The Division, Ubisoft’s latest shooter, has been in development for what seems like forever. The past three E3 shows have featured it, leading some to believe it would never come out. Released today, the game is surprisingly set up for single player, despite the focus on co-op and multiplayer.
Starting off, the game has many things going for it. Playing on Xbox One, the graphics and load times are both industry leading. The first two hours of the game go by in a flash as suddenly you realise, this game is very user-friendly. The only issue many will have is the need for a constant online connection. This has killed games such as Sim City and others, hopefully, Ubisoft can overcome the server issues that blighted the first night’s play. I personally didn’t suffer any downtime but there are plenty of reports to the contrary.
You play a sleeper agent of the titular Division. As the trailer shows, these agents can be activated at any time and can be anyone. All it seems to take is a fancy watch that gives them the call. In the premise of this game, you create your unique agent and are dumped into a post viral outbreak, New York. Stunningly realised the city claims to be on a 1:1 scale. From early impressions, this would appear to be accurate. Without spoilers, the urban setting seems to be like a playground, where random encounters mingle seamlessly with specified missions. This can all be handled as a single agent, or with up to four friends. Increasing the number of players increases the difficulty. It is easy to hook up with other players, who you see bouncing around in safe zones in your world.
Playing the game, the mechanics are nicely unique, if a little similar to Ghost Recon. The Clancy DNA runs through the game, from the interface to cover mechanics. Where it differs is in hit boxes and damage counters on your enemies. Enemies rarely die with one hit. Instead, they soak up a fair amount of damage, indicated by damage counters above their head. While this may put off certain people, I found it gave The Division a unique look and feel. The setting allows you to take sticky cover with the A button, vault up almost any surface with B and hold A to Roadie Run between cover, like Gears Of War. With the setting, this can lead to you vaulting and running along the roofs of abandoned vehicles as you gun and try to flank the reasonably clever AI.
The RPG elements of the game are clear from the beginning. You see a number of slots on your character for enhancement. From the armour to the weapons themselves. All these slots can only mean one thing, loot. The game is teeming with loot. Enemies drop it and it is highlighted with a glowing pillar of light. After you clear an area, it is worth taking a moment to equip the latest gear and sort your inventory before going to a safe zone where you can sell the junk, or dismantle it for crafting material. The amount found in the first few hours of the game suggests a Destiny level of unique loot. This is the game that will be the main competition and it is here where the strong single player aspects may make The Division replace Destiny.
When you get to your first base, you are presented with a number of upgrade options. In this game skill upgrades don’t come from XP gains, instead, they come from expanding your base. You still need to level up, however, this is only for gear and weapons. The perks and skills come from expanding various wings of your HQ by doing missions along that path. There are Tech, Medic and security wings and completing the missions on these paths leads to the perks. The upgrades to your home base are only visible by you adding to the single player feel of the main campaign.
The multiplayer can also be a singular experience. As reported on many sites, the world of the Division seems to be self-policing, people at this stage are going into the dark zone, (which is the term given to the multiplayer arena) and working together. When you turn against other players, you are deemed to have gone rogue and a symbol is placed on you. This leads to other players on the map targeting you to try and take you down. As the AI in the dark zone is tough, people are seeing it as a common enemy and frowning upon agents only out for themselves. This may change over time but at the moment, there is a good sense of community. Here you can be the lone wolf of justice, going in as a single player to hunt down rogue agents. However, this is a fluid mode at the moment with server issues.
So at the moment, The Division is an interesting and promising title. How Ubisoft handle it from here will determine where we go. At the moment jump in and enjoy the party.