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Tom Clancy's The Division

In The Division, players are tasked with saving mid-crisis Manhattan from a deadly virus often referred to as The Dollar Flu. As the title loosely suggests, gamers take on the role of an agent in a secret government unit, called to action when everyone else abandoned the cause. The mechanics that players work with are everything you'd expect from an open-world third-person shooter. There are plenty of story missions and side missions, plus collectibles and random events. Gamers can even play around with basic base building and a simplified crafting system.

Speaking of PvE, the game is broken into two major sections. There is the PvE aspect that we described above, and then the PvP experience called the Dark Zone. While both have some cool ideas, one of them has been left far behind its counterpart.

A winter wonderland

We'll begin with our PvE experience, all the way back at the character creation screen, cleverly worked so players complete it while staring at their reflection in the driver's side window of a police car. That's about as cool as it gets, as the options to craft a unique Division agent are extremely underwhelming. You get to choose between a man or woman, of course, but it's all downhill from there. Players are limited to about five hairstyles, a handful of tattoos and exactly 10 combined piercings or glasses. Not 10 of each, but 10 between the two. This results in an awful lot of similar looking players out there.

Although the servers on Ubisoft's end had a rocky start, things definitely took a swing in the right direction from there, and overall the PvE world hits the mark. There is the base building that we referred to briefly, although it's more of an upgrade system. As players complete the story missions, side missions and encounters, they'll earn supplies that can be used to upgrade the three wings of their base - Tech, Security and Medical. These upgrades are tied into the Perk, Skill and Talent systems that can be used to build your ideal Division agent, and it's very satisfying to watch your once dilapidated hideout come to life.

Of course, everything you do in the PvE world will give you XP, and that XP will help you level up, increasing your DPS and allowing you to equip better gear. This gives you access to the different districts in the game, accurately named after their real life inspirations.

That's where The Division takes things to impressive heights. The world is absolutely gorgeous in a post-apocalyptic sense. Weather will hinder your vision, making it difficult to see enemies right in front of you. The snow will build up on your hat and backpack, and cover the ground if it falls long enough. Each district looks and feels different, so you never get the sense that you're wandering through the same recycled assets.

The one place that the PvE world falls flat, however, is with the NPC dialog. We have a vendor at our base that has the same voice and speech patterns as another vendor two rooms over. We're also not sure who Alex is to the enemy AI, but we kill Alex and they scream about it in just about every gun battle we ever have. For a game that sets a new bar visually, it comes off lazy to have this much audio repetition.

Enter at your own risk

While the PvE world is crafted very well, the Dark Zone falls more into the category of a great idea that still hasn't properly developed. It's actually in the middle of the city, and players can access it seamlessly by passing through checkpoints. If you're just outside the Dark Zone in the PvE world, you can even hear the gun battles taking place on the other side of the wall. That part is cool, but be prepared to struggle for a few hours when you first head inside.

Whether a glitch or by design, every person entering the Dark Zone is Rank 1, which is fine, except that all the AI in Zone 01 are Level 10-12. This resulted in hours of grinding, overwhelmed and desperately trying to reach a point where we could be competitive against an overpowered AI. For most players, this might be too much to bother overcoming.

That's bad, but what's worse is when you enter the Dark Zone you're assigned a server based on your PvE rank. For example, at Level 14 we qualified for a Dark Zone that was Level 1-14. We couldn't team up with our friend who had just hit Level 15. Look into the future and imagine that you, a three-week veteran, would like to introduce PvP to someone who just bought the game. Well, you can't. Your level will be nowhere near theirs. This is a major oversight, and one that's hard to swallow given the two betas.

The Dark Zone does have upside. There's intensity when extracting loot, and satisfaction when killing a Rogue agent who doesn't play well with others. Even the AI battles are fun once you hit a competitive level. It's just too bad that the grind to get there will prevent many players from ever experiencing it.

A world worth saving

The Division is broken up into two vastly different experiences. The PvE side is fairly standard, but it has a lot of quality mechanics, including top-notch level design, lots of content and an open-world that you will love to explore. On the other hand, the PvP feels like an unfinished idea, and one that could benefit from a few updates. It may get those updates, and at that point The Division might be deserving of a higher score.

It's still a game worth buying, however, as the PvE content will keep you plenty busy until Ubisoft can work the kinks out of the Dark Zone.

What's Hot

  • Exploring Manhattan is a constant pleasure
  • Ample PvE content to keep players busy
  • Some intense moments waiting in the Dark Zone

What's Not

  • Character creation is disappointing
  • AI dialog is lazy and lacking variety
  • Dark Zone levelling system is a mess

Published: 11/03/2016

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