Game Review – Tom Clancy’s The Division
Tom Clancy’s The Division
PS4 • XB1 • PC
Now that we’ve fully extricated ourselves from the neon-clawed grip of a full blown Destiny addiction it felt like time to cautiously jump into another MMO shooter and look the beast in the eye one more time.
The Division is a third-person cover take on the loot-grind always-online shooter. A series of story missions laid out in an open world post-pandemic Manhattan island allow you to harvest XP in order to unlock better cooler kit for your character and base. As your base upgrades it will allow you to assign different perks and skills to your character that subtly affect your character’s abilities tending toward the typical builds medic, tank and soldier. This will allow you to become more powerful and take on arbitrarily harder and harder sections of the map gathering better cooler kit along the way until you reach the post-level 30 endgame which at this point consists largely of running around the Dark Zone area grabbing cooler and better gear and sitting there patiently for the DLC content to arrive.
The realisation of Manhattan island in it’s post-pandemic presentation is nothing short of mind blowing. This is certainly one of the most richly detailed and densely atmospheric locales video games have offered. In fact we’re hoping for a passive mode when VR comes along later in the year just so we can wander around and take the place in. Or maybe Ubisoft could look at offering the Manhattan model to someone with an inkling to make a Spiderman game? It’s quite amazing what the development team have produced and if we were to judge the game based on the game-world alone this would be a solid 20 stars out of 5 review.
The always-on multiplayer is also great for this universe. Casually drop-in on a friend’s game or team up with randoms, single player is possible, but it’s always better roaming with the squad. Loot runs in the Dark Zone are tense and frantic, especially with the chance of rogue-agent groups hunting you down as well as the AI.
“It’s quite amazing what the development team have produced and if we were to judge the game based on the game-world alone this would be a solid 20 stars out of 5 review.”
But sadly the solid multiplayer and incredible world are completely let down by the ridiculous, repetitive combat and tedious character management. These types of games, as Destiny players will recall, are full of bullet sponge bosses and respawning trash mobs. This is fine. It would suck if every area was clear forever after one sweep. In a game like Destiny where you’re firing magic space guns at magic aliens and synthetic life forms it’s fair that one shot of blue shiny fuzz to the head might not be fatal to the 6-armed beetle monster. In a game like The Division where you’re in a gritty recreation of actual near-future Manhattan using actual true to life recognisable military weaponry against human beings wearing hoodies and jeans it is completely ridiculous to watch that same human being take five rounds to the face and still have enough pepper left to sprint five more steps and beat you to death with a baseball bat. It’s downright preposterous to see his mate one street over, dressed in the same hoodie, take a further 20 rounds to the dome and keep shooting just because the health bar above his head is a different colour.
Character management is a labyrinth of tedious menus combined with a random loot drop lottery. For every hour of gameplay you can expect at least 20 minutes worth of banging around in menus tweaking your stats just so and trashing piles of garbage loot to make room for more in your bag to collect more rot.
In fairness, these things are part and parcel of these sorts of games and will actually be to the tastes of the more masochistic time-rich gamers out there. Bullet sponging isn’t necessarily a bad thing in general. But when it directly contradicts the reality presented by the game itself it just pulls the curtain back on the cynical artificial way it inflates difficulty in otherwise lame combat encounters.
Character management is probably not going to be streamlined any better any time soon either, but when the changes are so subtle in their practicality the time spent tweaking comes off as entirely wasted.
It’s unfortunate that such a great premise and setting is so utterly let down by conforming to the framework of the MMO shooter. There’s some great moments and there’s fun to be had for sure, but just how great and just how much fun will be up to how much you enjoy fumbling around menus, and repeating one identical encounter after another for the chance of being gifted a cool bit of gear.