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Despite being both a critical and commercial success, let alone Ubisoft’s best selling game, with a film adaptation in the works starring Jake Gyllenhaal–who is set to both star and produce the film–it’s a wonder as to why no one seems to be talking about Tom Clancy‘s The Division.
The game is set in a near future vision of New York City, which has been devastated by a virus planted on banknotes during Black Friday. This disease, known as “The Green Poison” or “The Dollar Flu” has resulted in mass chaos throughout the city with Manhattan being placed under quarantine. As the player, you play as a member of “The Division,” a strategic task force who are called in by the U.S. Government to assist the emergency services (JTF) to reboot the city.
Being a Tom Clancy game, there is unsurprisingly a large amount of military lingo thrown around in the game, which to the uninitiated can seem baffling but once you get into the game its soon reveals its self to be an engrossing open world experience, which genuinely brings something new to the genre as your forced to scavenge resources such as armour and weapons, as well on a more ascetic note, clothes, which serve no purpose outside of allowing you to customise your character. Still while the character customisation might be limited, thanks to these various items that you can scavenge, it helps create a sense of individuality in this massive world.
You start in Brooklyn for the training missions before you enter into the main meat of the game, which takes place in Manhattan. There, completing missions rewards you with resources, which can be used to rebuild your base of operations with the options available to focus on building the Medical, Tech and Security wings, which in turn open up various skill and tech advantages such as turrets, riot shield and sticky bombs which really can provide the edge during the chaos of the many fire fights you will find yourself in over the course of the game. The centre of the map, marked as the Dark Zone, is where you can find the rarest equipment but also features some of the toughest enemies, as well as the potential that your co-agents can turn on you when it comes to transporting your found resources out of the zone.
New York is a great setting for this kind of game as there are no vehicles available to get around and even if there were, they wouldn’t get far on the abandoned ones strewn about streets. While you might be stuck traveling on foot, there is plenty to discover from stores which can be looted for supplies to survivors wandering the streets who you can give supplies to in exchange for often rare items. At the same time you also have to be cautious for any of the various gangs wandering the city who have chosen to use the outbreak as an opportunity to take over the city. At the same time it’s a world full of interesting little details to discover, especially as you make you make your way through the various districts as the time-based weather / night and day cycle only further makes this world seem more alive than some of the sandbox games we have seen in recent years. Even with this world smaller than those seen in GTA 4 and 5, it more than makes up for it in the smaller details and more focused environments we get to explore.
Amongst the various gangs we have, such as “The Rioters,” who are your basic street thugs, we have the flamethrower-welding “Cleaners,” who were formally the city sanitation workers but have been driven insane by the situation happening around them as their leaders believe that everyone is infected and must be cleansed with fire. We also have “The Rikers,” made up of escaped convicts with each gang coming with their own strengths and weaknesses, all of which helps keeps things interesting and constantly loaded with challenge.
When it comes to combat, cover is very much the key to your survival as attempting to Rambo these mission will soon see you turned into Swiss cheese. At the same time the game can be played either solo or with other players online which can at time provide the welcome support, especially when you find yourself caught up in an intense firefight, while also enabling you to be recovered when you get injured. At the same time having other human players enables you to flank your enemy as well as maximise your individual skills.
The missions are varied throughout as you have to reclaim key areas of the city back from the various gangs. At the same time there are numerous sub-missions scattered around the city from hostage rescues, virus research and protecting supply drops. There are also numerous agent files and phones which can be collected that provide more background to the ongoing story. While there are quick travel points dotted around the city, it can at times feel a bit of a grind to travel to some of the locations on the far reaches of the map and while the environment is certainly interesting to look at, the time consuming aspect of this traveling can take up which is especially when your just looking for a quick session or when you just want to get onto the next section. Its perhaps to this extent that the safe houses really become important unless you want to risk being sent back to the opposite end of the map by a mistimed attack strategy.
A deeply immersive world, “The Division” is an easy game to get lost in, while Tom Clancy fans will find there’s enough military jargon and weapons to satisfy your tastes while rising it above being just another third person shooter, especially with the quality of equipment varying and constantly encouraging the player to hunt down better equipment whenever possible. Unquestionably though the story and characters are gripping enough to carry you through, while the snow covered and ravaged New York makes for a unique and interesting setting. I’m now just keen to see where they take the series next.