Tom Clancy’s The Division: The Kotaku Review

Tom Clancy’s The Division: The Kotaku Review

Tom Clancy’s The Division is exciting enough that I don’t mind how dull it can sometimes be. It’s fun enough that I can usually live with spending most of my time shooting virtual poor people. It’s well enough made that I don’t mind how clumsy and unbalanced it often is.

The Division is a shared-world, always online third-person shooter. It carries the “Tom Clancy’s” imprimatur and all that that implies: Real-world setting, vaguely plausible narrative conceit, techno-feteshistic focus on guns and gear, polished mechanics, crummy politics. It’s also a tentpole open-world game published by Ubisoft, and all that that implies: Vast open map covered in icons, progressive levelling and crafting system, silly amount of collectables, unusual competitive multiplayer, characters who dress like the coolest dudes your dad could imagine.

This time around you navigate the streets of an abandoned Manhattan, streets which have been painstakingly rendered down to the most subtly sodden garbage bag. You’ll crouch behind cover, try to aim for the head, throw grenades, that kind of thing. You can team up or play solo, and will spend most of your time killing enemies and bosses while collecting random loot a la Destiny or Diablo.

Here in mid-March of 2016, The Division is one thing. Yet even now, it is different from what it was a week ago, and the week before that. Just today, a substantial new patch changed a lot of things. It will likely go through several more revisions by the end of the month, and again in the height of the summer, and again as autumn leaves start to fall. I have a good handle on what The Division currently is, even if part of that requires embracing my uncertainty about what it might be in the future.

I’ve enjoyed the fifty-odd hours I’ve spent with The Division. I’ve gradually leveled my character to the cap of 30 and begun to grind my way through the flawed but interesting “endgame” that takes place after the level cap. I’ve laughed at its sillier moments and groaned at its tougher missions, leaned into mindless farming exploits and greatly enjoyed following the granular debates and heated critiques of its already passionate fan base. I’ve explored its fascinating, frequently exhilarating Dark Zone, forming tenuous alliances with other players in pursuit of gear and glory. Any time I start playing I find myself losing hours to the pleasant repetition of grind and exploration; surely a promising sign.

In The Division, the city of New York has been evacuated in the aftermath of a deadly biological attack. Some nefarious individual or organisation infected a bunch of paper money with a genetically engineered version of the smallpox virus and fed those bills into circulation just in time for Black Friday. The resulting pandemic killed all but a small, immune percentage of the populace. It’s not quite the apocalypse, but based on what I overheard on some in-game radio stations, other cities have been equally affected. We’re not post-apocalypse, but we may be in the midst of one.

In the wake of the attack and the looming end times, the President has declared martial law and called in a secret government organisation called the Strategic Homeland Division — The Division of the game’s title — which activated sleeper agents tucked all around the country. You’re one of a second wave of Division agents sent to New York to clean up the streets, protect survivors and find out what happened to the first wave that preceded you.

Upon arrival, you set about exploring the game’s open world, unlocking safe houses, clearing side missions and stopping the various factions of crazies and crooks who vie for control over the remains of New York. You quickly establish a Base of Operations on Pennsylvania Plaza, and most of your early missions involve securing the technology and personnel needed to upgrade your base and, in so doing, unlock new abilities and perks for your agent.

The game’s developers at Ubisoft Massive have done a great job recreating The Empire City. The map is apparently a 1:1 recreation of midtown Manhattan, and its scope is often staggering. I’ve never seen anything quite like what this game conjures at its best: the empty streets and great yawning concrete canyons, the alleyways and apartment buildings and parking garages, abandoned but for the lingering, snow-dusted wreckage of a catastrophic event. The wall-art alone deserves accolades:

The enveloping real-world setting is one of The Division‘s greatest strengths, but it is also at the heart of the game’s greatest weakness. Most games of this type spin stories in far away lands of fantasy and magic, where spaceships and spells whiz through the air. Anything seems possible. Due to constraints that I must assume come part and parcel with the Tom Clancy’s brand, The Division operates within much more restrictive, real-world parameters.

The Division frequently invokes real-world issues that it lacks either the chops or willingness to handle, and never seems quite able to resolve its various internal conflicts. You’re a government agent operating on behalf of a real-world government, in a real-world city during a plausible real-world disaster. Because of that, the people you’re fighting are also based on real types of people, and that’s where The Division stumbles.

The first enemies you fight make up a faction known only as “rioters,” and appear to be civilians in hoodies using piddly firearms and baseball bats. The second faction is known as “The Cleaners” and is made up of a group of crazed city sanitation workers (!) who have decided to whip out their flamethrowers (!!) and purify the city of all survivors, thereby wiping out the plague. The third faction is called “The Rikers” and is an organised gang of men and women who escaped Rikers Island correctional facility and began sadistically killing everyone in their path.

To recap: the first three of the four total factions you fight in The Division consist of A) desperate and poorly-armed civilian looters, B) garbage men so moved by their pre-outbreak jobs that they have begun murdering innocent civilians and C) escaped Rikers inmates who have decided to unite in a murderous grab for power.

The real story of the prison on Rikers Island is as horrifying as anything conjured by The Division, but it is the men and women presiding over the facility who might just as easily be cast as villains. Over the course of the last ten years, Rikers has been exposed as one of the worst places in America. Independent reports from multiple publications have uncovered patterns of systemic abuse, horrifying stories of rape, and the nightmarish mistreatment of mentally ill inmates. Just last summer the New York Times published an editorial labelling the institution “New York’s Guantánamo Bay” and calling for it to be shut down.

The Division is content to leave that almost entirely unexplored, preferring instead to present Rikers inmates as comically insane mad-dog killers who must be stopped at all costs. In the midst of your climactic battle against The Rikers’ leader, a black woman named LaRae Bennett, she calls you an establishment lapdog sent to assassinate her. “Just one more dead black body on the pile, right?” she taunts.

Those words, and the “black bodies” Bennett invokes, must surely be no accident. But despite her evocative language, Bennett and her gang have arranged the preceding level as a bizarre, theatrical slaughterhouse that conjures the Joker and his Arkham goons, not Alicia Garza and Black Lives Matter.

The mission only ends one way: You and your fellow agents kill Bennett and all her followers in the name of law and order. It underlines The Division‘s muddled pastiche of the real and the ridiculous: We’re in the real world, only we’re not. These are real world issues, only they aren’t.

On the flip side, incidental dialogue constantly reminds the player that you’re on the side of good, that the main characters at your home base have personal ties to NYC and care greatly about saving it. They’re New Yorkers who love their city, by gosh! I couldn’t help but ask, aren’t these people we’re shooting New Yorkers, too?

At times The Division hesitantly edges up to actually saying something about the imbalanced conflict at its core. You’ll watch digital reenactments of protesters asserting their rights as overwhelmed law enforcement officers try to control the situation. An in-game radio broadcaster looks askance at the constitutionality of martial law and mocks the Presidential directive that activated The Division in the first place. But most of it amounts to vague hand waving and offers little meaningful exploration of the issues at hand.

I don’t expect a popcorn-y action game like The Division to give me a civics lesson or to double as a polemic. But if a video game is going to inject itself with the cultural and political conflicts of the real world, it would be nice if its writers grappled with those issues with some degree of diligence and sophistication. The Division invokes the issues of the day in order to give itself a sheen of relevance, but in the end is too cowardly to reckon with the moral questions those issues raise. This feckless approach to topical material frequently distracts from the things the game does well.

Eventually I found I could kind of just stop thinking about who I was shooting and focus on the shooting itself. (It’s fun, once you stop giving a shit!) The narrative wrapper fades away and I’m left with a gallery full of targets, no different from Space Invaders or Doom or whatever else. The ease with which mechanics trump morality may be video gaming’s most powerful and subversive quality.

Several years ago Spec Ops: The Line writer Walt Williams convincingly argued that a video game protagonist can only be as righteous as the game’s central mechanic demands. It could be that the characters we play in shooting games like this are fundamentally immoral. Even if that’s the case, The Division is enjoyable enough that I’ve been willing to compromise my morals for more than 50 hours. It’s likely I’ll compromise them for dozens more.

It’s to The Division‘s enormous benefit that the moment-to-moment crouching, aiming, and shooting all work very well. It’s been 10 years since Gears of War first popularised the “third person cover-shooter” as a concept, and The Division has learned much from that game and its predecessors. The controls are responsive and intuitive. Snapping to cover feels satisfying and well tuned, and when you’re under incoming fire, it’s clear where that fire is coming from. The “pop, snap, pop” rhythm of cover-shooting is satisfying, and there is a geometric joy to arranging yourself in formation with three teammates and perfectly suppressing an enemy onslaught.

The user interface is initially overwhelming but soon reveals itself to be a brilliant complement to all the shooting and the crouching and the popping. There’s no pause menu; every menu and interface object exists as an augmented reality hologram within the game-world. Your agent is equipped with a high-tech watch and shoulder bag that project a detailed HUD onto the spaces and people around you.

One of your assignable abilities is a radar “pulse” that sends out a wave-like ping and highlights enemies near you. Foes are outlined in red, cover is indicated with button prompts, numbers fly off of your targets as you hit them, and the splash of a grenade douses the area-of-effect in a ring of red. Ubisoft’s Tom Clancy games have long postulated that this is how the soldiers of the future will view their battlefields: more like a colourful video game and less like stone, steel and blood. It’s fascinating, a little bit disconcerting, and immaculately realised — a video game recreating the video-game future of real-world warfare.

While on the surface The Division‘s cover-shooting looks more or less like the cover shooting in many other video games, it’s the tiny bits of tuning and attention to detail that makes it all work so well. Take the cover transition system. When you’re crouching behind cover, you can aim your camera at any other piece of cover, then hold down the A button to transfer from one place to another.

As you hustle from spot to spot, a small orange ring encircles the button prompt, indicating to you how far you are on your roadie-run from one point to the other. If you let up on the A button mid-run, you’ll pull up short and regain control. It works exceptionally well and is almost certainly the result of countless revisions. That level of mechanical polish permeates The Division‘s gunplay.

Levels are smartly designed to allow space for one to four players to tactically engage a larger enemy force; most areas have both elevated and lowered positions as well as plenty of room for flanking. But while the areas themselves are well-designed, the enemies that occupy those spaces leave something to be desired.

There are the usual shotgun guys, flamethrower guys, LMG guys, sniper guys (who are also sometimes sniper ladies), and so on. They’re often arrayed on the battlefield in sensible ways, particularly as you go up against the game’s difficult final faction. Snipers force you into heavy cover while ground troops mercilessly heave grenades and suppress your position, forcing supportive, defensive play.

Unfortunately, The Division lacks for ideas when it comes to increasing the challenge those enemies pose. On higher difficulty settings you’ll go up against larger enemy forces who use more aggressive tactics, but that’s not really where the challenge comes from. Instead, enemies have simply become much harder to kill. They’re able to absorb increasingly ridiculous amounts of damage while doing increased damage themselves.

This somewhat undermines the game’s promise of tactical action, and high-level encounters frequently devolve into surreal, degenerate gunfights as teams hose enemy after enemy with hundreds of bullets.

When I play stat-driven, replayable games like this, I often picture a series of knobs governing the numbers that drive the action. There’s a knob for how much damage I do, a knob for how much damage enemies do, a knob for how many enemies there are, and so on. The Division‘s knobs aren’t quite in the right place yet, though they certainly could get there. Whether I was playing as a level three scrub tackling the second story mission or a level 30 badass mopping up my seventh time through the hardest challenge mode, only rarely did the knobs feel perfectly dialed to a satisfying setting. The sweetest spot comes somewhere between level 15 and level 28 or so, but even then some enemies were far too hard to kill while others were far too easy.

If you solo a level-appropriate mission, you’ll almost invariably end up taking on a ridiculous bullet-sponge boss who slowly follows you around the room while you tirelessly pick away at his health. But if you team up with others for the same mission, you’ll blast through it in mere minutes. In fact, all four players will usually run up to the boss and hose him down like Ghostbusters would a Class Five Full-Roaming Vapour. (The best balance probably involves tackling missions with a single teammate, but the game generally defaults to teams of four.)

Replaying missions on their middle “hard” setting is no different. If your teammates have spent any time accumulating high-end gear, hard-mode missions are laughably easy. The game’s many systems break down as players ignore cover and tactics, railroading even the toughest bosses with their mighty submachine guns.

The third and most difficult “challenge” setting has the opposite problem: it replaces every enemy in each mission with elite foes who have ridiculous amounts of health and unbelievably powerful guns. While these levels can be appropriately punishing even for high-level players, the knobs have been spun so hard to the right that the game begins to buckle under the strain. Most encounters devolve into a goofy clown show as nearly invincible enemies brainlessly march on your position, absorbing clip after clip after clip and forcing your team to exploit conservative strategies and cheap bottlenecks in order to win.

An ideal version of a difficult fight in a tactical cover-shooter like this involves players making full and complementary use of their various abilities in order to beat a wily opposing force. One player advances with a riot shield to draw the enemy forces out, two others stack up an ambush behind their mobile cover, and a sniper sets up in the back; that sort of thing. What I see in The Division, more often than not, are a bunch of players sporting the same abilities (radar, reinforced cover, health kits) and the same weapons (assault rifle/submachine gun, marksman rifle) and utilising the same tactics (take cover near the room entrance and hose down every enemy as it charges).

Thing is, those tactics work. Given how absurdly punishing challenge missions are, it’s hard to imagine why anyone would try to get more creative. You can learn a lot about a game like this by jacking up the difficulty and seeing if it cracks under the strain, and it’s disappointing that The Division ends up with so many evident fractures.

If you’re plunging into the endgame you have one more thing to occupy your time: You can return to the Dark Zone, fully plumbing the depths of its highest levels and most intense challenges. The Dark Zone is where The Division becomes more than just a well-designed shooter with a passably intriguing loot grind. This is where things get really interesting.

The Dark Zone is a hybrid of the regular game in which you fight computer-controlled enemies (PvE) and competitive gaming in which you fight other players (PvP). It’s available to explore at any point in the game, but it’s designed primarily for players who have reached level 30 and want a real challenge.

In The Division‘s fiction, the Dark Zone is a walled-off part of the city near the Empire State Building and Bryant Park that is even more lawless than the surrounding map. Here, you’ll finally see other players running around in the world. You can even shoot them.

The Dark Zone combines the violent “shall I trust this stranger” maneuverings of PC games like DayZ and Rust with the risks and rewards of Dark Souls for something that stands apart from your average console game. In addition to other players, you’ll find tough-as-nails, high-level enemies who drop really good guns and other loot. If you take down a Dark Zone boss and grab his loot, you don’t get to keep it right away. Your agent puts it in a special yellow fanny pack and carries it to a designated extraction zone, where you can call in a helicopter to secure it for you to use in the future.

This is where the PvP part of the Dark Zone comes in: If you attack and kill another player you see toting one of those yellow fanny packs, you’ll be able to grab whatever loot they were hoping to extract. The moment you get anything worth keeping in the Dark Zone, you effectively paint a big target on your back. For this reason, it is definitely advisable to bring friends into the Dark Zone — you’re much less likely to be attacked if you have backup.

My experiences in the Dark Zone so far have ranged from harrowing and frustrating to fascinating and exhilarating. I’ll sometimes come upon pairs of other players who will kill me just for sport, particularly when I’m playing solo. Other times I’ve fought alongside strangers and we’ve each helped one another achieve our goals. One memorable evening I waved at a stranger who then sent me a group invite; we spent the rest of the night merrily adventuring in the Dark Zone and later added one another to our friends lists. (Hi, BobLoblaw!) Few bonds are stronger than those formed with the guy who watched your back while you extracted some sweet armour.

The Dark Zone has its own economy of XP and currency — you have a separate Dark Zone level and a separate bank of funds that you can only use at Dark Zone vendors. It’s also a good place to earn the high level loot and currencies that become a player’s primary motivation after reaching the level cap. As with the rest of The Division, the knobs on the Dark Zone rewards aren’t quite dialed in yet, though a series of planned patches seems like it could go some ways toward fixing that.

Whatever its current state, the Dark Zone is easily The Division‘s best and most interesting idea, and the place where the most compelling and human stories come to pass. It’s well designed for creative teamwork and equally well designed for creative antagonism, and I hope to see Ubisoft Massive iterating upon and improving it over the months to come.

The Division will soon get its first of several Incursions, as well, which should further expand its endgame. Incursions are billed as raid-like high-level missions that will test even the toughest players. One can hope that those missions won’t simply sharpie another couple of notches onto the game’s HP and damage knobs before twisting them yet further, but rather will include the sorts of positional challenges (Reprogram those turrets! Look out for that helicopter! Figure out how to hack this server!) that briefly appear in some of the current game’s later missions. Without a more thoughtful collection of high-level cooperative challenges to accompany the merry mayhem of the Dark Zone, my interest in The Division will wane.

Unlike so many big-budget action games, The Division is persistent. This game isn’t going anywhere, and your character and your progress are yours to keep. The hours you put into it won’t be undone once you complete the game, and each weapon you unlock will be yours through expansions and hopefully even sequels. It’s is one of the game’s most appealing aspects.

That persistence is inextricably tied to my enjoyment of the game, as well as to my conception of its future. After all, what good is persistent progress if the game itself doesn’t last? While The Division may be built to last, when I look to its imagined future, I feel constrained by the name of the author attached.

This is Clancy’s world, a place where the good guys are ultimately righteous and the bad guys are ultimately just terrorists, where an H&K UMP 45 can use an extended clip and a silencer, where everyone maintains trigger finger discipline and the wildest outfit you can wear involves a turquoise scarf matched with a purple jacket. Clancy’s world is meticulous and consistent, but it isn’t particularly imaginative.

The future of The Division will almost certainly be limited by what is possible in this kind of a world. Perhaps we will combat a biological attack in some other real-world location. Doubtless we will get yet more semi-realistic weaponry, or fight terrorists who wear slightly different shades of ski mask. But we won’t be fighting unnatural, unpredictable enemies anytime soon. We won’t take on shambling zombies or towering beasts. We won’t be getting space weaponry or teleportation skills or the ability to leap tall buildings. We’ll just keep getting slightly better muzzle suppressors and quicker quick-eject mags and stronger body armour.

It’s a shame that such a promising, soundly designed game could feel so unchangeably limited out of the gate. The Division‘s mechanical underpinnings are sturdy enough to make me forget how much of a bummer its story can be; its shooting and looting are slick enough to make me wonder if it still might evolve into something more inspired.

It’s enough for now, I suppose. I’ll certainly be playing for many hours to come. But if you asked a group of Division players to imagine a sillier, wilder version of the game, their suggestions would doubtless pour out amid a cascade of grins and chuckles. Put a Cloverfield monster in Central Park! Have a mad scientist mind-control a bunch of Division agents! Make us fight an infestation of sewer crocs underneath Queens! Bring the Bullet King back from the dead on a quest for revenge!

Given how effortlessly our imaginations float beyond the stern ramparts of Mr. Clancy’s literary world, it’s hard not to wish this finely honed contraption could be granted the lightness of spirit it needs to truly thrive. Given how expertly much of The Division has been assembled, it’s hard not to hope that such a wonder might still come to pass.


  • Cool game, 8/10. Not as good as destiny but not bad. I think it’s a pretty massive oversight for them not to include a way to inspect other players gear though. Isn’t loot whoring the point?

    • wha what? Not as good as destiny? Are you comparing The Division with Destiny TKK or vanilla Destiny?

      The Division wins the vanilla Destiny but not quite on par with TKK yet.

      • Exactly what I was thinking. It’s incredibly unfair to compare a game with a year under it’s belt release wise against a vanilla game.

      • @roguexa I’d argue it’s not as good as vanilla Destiny either. It’s something i’ve been saying in the comment sections before this review was posted as well that the Tom Clancy name and setting really hold this game’s potential back.

        And the gameplay itself is way less finely tuned than Destiny. So many unnecessary or unfair deaths due to bugs, lag, and input delay. Content wise, maaaaybe there’s more than Destiny? But it isn’t by much and I certainly feel more frustration coming on quicker with redoing the same content.

        Even after all the times Destiny has let me down and broken my heart, I still feel more hope and excitement for its future than I do with The Division. Even after a year and a half, I still feel like Destiny’s got more on the horizon, whether that’s expansions or sequels. But I feel like, through gameplay and setting decisions, that i’ve already seen most of what The Division as an IP can offer.

    • sorry but hugely disagree with “not as good as destiny” .. there is very little difference (in destiny) in terms of character spec.. no healing, no legit tanks.. the amount of character customization is huge in division. i just wish they had the ability to save a spec and jump between like WoW.

      The division has the backbone to make an incredible game. Destiny is pretty shallow in terms of mechanics – you can run endgame content without a care in the world of changing spec. division you actually have to consider those things, have different load outs etc to make the team work.

      • Opinions are like assholes right?!?

        But I think that destiny’s setting was a bit more fun and varied.. giant tanks, big monsters. I think that the overal “feel” of the gunplay was more satisfying as well.

        Plus boost jumps.

        • Based on what your opinion is, Destiny is better because they have giant tanks, big monsters and the “feel” of the gunplay and boost jumps makes it better.


          • Division 8/10
            Destiny 9/10

            Both excellent games well worth playing. I just think that Destinies end game content was a bit more fleshed out at launch. Maybe after a few patches I’ll bump that 8 to a 9?

            Regardless, I’m thoroughly enjoying the division and would recommend it to any fan of the genre.

  • Same problems as Destiny but bogged down in standard Ubisoft open world filler junk. One weeks worth of content and nothing else to do except repeat what you’ve already done against enemies with increased HP.

    I like the game, and at 50 hours played I definitely got my moneys worth, but theres no reason to continue playing.

    • I’m only doing dailies to rack up phoenix credit while waiting for incursion for the set items. I think I’m pretty decent now with 191k dps and 60k hp.

      • Wait, what? Isn’t there a lvl 30 cap? I’m only at lvl 13 so far but I don’t see how you can 191k dps and 60k hp unless you’re literally rolling through the Big Apple in a tank. I’m probably missing something here so could you please elaborate?

        • haha yeah once you hit level 30, things get real serious with the proper weapon talent and weapon mods + major attribute in your equipment.

          I’m sitting on 2.8k firearms, 2k stamina and 1k skill.

          I have my armors having critical hit chance and critical hit damage as possible. my glove have 3 major attribute of critical hit damage, critical hit chance and + SMG damage.

          Having SMG as the main weapon, it is crucial to have the high end magazine for increased magazine size + critical hit damage / rate of fire for a HUGE burst for DPS increase.

          I’m not even considered high. People are hitting 250-300k DPS with max rolled items and perfect talent.

          • Frikin’ Summit has 250k + on his Vector roll, same build as you.
            Here I am hopelessly inbetween what role I wanna do and am coming off half baked :#
            Time to go back to Electronics & Stamina!

          • If you have Caduceus, you can do the trinity build. 2k 2k 2k which makes your skills 0 cooldown using caduceus headshot reduce cooldown talent, roughly 10-20 headshots will make it enough to go 0 after the internal cooldown.

          • Yeah. That’s what I’ve been on the hunt for. Seems as though this is the new Icebreaker/Gjallarhorn however 🙂 .

          • Na caduceus is a normal zone drop. I did bullet king for 30 minutes and got one. Not to mention they increased the the loot drop for named enemies so getting one should be easier now. Just spam that Lexington Event Centre on Challenging mode and you will get it soon.

          • Yeah, I had farmed him for an hour and had no HE drops at all. Swings and roundabouts. I’ll get it one day, but I’m not gonna keep my hopes up each time I run the Challenges 😛

        • Weapon Mods and Gear Stats dude. They’re all on the gear that you get, not on the character itself.

  • Aspects of The Division are better than Destiny and vice versa, however not the case if we compare vanilla launch vs vanilla launch. I’m sitting at 90+ hours played. I play with multiple people around the world. The Cover-to-Cover based shooting is amazing. The talents & abilities you can get can stack very nicely in an incredible way. Team synergy is very fun.

    It’s a Diablo-esque loot grind at endgame where if you’re inclined you can keep hunting and/or crafting for that perfect roll with good stats. Yes however as with a vanilla launch that is all there is, currently. The Darkzone (compared to Destiny) is a PvPvE “Iron Banner”. I like this, others don’t.

    There is a lot of stuff that Massive have planned for the game, just like Bungie had planned with Destiny. Give it a year so they can release all the content on their roadmap, then lets compare again.

    I’ll still log in every other day and play. Apart from today. Patch 1.0.2 kiiiiinda screwed the PC release badly for me. Grats to you if you can get in!

    Anywho, they’ll fix the basics and fundamentals, then they’ll add on. There’s only gonna be awesome things moving forward.

  • Yeh I’ve been hoping for a Cloverfield monster or shambling zombies from about hour 10 on. But hey with mates it’s good fun and there’s not much new out on xbone atm that sates this type of play

  • Eh. I hit 30 and pretty bored now to be honest. Dark Zone is fun for the first couple of hours, but gets old pretty quick.

    How interesting can a game get with only human enemies? It just feels like a 3rd person always online CoD

  • Bit of a love-hate relationship with it. My friends and I have been giving it a fair go, and it’s got plenty of good parts but it’s the little frustrations that turn us away. The other day we encountered a rank 50 player in the DZ (ourselves only being rank 15 at the time) who repeatedly hunted us down, usually simply taking us out with one shot and taking very little damage himself despite being outnumbered.

    As for PvE, my usual comfort environment in any MMO… I love a challenge, big fan of dungeons and raids, but challenge mode is literally just enemies with ridiculous amounts of health who can down you in moments. There’s no point being ‘tactical’ about it, it’s more about exploiting things such as retreating to a point the enemies won’t pursue you to so you can take them out from a relatively safe position. Shieldbearers take an entire fireteam’s concentrated fire for a while to take down, and GRENADIERS… Literally just lob grenades infinitely until you take them out. I know that’s their namesake, but do they have to bring an entire duffle bag full of grenades to every firefight?

    All of these PvE issues force you into the problem I have with a lot of cover-based / health regen shooters: you spend the majority of the game huddled behind cover, taking the occasional pot-shot before returning to cover to wait until your health bar refills. The snipers only force you down for longer periods of time, and the fact that all of the enemies are bonafide bullet-sponges really doesn’t help this at all. Headshots feel really satisfying early on, and a whole lot less satisfying at end-game because scoring consistent headshots is the only way to ensure you are progressing at all. It becomes the norm. And about the most tactical thing I have seen from the game is in the incendiary rounds – using them to keep an elite or named foe burning so that your whole fireteam can whittle their health bar down.

    I want to love the division. My friends would also love to love the division. To me it feels like destiny all over again: I keep coming back to it in little bursts because underneath all of the issues there is a good game here, I just wish it didn’t seem to fight me every time. Having a ‘loot cave’ show in the game was quite ironic!

    TLDR: I love the division, but I hate it so much. :X

    • There’s no point being ‘tactical’ about it, it’s more about exploiting things such as retreating to a point the enemies won’t pursue you to so you can take them out from a relatively safe position. Shieldbearers take an entire fireteam’s concentrated fire for a while to take down, and GRENADIERS… Literally just lob grenades infinitely until you take them out. I know that’s their namesake, but do they have to bring an entire duffle bag full of grenades to every firefight?

      Not sure why you are saying it is not tactical at all. Try running a team with only pulse and heal and see how far you can go in challenge mode. Tank enemies ( with shield icon ) can easily be taken down if you shoot their ammo bag at the backback, they get disabled by the ammo box explosion for 10-20 seconds. Shooting the grenade pouch of leader type / grenadiers will make it explode and they die instantly. Shotgunners can one shot you but if you disable him before he gets too close you take him down real quick. Snipers will swap to handguns when you are too close to them which you can burst them down quickly.

      You need proper skills, proper fight method against the enemies and not just go at them straight on. That’s the difference between a 30 minutes power plant run vs a 2 hour power plant run.

  • The Division represents nearly everything I dislike about the trends in modern gaming:

    1. MP-focused that’s so boring it’s borderline unplayable for single players.
    2. Repetitive gameplay.
    3. Padding content.
    4. Squandered narrative potential.
    5. Skinner-box loot-whoring mechanics.
    6. Ludo-narrative dissonance (OK so this isn’t really limited to modern gaming but c’mon it’s 2016, games should be better than this).
    7. Legions of fans who for some reason don’t seem to care about 1. through 6. because it’s “fun”.

    • Oh wow, another person who doesn’t like interacting with others and/or can’t let go of the 90’s.

        • No, not really. The Division does have it’s shortfalls and it’s weaknesses – I don’t ignore those at all. I however still do enjoy it and look forward to what it can be because:

          1. I like a Multiplayer Focused Game that incorporates MMO, RPG and Cover Based Shooting Elements.
          2. The ‘repetitive’ gameplay is in my avenue because I like min/maxing
          3. Massive has been open and honest with it’s roadmap and what they are wanting to do.
          4. The story setting is something that is plausible and entirely realistic.
          5. It’s of a similar ilk to Destiny – a first of it’s kind in the era.

          Your ignorance of the topic and lack of sources to back up your wild points just make you sound silly.

          • 1. That’s your opinion, see 7.
            2. That’s your opinion, see 7.
            3. Doesn’t change the fact that it’s using Ubisoft’s patented Map ‘o’ IconsTM padding content.
            4. As mentioned in the article, it does nothing with the “plausible and realistic” setting. Thus, squandered potential.
            5. It may the first of it’s exact kind, but it uses the same Skinner Box-type manipulation as Destiny and most mobile games. Not novel in the slightest.

            I don’t need sources to back up things that either opinions, widely-acknowledged truths or is stuff mentioned in the article we’re commenting on.

          • All of your points are based on opinion as well. Congratulations, you’re a meathead.

            How the hell does it do nothing with the setting? Have you even experienced it?

            Mate for all your points you just sound like you’re on the Anti-anything with Ubisoft train. Again to use your own point – That’s your opinion, see 7. Reverse ‘Legions of Fans’ with trolls that are extremely butt-hurt and that’s essentially you.

            Cause y’know, god forbid people actually find a game from Massive that is fun. Oh the horror!

          • No, only two of my points were truly opinions. The rest were observable facts or widely-acknowledged faults.

            How the hell does it do nothing with the setting?

            From this very article:

            But most of it amounts to vague hand waving and offers little meaningful exploration of the issues at hand.

            And I’m not anti-Ubisoft. When they fire their games are great. But surely even you must be getting sick of clearing a map full of icons for no real reason. After Watch Dogs and a million AC games it’s getting pretty old.

            As I mention below I don’t mind when games are fun. I just hate when people confuse fun with good, or when devs assume that a game has to be fun for it to have any worth at all. Many of the greatest games of all time weren’t fun, often great because they aren’t fun.

          • More like 5 of your points were opinion.

            1. MP-focused that’s so boring it’s borderline unplayable for single players. [in your opinion]
            2. Repetitive gameplay. [in your opinion]
            3. Padding content. [in your opinion]
            4. Squandered narrative potential. [in your opinion]
            5. Skinner-box loot-whoring mechanics. [fair, but that’s this type of game. See Destiny, Diablo 3, Borderlands, et al]
            6. Ludo-narrative dissonance (OK so this isn’t really limited to modern gaming but c’mon it’s 2016, games should be better than this). [in your opinion. Bonus points for using a buzzword to sound smarter. You should go work for Polygon]

            This is all coming from someone that 100% acknowledges the fact the game has flaws in its current state.

          • I don’t use ludo-narrative dissonance to sound smarter. I use it because it is a very real concept, exemplified to a T by The Division. As this article quotes:

            a video game protagonist can only be as righteous as the game’s central mechanic demands

            The game tries to tell you that you’re a hero, but then constantly forces you to shoot other survivors with no real justification. That, my friend, is textbook ludo-narrative dissonance.

        • haha welcome! I get your gripes. The Division is one of those games people either love or hate. Kinda like the witness? ie it’s an extremely cool concept but it’s easy to see that some people would think that their just isn’t that much substance to it. I think later on they are going to need some sort of DLC or expansion to get some different enemy types ,etc.

    • You missed one more,

      8. Legion of haters and whiners for some reason prefer to go against every gaming trend because their opinion matters and their choice to not buy the game managed to stop a successful game to be not successful (not)

      That would be you.

      • You forgot no 8.5;

        *and rather than simply not engage with the game they’re not interested in, spend the next 18 months commenting on every article about a game they supposedly don’t care about. Presumably because they’re unable to understand that people enjoy different things to them because of how clearly superior they are. Also it’s very important that everyone knows how superior they are.

        You know, like an even less interesting wine snob.

        • I don’t mind people playing games I don’t like. Of course we can’t all have the same tastes, or games so generic they cater to everyone. What I’m rallying against is the fact that all games are heading towards this style of game. MTs are infiltrating full-price games. MP modes are being shoe-horned into every franchise (taking away precious resources from the SP mode). Genuinely rewarding gameplay styles aren’t being explored since Skinner-boxing is so easy and effective. And the persistent philosophy that games have to be “fun” or they’re worthless. Which IMO is the single greatest obstacle to gaming growing as a medium.

          • Hi rammol,

            These are actually all valid points you make, I too detest a lot of things about many modern games. Microtransactions sit at the top of that list for me but I protest them in my own way by not buying them. Ever. Pre-order bonuses are a whole article in and of themselves. Ugh.

            I think the main thing is when I see an article about a game I’m not interested in I just kind of keep scrolling…

            Case in point there are a seemingly endless number of MOBA type games on the near horizon, I have absolutely zero interest in them, I find them dull beyond all imagination, so I scroll past the story\article\announcement\esports thing and let people who do enjoy those games enjoy them without trying to make them feel bad about it. Ditto Survival games. I’m not quite sure what I would gain from going to an article to make a snarky remark about something that doesn’t interest me?

            Personally there are enough really interesting games being made on the periphery of the mainstream to satiate the desires you express here, it’s the same in cinema. If you only go and watch the latest slickly produced, merchandised to the gills, gorgeous looking, probably rather good fun, yet instantly forgettable Marvel affair you would despair the state of cinema. However there are still a lot of wonderful gems to be found with only a minimum of effort.

            I guess my comment was a reaction to the type of discussions on gaming sites where people just comment specifically to try and make others feel bad\make themselves feel superior. You see it ALL the time on Destiny articles, there’s always some snarky comment, but you know what? People have fun with destiny, they enjoy it, and it’s not up to us to decide whether or not they should.

            At any rate, I just hope we don’t see 12 months of people coming to division articles just to say “OMG people still play the division?”


          • Thanks for some more reasonable arguments than you sometimes get here.

            Again I want to reiterate that it’s not this game in particular that I dislike, it’s the trends it represents. It’s all well and good to say I should just scroll on when I see a game I don’t like, but a greater percentage of games are following these trends every day. I agree that there are still interesting games being made on the periphery, but these games are increasingly getting relegated to low budget, indie-type studios. And no offence to those guys but nothing beats a polished AAA experience. The way I see it, it’s only a matter of time before they stop selling AAA games that push the boundaries, instead belting out the same gameplay experience again and again.

            I want the Bioshock’s, the Metal Gear’s and The Last of Us’s to be the trends we’re working toward, not the AC: Unity’s and Candy Crush’s. I appreciate that opinions of these games are subjective but at least they were moving gaming forward. The only thing that The Division has really pioneered is the joining of age-old TPS gameplay with an MMO-style world (in the same way that Destiny “pioneered” the same thing with FPSs). It’s a slight novelty but not really progress.

            TL;DR It’s well and good to say “if you don’t like, move on” but if it’s making other games, the games I like, worse, then I’m definitely entitled to an opinion.

          • No worries man, if nothing else it seems we agree comments can always try and keep a modicum of politeness.

            It’s kind of funny I had another paragraph in my initial reply which I ended up culling (too many format comparisons for one comment), it went something along the lines of –

            It’s interesting, I used to be like this with music. I enjoyed and appreciated my “good” music, music that pushed the boundaries and tried new things, and was utterly disdainful of people who enjoyed their manufactured garbage money grabbing poppy nonsense. Why can’t they see how awful this is? How can people be turning music into this trash?? Why do they not throw that money at something worthwhile???

            Until at some point in my late twenties when I realised I had actually been quite nasty to people for no good reason. The existence of pop music doesn’t preclude me from enjoying my more experimental tastes, nor does it diminish my enjoyment. Artists will continue to create it no matter what is happening in the pop sphere. There aren’t hundreds of major label artists making the music I like but that’s ok. If someone enjoys pop music then it’s actually fine, they appreciate it on a different level and it plays a different role in their lives, there’s a good chance they know a hell of a lot more about a whole range of things I’m completely ignorant of. It’s really interesting that experimental music doesn’t take long to drip feed into the mainstream, only a few years, it will be the same with games. We’ll see these high concept games every now and then from the big companies but they will likely remain in smaller numbers, and again, this is actually ok.

            In the meantime there’ll be all sorts of games for everyone, big and small. Naughty dog will no doubt continue to stun and push big budget narrative forward, Blizzard will output mechanically wonderful super slick blockbusters, auteurs like Jonothan Blow will continue to create master-classes in puzzle game design, Ubisoft will continue to fill maps with an increasingly ludicrous number of icons for us to clear, From Software will continue to make us hate ourselves for loving them so much.

            I guess in the end what i’m asking is for you to realise that when you post a dismissive comment about a game, or more importantly; it’s players, you make someone feel bad for enjoying something that you don’t. Yes you are absolutely entitled to have an opinion about where our artform is heading, I know I most certainly have a lot of them, but do you really gain anything from making the people who read the comment feel bad? This is why I bypass those articles.

            All the best, and enjoy the long weekend whichever games you get you play!


          • You raise some good points and want to stress that I didn’t intend to insult players, nor even The Division itself but rather the trends. Even the three groups you mention are starting to worry me.

            Naughty Dog is consistently brilliant but I can’t help but feel that the constant delays on UC4 would’ve been avoided if they weren’t trying to shoe-horn in a MP mode.

            Never really been a fan of Blizzard except for Diablo but they don’t seem above the trends either. WoW has totally eclipsed the idea of an offline Warcraft sequel, and Overwatch seems to be Blizzard getting in on the MOBA audience.

            Characters like Jonathan Blow are a hope for me but I see these people getting more and more sideline to the indie fringe. Are the days of the AAA with heart and purpose over?

    • MP Focused? You could play the entire game in singple player if you wanted and get everything the MP players could. Might take a little longer, but not much.

      • What I said first up was “so boring it’s borderline unplayable for single players”. I know you can literally play it by yourself, and there’s nothing really locked behind an MP wall, it’s just that it’s widely acknowledged to be a really boring and monotonous game by yourself. I think MP focussed is a fair call.

        • Hmm… have to disagree. I actually found it quite enjoyable personally. I played through probably 85-90% of the single player stuff by myself and really enjoyed it. In fact its probably better to do it on your own, as you are able to pay attention to the story more. I find I get rushed when I play with my mates, and don’t get to explore as much as I would like, especially as a lot of the story is in with the collectible stuff.

          • You’ve not been looking very far then lol there is just no need to do it in a group until end game. Me and my mates (about 5-6 of them) all played it through solo, and I know of plenty of other people who have also. I’m guessing you probably don’t frequent the division forums or reddit, so would not have had that much of an oppurtunity to encounter people like us though

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