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Does The Division live up to the hype?

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    Tom Clancy’s The Division

    Rating: 4.0 – Great

    Does The Division live up to the hype?

    Ever since it was first revealed in a stunning teaser trailer at E3 2013, Tom Clancy’s The Division has been at the top of many gamers’ wish lists. After a number of delays, the game finally released last month. So, does it live up to the hype, or is it another Ubisoft disappointment?

    After having spent extensive time with The Division, I can confidently say that The Division is a pretty great game, for the most part. Players are able to customize their agents to a satisfying degree, and then are immediately thrust into the open world of virus-ridden New York City. The action starts quick, and players are constantly engaged in exciting firefights from the beginning of the game all the way until the end.

    The Division is an online-only shooter-RPG in the vein of Destiny. Players are constantly collecting new equipment and cosmetic items, are encouraged to team up with other players to tackle the many missions in co-op, and level up their agent by earning XP.

    The game is separated into two distinct sections. The main area in The Division is where all the story and side missions are located, and players will only see those not in their group while in safehouses and the like. The story moves along at a brisk pace, and players are able to tackle missions in pretty much any order that they see fit. They can partake in the many side missions, or ignore them completely. They can ignore all the missions, in fact, and just spend their time exploring New York City (specifically, Manhattan).

    Players will probably spent most of their time in The Division completing these missions, however. There are a handful of side mission types, but the main story missions bring plenty of variety to the table. The game’s combat is immensely satisfying, despite the enemies being bullet-sponges, as they are in other shooter-RPGs like the aforementioned Destiny and Borderlands.

    The game is best played in co-op, as players can coordinate with each other for the best possible results in battle. There are some enemies that are especially tough and more or less require that players team up with others, so it’s a good thing that The Division has quick and easy matchmaking for virtually any activity in the game. Of course, these enemies can also be defeated by simply improving one’s agent.

    Agents are upgraded not only by leveling them, but also by improving the base of operations. Completing missions specific to three different fields (medical, security, and tech) will in turn give players points that can be spent on improving those wings at their base. Upgrading the wings gives players new perks and skills that prove to be very useful in battle.

    Having said all that, completing The Division’s story doesn’t take all that long, and then the side missions are all pretty repetitive before too long. The game’s endgame would be almost a complete bust if it wasn’t for the multiplayer Dark Zone, which does offer a bit more replayability and helps to extend the game’s life.

    The Dark Zone is The Division’s versus multiplayer component. It is in the Dark Zone that players are able to kill each other at will in their attempts to get the game’s best gear. Gear collected in the Dark Zone must be extracted before players can access it back in the safer portions of Manhattan, leading to intense situations where players have to be weary of being turned on by other agents at any moment.

    Some people find this kind of gameplay frustrating, and that’s understandable. However, if it wasn’t frustrating sometimes, then those tense moments wouldn’t really be possible. The Dark Zone does a fantastic job of creating these moments, and its unique approach to versus multiplayer means that there’s really nothing else like it out there. Overall, I’m glad that Massive Entertainment decided to go with the Dark Zone over generic multiplayer modes shoehorned into other games like The Division.

    My only gripe about the Dark Zone is that, compared to the safer part of NYC, it’s not very fun to explore. The safe zone is full of buildings that can be explored, giving The Division’s map a level of depth that is not found in most other open world games. However, that depth is lost in the Dark Zone, as there’s barely any interior environments for players to explore.

    These interior environments are highly detailed, as is the entirety of The Division. It’s rare for games to look as good as their E3 trailers, but The Division comes a lot closer to that goal than past Ubisoft games with impressive E3 trailers like Watch Dogs. Character models look great, the lighting is superb, and the graphics are truly next-gen. Overall, it’s hard not to be impressed with The Division’s visuals.

    Furthermore, the game feels next-gen in other regards as well. For example, the load times in The Division are virtually non-existent. Everything is so quick and easy that it will be hard to go back to other games that have long load times between screens. It’s also quick and easy to join up with friends, and the game will seamlessly migrate servers in order to make players joining up with each other as headache-free as possible. This stands in stark contrast to other open world games, like Grand Theft Auto V, where sometimes just getting in the same lobby as your friend can become a nightmare.

    With players free of having to wrestle with menus and staring at loading screens, they can focus on appreciating the beauty of the game world. As I said, The Division has great graphics, and it also has pretty great sound design as well. The presentation in the game is superb overall, and it truly feels like an actual next-gen game.

    However, my problem with the game stems from its replayability, and how much time players are ultimately going to get from it. Beating the game’s story does not take too long. The story is pretty interesting though, has a lot of unique characters, and has a few unique storytelling mechanics that make it compelling.

    But anyway, the story doesn’t last long. The side content is super repetitive, which makes it not that fun to do. And the first raid (called "Incursion" in Division terms) was only just added, and it has not been met with a positive reception from the community. The result is that The Division’s endgame is severely limited in scope. Yes, players are able to grind for better gear and partake in The Dark Zone, but without any high level challenges that are compelling, there’s not a real reason to do so.

    And that will ultimately be The Division’s downfall, in my opinion. The game has had a strong sales start, but players are going to realize quick that there’s not a lot of satisfying content in the endgame. In fact, the endgame is one of the weakest ones that I’ve seen in a game of this nature. I can see a lot of people migrating from The Division to other shooters before too long, which could hurt the IP in the long run, but Massive Entertainment still delivered a pretty fun experience that is good for at least 10-20 hours of strong, quality entertainment.

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