So a few weeks ago we checked out the Division beta and were pleasantly surprised with what we found, even though our ventures into the dark zone ended all too quickly from players who sank a lot more hours than us into it. The missions seemed fresh, team play was pretty solid, especially on the hard difficulty mode and there seemed to be a ton of loot that dropped. But does it hold up now that it has been released to the masses?

The Division is a story of a run down New York City on the brink of collapse. An epidemic has spread on bank notes and it’s up to you to bring America’s biggest city back to order again. The Division are sleeper agents, highly trained for emergencies. No infected zombie people here I’m afraid which is a shame… expansion pack anyone?

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The game starts out with a tutorial to show you the ropes. Once inside, starting at level three, New York is open to you, and things can be completed in any order you like, although restricted by the level requirements of the mission. You can still access these missions, but make sure you’re playing with people at a higher level than you.

Fighting your way through the various missions can feel like a real slog, in the same style as the popular console game Destiny. The Division is an apparent grind fest corridor based shooter at heart with a pretty solid duck and cover system. Press the space bar and you’re character hugs the closest wall to them. Think Gears of War. Blind fire is also present to pin down enemies who have already got the drop on you. But even though the cover system is great, I’m still left with an empty feeling inside, always wanting more from the combat. Once you’ve fought your way through a mission you’re nine times out of ten greeted with an end mission boss. These bosses are exactly the same as the last, there is no variation here. They are absolute bullet sponges and really do pack a punch. There’s been times, and I know I’m not the best at first person shooters where I’ve run out of bullets and had to turn to my unlimited ammo pistol to finish them off. A little variation from the bosses would have been nice.

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The storyline doesn’t hold up too well either. Yeah there are some nice conversations that happen, and cut scenes look great, but I didn’t really feel hooked. I didn’t care for the characters as I have in other RPGs. I didn’t feel any kind of need or want to continue playing the storyline when there was so much more on offer to me. And yes, the game is pretty big, and there are a huge number of nooks and crannies in NYC to poke your nose around.

A saving grace to the dry missions and story line is the potential loot you can find. However, the only real customisation you have to make your character feel unique are the weapons. There are a pretty large number of guns to choose from, all with their own customisation slots. You can customise your gun with different ammo clips, paint jobs and optical sights. There are different armour slots too, but they don’t make your character look any different. Instead, Ubisoft has opted for clothing system. Things like bobble hats, coloured jackets and different boots are all on offer to you. Unfortunately, these come in what I would call dull colours: browns, blacks and greys.

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The downside of this is your character will aesthetically look much the same as other Division players running around. This doesn’t bode well and really funnels the level of uniqueness available to you. Yes you do upgrade your armour as well, but it looks as if it’s tucked away under your jacket and trousers, It’s a complete numbers game which I don’t think some players will like. I love in MMOs when I get an awesome looking piece of armour to show off to other players. A missed opportunity I feel.

This game is built on stats, as any other open world RPG is. There is no class systems which is one nice thing The Division has done differently. Instead you earn resource points to upgrade various sections of your home base. These are translated into Medical Centre, Technical Centre and Security Centre. You dump your resource points into these departments, depending on which side missions you want to get involved in. In turn you can unlock upgrades such as a portable turret, or an ability to heal your team mates.

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Where this game really does shine is team play, which is what I said about the latest Rainbow Six game. Teaming up with friends or even random players online is what makes this shooter come alive. Missions get much harder, encounters, which are random side mission type endeavours are a challenge, and the Dark Zone, now that’s a whole different ball game.

The Dark Zone is The Division’s effort at a PvP zone. It’s a free for all there. You have the ability to kill or be killed. If you do start to open fire on other human controlled players you will become marked. A rogue status for all to see. And if you’re in a group, then the rest of the group will become rogue too. The best loot I’ve seen so far comes from drops in the Dark Zone and the vendors by the entrances.

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Tom Clancy’s The Division is an alright game albeit its flaws. It has some definite shining moments when you play with friends, but for a single player experience, I feel Ubisoft has missed the mark on some truly obvious aspects such as player aesthetics customisations.

Yes I did enjoy the hours that I pumped into The Division, but I still walk away every time I play it feeling a little disappointed, remembering the initial trailer Ubisoft released at E3. Now that built hype, and promised such a different experience to what they have delivered in the final product. If Ubisoft can keep players around long enough for the expansions they’re promising within the first year of release, I hope that they will start to change the game to bring the E3 trailer to life. Oh, and have I mentioned that there are a lot of Alex’s in this game? The Division is availabe now from Steam on PC.

 

If you’re interested in comparing what I have said in this review to some E3 release gameplay footage, here is a video from Ubisoft below.

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Stef Murphy

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