Addition by Subtraction
Written by Joshua David Anderson
Announced back in 2013, Tom Clancy’s The Division was one of the first games to really tease the next generations of consoles. It promised a highly detailed world and wowed a lot of gamers with the promise of deep loot mechanics and open world adventure. After being delayed several times, The Division is finally out for gamers to explore, but does it live up to the hype?
The Division kicks off with the unleashing of a variant of the smallpox virus in New York during Black Friday. This disease, called “The Dollar Flu” or “Green Poison” because it was transmitted over banknotes, quickly kills most of the population of the city, and the government has to do something. That’s where the Strategic Homeland Division comes in and tries to maintain stability. As an agent of The Division, it is your job to try and establish order and society in the now lawless Manhattan. How do you establish this order? By shooting almost everyone in the face!
The setting and story of The Division is interesting, but like its version of Manhattan, it feels a little empty. There are characters in the game with names, but mostly they just yell at you over a radio. There are villains in the narrative, but they end up not being much more than NPCs with a different colored life bar. New York is incredibly detailed and realistically depicted, but sometimes feels bland in the same way a real city would. There is not much difference between the low level beginning area of the game and the high level endgame environments, other than the number of enemies present.
With a huge detailed city before you, it is a little unfortunate that all you can really do is shoot things. Thankfully, the shooting feels pretty good. The Division builds on many past Tom Clancy third-person shooters with excellent mechanics and a great modification system. Every type of gun you get feels appropriately different, and every weapon can be modded with different sights, magazines, muzzles, and stocks. This allows you much more freedom in picking a weapon you like. Perhaps there is an SMG that you want to use but the clip size is smaller than you are used to? Use the high capacity magazine mod to up the clip count and you have a weapon that fits your playstyle.
There is also gear to equip on your character, and clothes to wear, and thankfully the two are separate. You can pick anything to wear cosmetically, and then choose the best stat raising equipment and not worry about it making you look stupid. Additionally, your agent has several skills to choose from, some of which seem more like techno magic than anything else. Sure you can have a mini turret you can throw out to mow down enemies, or a small grenade that rolls towards enemies. But you also can have a gun that heals you and a magic pod thing that makes the trashcan you are hiding behind somehow protect you more. The skills are fun to use, but make little sense if you think about them for too long.
You can play The Division with up to three other friends through any part of the game, be it story missions or side content. You can also use the built-in matchmaking if you don’t have a stable group to play with, and that matchmaking engine is built into every mission and all of the social hubs in the game. There is also a multiplayer-specific area of the game called the Dark Zone, and this functions differently from the regular game. In this area, you are automatically matched with up to 23 other players across a large closed off part of the map. While in this zone, you can kill powerful enemies and get some of the best loot in the game. However, you cannot just use what you pick up, as it must be extracted out of the Dark Zone by a helicopter that you call down, and it takes 90 seconds for that chopper to arrive. All of this matters because in the Dark Zone, friendly fire is turned off and any other player can decide to go rogue and gun you down. If they kill you, they take your stuff. The downside to going rogue is that you are then marked as such on the map and every other player in the Dark Zone has an incentive to kill you without any consequences.
The Division is slick and polished, but sometimes feels hollow. There is a ton to do when you start the game, but once you have played the missions and hit the level cap, there isn’t much more other than grinding for loot. New content is promised, and that may help, but the first trip through The Division is a pretty good ride, one that is worth checking out.
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