Written by: Corey Bonanno, Special to CC2K
In Ubisoft’s Tom Clancy’s: The Division, you play as an American sleeper agent placed on American soil in the case of terrorist attack. New York City has found itself quarantined after the release of multiple dirty bombs in the middle of a dangerous and lawless Manhattan on Black Friday. Profiteers and rogue gangs are looking to establish domain in a broken and advantageous situation.
The beta launches you directly into the open world, where you must build up military base capabilities by growing your own abilities and influence. Taking back the city from thugs and anti-establishment organized militants is a slow burn. The beta begins directly after the opening story beats to bring you headlong into the mess left by the terror attacks.
The Division is subservient to the Destiny structure. It is a loot-based shooter set in the present day with modern weapons and modern enemies. Nothing is fantastical or otherworldly. This is our world and a vision of our possible future. Negotiating the world through cover to cover gameplay as well as basic shooter principles may feel as if it is an old and worn thread, but the presentation and execution may hold an originality and excitement unseen in modern titles.
The Division relies heavily on its heads-up-display, which is projected real-time in game. This is your lifeline. It provides with an almost over-abundance of information, but the design is quickly acclimated and understood. Making your way through the streets of Manhattan, you will cross paths with many situations that fall into a normative view of a city under fire. People in the streets literally tearing at each others packs in hopes of stealing away resources and food to survive. Interacting with these character is limited to aiming your weapon and breaking up the situation. It makes you feel powerful at first, but over time, these encounters quickly feel recycled and lose their narrative weight.
The city is dense and vertical. Vantage points and ambush spots exist. There isn’t much need to utilize the environments outside of player verse player encounters, or raids. The beta launches with an initial raid open to explore. Madison Square Garden has been overrun by a group of talented and violent gang members. The mission is to infiltrate and extract a member of the medical community that is imperative to the growth of your base and skill development.
As you enter the world of The Division, you are immediately introduced to the concept of base building and the importance of freeing individuals necessary to the cause. These individuals allow for base upgrades in different sectors. With each new rescue, a more resourceful and capable piece of your base is advanced. This allows for you to development your abilities as well as help the citizens of the city.
The mission structure is playable in a solo manner, achieving objectives on your own. Matchmaking is available to both raise raid difficulty and the opportunity for rare loot. It pays to play rough. The loot system is nothing new. Kill and improve. Loot comes in the form of armor, weapons, and attachments. Attachments can be used on multiple weapons, allowing for a customization choice to fulfill your needs in the way you play.
The true loot exists in what is known as the Dark Zone: Areas of the map that are not clear of infection. The Dark Zone is lawless. Trust is a currency easily spent when awaiting a helicopter E-vac. This creates a player versus player mentality of complete and utter unease. There is a solid tension to waiting the one minute and thirty seconds for a a chopper to arrive, all the while wondering if someone is planning to kill you to take your earnings for themselves. The loot you grab in the Dark Zone is unusable until taken by chopper and cleansed for personal use. There is no other way to use that amazing gear you grab in the Dark Zone unless it is taken out by helicopter.
Evacuation points become a constant standoff. Everyone is on edge. No one can be trusted. Roaming bands of players group up and circle like vultures. In a moment, an E-vac zone can turn from a tense standoff to a brutal firefight leaving no survivors. To attack another player, is to go rogue. This allows you to steal loot from the people you pacify, but marks you as an enemy. It is risky business, but the rewards can be great.
What stands out to me, is that I find it hard to believe that this situation would truly transpire. That other sleeper agents of the government are so desperate that they will end your life for a new scope to attach to their Mp5.
Sometimes I find the story’s intent is lost in the kill for reward mentality, especially in the Dark Zone. This feels like the largest flaw in The Division’s future, and can truly be understood through playing the game. It is a troll’s paradise, and if you don’t come equipped or with a group of organized friends, you will lose. With the opportunity of matchmaking even for Dark Zone runs, there is always a chance to make bonds and grow as a team.
From what I’ve played in the beta, The Division, could be a realistic and honest try at taking on the Destiny formula of modern online games. There is a ton of promise in the intuitive cover mechanics as well as its simple and ready role-playing structure. With an interesting backdrop in a world rampant with possible threats, The Division tries to take on a serious and predictive tone to a global situation.
New York may be played out, but it is a city globally recognized and relatable. I sure hope that they fix some of the basic issues in repetitive world events, and can control the Dark Zone’s violently unbalanced nature. The Division is on my radar. With another beta open to the public happening later this month, I believe everyone should find out for themselves.
Tom Clancy’s: The Division hits stores March 8th 2016. See you in the Dark Zone, Agent.