So last month, or earlier this month (I can’t exactly remember when), a friend and I decided to pick up a new game for some multiplayer entertainment. We used to play Halo a lot, but that was a while ago, and before the GameSpy servers were shut down. We happened across Tom Clancy’s The Division, an interesting new third-person shooter that happened to be on sale. While excited at first to try this new game out, I was devastated to find that it required an additional 13.67GB download after installing the nearly 40GB game from its 5 DVDs. So, I let the download run overnight once, and then from time to time again over the span of a few weeks – yes, evidently, my Internet speeds are horrible. I also left a not so nice message to the feedback team about this.
The Division doesn’t really have much of a tutorial per se, but for anyone who’s played any kind of FPS before, its elements aren’t hard to grasp. The storyline seems to revolve around a biological weapon detonation which has caused mass deaths, and resulted in gangs and outlaws taking control over New York City – your goal is to take it back. Surely, there will be more to the plot, but for a game like this, it doesn’t really matter. The cover-based game mechanics are interesting, and feel somewhat realistic, but after a few hours of gameplay, I’ve realised that this game’s open-world nature is both a curse and a blessing.
I’m a PC gamer, most of the time. The default controls seem friendly and intuitive enough, and are easily re-mappable from the options menu.
While I have an annoying static-like noise constantly ringing throughout the game, it appears to be a common issue that I hope will be fixed without the need to download an excessively large update.
The soundtrack is decent, and matches well with the situation in most cases. It reinforces the tension when necessary, and suits the atmosphere of the setting.
Voice acting was generally good, and the actors were able to project their voice onto their actors without seeming too out of place. The people sound like what I would expect them to be, and while generic most of the time, it works.
Now, I’m still on DirectX 11, so I wasn’t able to try out the DirectX 12 renderer, but the visuals are excellent. Having personally visited NYC myself, this open-world re-creation of it is certainly authentic. At the highest setting of ‘Ultra’, the world appears highly realistic and nothing less of what you would expect of a modern game. The world is most certainly immersive with its realism, and the graphical perks during a gunfight really enhance that. An example of this would be ‘status effects’, such as one of the best vision distortion effects I’ve seen which occurs when caught in a grenade blast.
Unfortunately, The Division requires a fairly beefed up PC to run at its maximum settings. The game still looks great at the medium and high settings though, so there’s nothing to worry about if you can’t run it smoothly on Ultra. As a reference, the listed ‘Recommended’ system requirements will probably have you running the game on ‘High’. Personally, it seems like my CPU (AMD Phenom II X6 1100T) is letting me down since there are many calculations and elements which require its time (almost constantly at 100% load on all cores), thus the best I can run it on is High (1080p), whilst still maintaining 40-60 frames per second. On the other hand, it isn’t as heavy on the GPUs as I would have thought, and my GPUs (2x Radeon HD 7950s) tend to average out at around 40% load.
Mechanics & Gameplay
The game starts off fairly difficult, and I personally found myself respawning quite a few times in one of the early missions. While a portion of the gameplay consists of hiding behind cover either alone, or with friends in co-op and shooting at enemies, it also has significant RPG elements. There are different unlocks and upgrades depending on your player level, and also various grades and levels of weapons and armour. In-game materials can also be used to craft items.
Despite being a shooter on the surface, this game is actually rather deep when it comes to the RPG side. Even just a few hours in, I felt that level-grinding and cash-grinding was going to be inevitable as most enemies, especially ‘bosses’ are bullet sponges, and this is where the RPG side takes control over the realism of the game. You’d think that a headshot would take someone out, but most enemies tend to require several headshots or body-shots to take out because of their insanely high armour spec, or health. As the game progresses, different regions with high-leveled enemies become safe to explore, which means that you’ll constantly be spending money to buy or upgrade weapons and armour, all to get higher attack or defense stats in order to survive. While it may keep you playing for longer, it detracts from the realism and rapid-fire action expected of a shooter.
That aside, the heavy emphasis and reliance on using cover enhances the atmosphere of the game’s urban combat and is something fresh in comparison to more traditional first-person shooter games. Something unique I found in this was the concept of ‘blind fire’, in which you could point your weapon out to fire whilst hiding behind cover, albeit with less accuracy. While this might have been possible in some other games, its execution was near-perfect in The Division.
As previously mentioned, The Division’s open-world nature has its pros and cons. There is an enormous map to play (most of Manhattan seems to be recreated down to the street level), which means that there is plenty to explore, and a fair amount of action since there are occasionally a few random raids, patrols, gunfights, and so on. The problem lies in the fact that there is no transport, and moving from place to place is entirely on foot. Despite the existence of checkpoints or safe houses which can be fast-traveled to and from, I found myself walking an awful lot (2-3 minutes of plain walking/running) to move between each encounter or mission.
Lastly, The Division is online-only. You can interact and group-up with other places at bases or safe houses, and I guess that adds to the realism of there being multiple agents in the field at once, but you become restricted to always having to be online, even if you aren’t playing co-op.
A decent game, and only worth a go if this is what interests you; the RPG and shooter combination will keep you going for a while to come, but I have a feeling that it can quickly become boring for some, especially since the plot is thin, and after establishing your base of operations in the early stages of the game, the rest is fairly similar, and less interesting than it was in the beginning. Even in the few hours that I’ve played, most enemies look fairly generic, and the boss gunfights become increasingly long because all of the bosses are like walking tanks with impenetrable armour. The nature of the game will either be addictive to you or they will bore you.
I’ve personally played things which have hooked me more with their gameplay and storyline than The Division has, but it seems to have all of a ruined New York City to explore in a virtual world, so at least that will keep you going for a decent amount of time.
Of course, I only started playing this yesterday, so take it with a grain of salt. There may be a lot more (or less) to the game than what I’ve experienced so far.