoying from a realism standpoint this functions well in the game because it prevents a player from making one gun able to do everything with no drawbacks.
Again, this is an MMO type game and Ubisoft is going out of their way to balance things out so that you can’t create an overpowered weapon like The Sword of a Thousand Truths. Sadly there is no under-barrel grenade launcher but there’s a skill for a sticky bomb that functions effectively the same way.
Guns can also be customized for color with skins that vary from types of camo to patriotic flag paint or solid colors. Each skin is removable so you can play with them and each one has a way it “fits” to a gun in terms of a wear pattern so it doesn’t look like you Kryloned your gun just before stepping out.
Weapons in the game aren’t damaged by use nor do they require cleaning.
All that said, the graphics are great in general and pretty spot on when it comes to guns. (Note: The AUG in this game is always a 9mm conversion and therefore never considered a rifle which is why the Osprey fits on it.)
Reticles on scopes and other optics tend to be pretty good as well.
Optics without a magnification feature have no first-person view and simply either magnify your third-person view slightly and/or give you a red dot at the center of your 3rd person cross hair. This increases accuracy by “looking down the sight” but slows your movement.
One particularly cool feature, visually speaking, is the fact that full auto weapons will heat up their barrel to the point that it glows orange and this effect is sped up by attaching a suppressor to the weapon. This has no practical effect in the game as swapping barrels isn’t necessary (or possible) but it’s a pretty cool visual effect after a firefight and, while it wears off more rapidly that is realistic, it’s neat to watch it change.
The game is very pretty with good textures and great lighting effects which play well with the snowstorms that blow in. In my opinion it is the lighting that really, pardon the pun, shines because of the light interplay with snow and fog which greatly change how you play the game.
The graphics, while realistic, don’t try so hard to be a simulator that they feel off or clunky like VR. The MMO style of the game means that it’s centered around building gear sets which match your play style and role in whatever group you form so like most MMO’s you’ll want to be somewhat flexible in how you play and have at least two specs to take on different roles. There are a ton of guns which are all reasonably realistic and they’re pretty darn customizable which also figures into your gear set.
The game lives and dies on whether or not you play well with others. Like many MMO’s The Division is at its best when you have a solid group of people to run with and the group has flexibility to deal with whatever may come up. Solo play is rewarding in PvE but becomes a serious challenge in the DZ where you’re generally easy prey for groups of rogues.
Controls are smooth and intuitive. Unlike some MMO’s you will not need 207 buttons on your mouse for macros.
AI isn’t particularly cunning in The Division, but they will flee grenades when possible, use cover and attempt to both flank and frontally assault your position. They will also throw grenades at you, fairly accurately I might add, to force you out of cover so that they can light you up with firearms or flamethrowers or their own turrets.
There are two drawbacks to the game at this point; lag and hacking. Ubisoft has done an admirable job of dropping the “ban hammer” on cheaters in the past, but they simply can’t stay ahead of every exploit. While not a major problem it’s a significant annoyance. Connectivity issues have gotten significantly better since they closed beta (which the author participated in), but they are still there from time to time and are similarly annoying.
Ratings (out of five stars):
Graphics: * * * * *
The Division is really beautifully rendered and screen shots don’t do it justice due to catching pixelization you can’t detect when moving. The graphics menu also allows you to make changes to your HUD and other aspects of the game should you be one of the unfortunate people out there with some form of color deficiency.
Physics: * * * *
Physics are pretty realistic though in some cases a little overdone for effect. Mistakes still happen but I’ve yet to see a game that doesn’t occasionally have a dead body stuck in a door.
Storyline: * * *
The story thus far offers a lot of potential we’ll have to see if Ubisoft can take advantage of that or not.
Playability: * * * *
The controls are good and the game is responsive. Lag and hacking lose the game a full star. Fixing those issues would be nice but alas, hacking will always be with us. Even with the currently limited map there is A LOT to explore in this game. If you like the game you won’t be “done” in 10 or 20 hours but instead can play the game for hundreds of hours and still find things that you didn’t know about.
Customize This: * * * *
Guns and gear are pretty customizable in terms of effect and appearance. You can look like anything from a hardcore operator to someone out for a stroll in the park (but with a ton of guns and gear). The HUD is customizable to some degree but I’ve found the base HUD to be more than acceptable for my play style.
Weapons: * * * *
Guns are customizable and fairly true to life. Much better than one would expect for an MMO shooter. Absolute purists will find annoying flaws.
Balance: * * * *
Like all MMO’s, this game has a learning curve that’s kind of steep but once you figure it out the balance is there. Ubisoft does make regular changes to gear to ensure that things aren’t underpowered or overpowered once a flaw like that is noticed. For that reason you’ll want to read patch notes since that gun you love for PvP might get nerfed if it’s deemed to be too OP.
Overall: * * * *
I’m a fan; it’s addictive, though flawed. The Division keeps me coming back, but as people on Reddit have noted the glaring flaws of connectivity and hacking can result in “Beaten Gamer Syndrome” where you have a love/hate relationship with it. Other problems have been noted on console platforms however I can’t comment on those. No game is perfect and connectivity and hacking issues will always plague online gaming.