Ubisoft owns the rights to the Tom Clancy brand, and as such have been releasing games in his name that haven’t been based on books or needing his estate’s approval. This doesn’t mean the games that have been released have been bad, the recently released Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege proved that. With Tom Clancy’s The Division, it is set in a post-apocalyptic New York that’s been ravaged by a virus spread through money that’s plausible as a game, and an idea hatched from the mind of the late Tom Clancy himself.
While The Division may not have its feet firmly planted into the ground, the intro cinematic that combines fake news with real footage sets a tone. That tone is one of despair. What was to be a normal Christmas, is ruined by a virus passed through exchanging of cash, called the “dollar flu”. This sets the game in motion where sleeper agents of the American government, known as The Division are activated to restore order. It’s here where you are part of the next wave of activations, and are sent into New York to help.
Some might say that once you’ve done the introduction and dropped inside New York, there’s a lack of exposition to drive things forward. But in reality that’s not the case. The story is scattered around you, and it’s up to you to find it. That’s exactly how it should be. While it straddles a line of a game you invest into emotionally and with time. Echoes are a neat storytelling device that recreate events in the past to fill in gaps of the story you would otherwise not see or hear. Other collectibles can be found in The Division in forms of cell phones, drones, echos, missing agent files, virus reports, found footage, and more. There are a lot of them, but they are meaningful and fit naturally into the world.
Midtown Manhattan is so richly detailed, and its haunting Christmas decorations stuck in time help cement this real place. Though I’ve never been to New York, I feel small walking in its streets, the buildings make you feel like you’re there. None of the places I’ve seen or visited seem like recycled content. Normally in games like this, you would see assets repeating, but not the case here. There’s a handcrafted feel to the game that’s unmatched by anything I’ve played in recent memory that mirrors our current world so well.
When out and about in the world, there’s a lot of enemies that you’ll encounter, but the times where you see civilians on the street in need of food or supplies, or see a couple in a window embracing while talking about how things will soon get better, make this all a genuinely human and fragile place to be. There are many safe houses scattered around New York, allowing you to take refuge, stock up on ammo, and gain more intel on your surroundings for encounters and supplies for crafting materials.
The Division may play like a third-person shooter, but because of its heavy role-playing mechanics, a headshot may not always mean a kill, and enemies may be bullet sponges especially when shooting higher-level enemies. This doesn’t detract from some really great combat situations, whether they are a part of the story, or a random encounter. Using strategy to mix up your ammo types like incendiary ammo and using different grenades like EMP, stun, and frag grenades will greatly introduce variety and be able to bring down enemies more easily.
The shooting feels good, basing its weapons on modern military weapons. It gets a little weird when you have a Level 4 Police M4 vs a Level 10 Police M4, but the suspension of disbelief is needed in this RPG world. You’ll hear “loot” be used in terms of how you obtain weapons and gear from just playing the game. Sometime they are a grey-colored drop, other times they are blue, green, or hopefully purple. How you obtain them the best is through large events like missions, side missions, or going over to PVP in the Dark Zone.
The main story missions of The Division are especially exciting, multi-tiered affairs that are memorable. Missions can be played solo, or with others in co-op. You can even matchmake, in specific areas and for missions themselves, making it possible to player with others without needing your friends to be online at the same time as you. Then there are side missions, which are less story focused, but still provide a thrill to play.
Your Base of Operations is a centralized safe zone in which you are taking the old post office, and providing goods and services for civilians who need it. It won’t be a place you’ll spend much time in, but it’ll be a place you spend a lot of time working on. You will need materials found in missions, and through encounters. Encounters are the game’s way to earn points to build up the three individual wings: Security, Tech, and Medical. As you make upgrades to these wings within the Base of Operations, you’ll increase vendors availability to purchase from, or use materials gained to craft your own weapons and gear from blueprints.
The player vs player content of Tom Clancy’s The Division lives within the main game, and is a gated off section of Manhattan that’s heavily contaminated. It’s here where you have a separate level and currency to accrue. In here, you’ll battle more devastatingly difficult enemies, as well as other players doing the same things you are. If one agent shoots another agent, he becomes “rogue” and is hunted by the rest of the dark zone. If you survive the hunt, you are rewarded handsomely. You have a very limited inventory to hold Dark Zone items, when that limit is reached, it is time to extract. This is where The Dark Zone is the most harrowing and dangerous it gets. From that moment, you fire off a flare, and have to wait 90 seconds for the extraction chopper to arrive. Once it is there, you attach your gear canister to the rope and watch it be taken to your Base of Operations and decontaminated for use. After that, the danger is still ever-present and you must find a way out. While I found the single-player missions to be exciting, that’s a naturalistic excitement of its unpredictability. While I intend to spend a lot of time here, I hope the focus isn’t all on here.
The most recent Tom Clancy games, Rainbow Six Siege and now The Division are exciting and fresh to play. The gameplay and unexpected joy it is to play these games. Whether playing solo or in a group of friends, it is an absolute blast to play a mission or encounter for the first time, or repeating it on a higher difficulty. The Dark Zone is a unique experience that’s sure to get your heart beating at a faster rate than you would have ever thought. Tom Clancy’s The Division is a well-realized RPG in a well-realized world that is not too far off from our own. Oddly enough, this is a place I look forward to spending more time in.
A Uplay code was provided by the publisher for review purposes