The Division Review

You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villian

The Verdict

The Division is a fantastic game that has presented its core ideas and mechanics extremely well. When comparing the game to Destiny, which might seem somewhat unfair, it's still clear that Massive certainly borrowed some mechanics that made that game so wildly popular. It's the grind; The promise of ever better loot; The potential to kill a boss and see that orange glow from a distance, that's the stuff that makes The Division worthy of time investment. The gameplay loop is fascinating, even if somewhat repetitive.

The story is certainly interesting enough, especially if you dive into all the collectibles that give some background on the outbreak, but I wouldn't call it award-worthy. 

The addition of the Dark Zone, which entices so many of us to explore with caution, and others with bloodlust, is as fascinating as it is dangerous.

Whether or not Massive's release schedule of content drops pays out in the end is certainly up in the air, but we're only a little two weeks since the game's been released, and there are already players who have felt the fatigue, even ever so slightly.

However, as with other multiplayer focused games, or shared world shooters as they've been coined, the gameplay experience is always changing and always evolving. The game already saw a drastic change with the latest patch, encouraging players to act differently in the Dark Zone. The next patch could also completely change how we approach daily missions, or perhaps adding more variety with weekly missions. It's tough to judge a game like this now, when in a month, a lot of what was wrong or flat out didn't work, might be completely altered or fixed.

Even as it is now, I don't see myself quitting anytime soon. My insatiable hunger for loot games has made The Division a new favorite of mine, and I highly encourage those who share my appetite for loot-based games to give it a shot. And hey, if by chance you are done with Destiny, The Division might just satisfy that similar gameplay loop.

The Positives

  • Let's start off with Manhattan, your sprawling playground that's purportedly a near 1:1 recreation of the real thing. While it's certainly not the biggest map I've seen in a game like this, not even by a long shot, the attention to detail is what really sells it as an actual location. The argument can be made that the map can get repetitive, taking place in a single, realistic location over the course of the entire game, but Massive's dedication to recreating Manhattan set during an apocalyptic viral breakout certainly paid off, and is wonderful to explore, even 50 hours in.

  • The gunplay is strong. While it takes time getting used to, especially if you're used to something tight like Destiny or Call of Duty, it does end up feeling rewarding once you get used to how each different weapon class acts. LMGs require a whole lot of stability control with your right stick, Marksman rifles have a nice kick to them after each shot, SMGs have some beautiful burst damage but require you to be in medium range, while Shotguns are explosively damaging up close.

  • Customization is downright insane. Outside of wanting to run dailies with multiple characters, there seems to be very little need to create a second character, since you can, at any point, switch any skill and gun on the fly. There are no limits on classes, because those don't really exist. There are builds, sure, such as going pure offense with DPS, or defense as a tank, or perhaps a support medic as a healer, you're never locked in to a specific build, and can freely switch even mid mission.

  • Co-op play is not only more fun, it's just flat out encouraged. While the game certainly scales accordingly for solo players, the game seems to be designed around playing with others, and thankfully Massive made it easy for those that might not have convinced their friends to buy it, with a fully functioning Matchmaking system, that works incredibly well.

  • As is typical Ubisoft fare, the map will eventually be littered with side quests, encounters, and collectibles to pick up. The reason I'm putting this here is because I'm happy that there was a whole lot of content available outside of the standard story missions. even when I was done with the main campaign, I still had a lot to do.

  • The level scaling of missions is a nice touch, and ensures you're never flat out steamrolling through encounters. As you level up, the enemies around you do too. While easier zones will still have enemies that are a few levels below you, by the time you're level 30, you're still getting a good amount of challenge no matter if you're back in Chelsea (the start of the game) or Murray Hill.

  • The Dark Zone teeters on both positive and negative, but lets start with what it does well. There is always a certain tension, since you're never really sure if the agent you just came across will continue running, or paint a target on your back as soon as you turn around. That goes doubly so after the latest update which made going Rogue more lucrative, with less severe punishments. Even with a full squad, that sense of dread is always present.

  • The constant sense of insecurity goes even higher when that orange item (High End) finally drops, and you're itching to wear it, but you know you first have to successfully extract, all while trying to survive the NPC onslaught, and possible Rogue players that might take a chance at killing you while you're either on your way to extraction, or currently extracting. It's wonderful just how terrifying it is.

  • The in-game currency system is actually pretty well done, even though it was quite daunting at first. Outside of your standard Division Bucks, you also earn Dark Zone Credits while inside the titular area, that you spend on powerful gear that can only be worn once you're an appropriate DZ Level. Then there are Phoenix Credits, which drop from named bosses and are rewards for completing dailies. The latter currency is worthwhile since it allows you to outright buy High End gear or blueprints, giving you the slight edge over the game's RNG.

The Negatives

  • As polished as the environment and the core mechanics of the game are, the game suffers from a ton of bugs. Whether they're graphical glitches where the environment turns black when examining your inventory, falling through the geometry when rolling, or being rolled into, enemies not losing health when dumping in entire magazines into them, character models getting stuck in certain animations, DPS and other stats not displaying properly, being teleported to a location you didn't choose, the sound cutting out entirely, and many other annoyances, they can certainly wear on your over time.

  • The voice acting is hit or miss, which doesn't bother me all that much, but it's the characters themselves that seem so out of place in such a "realistic" setting. You have the oddly nice dispatcher who promises you a peanut butter and jelly sandwich after you risk your life trying to reconnect an uplink, or you have the crazy reality show host that constantly asks you to kill various mini-bosses around the map. These characters feel like they've been ripped out of Borderlands or Dead Rising, and just feel completely out of place in a setting like this.

  • While I have gotten two High End drops in the Dark Zone thus far over my 60 hour playtime, the rest of the loot there seems highly inconsequential, to the point where I don't even pick it up if it's not a significant upgrade. Sure, it's not like they can hand out amazing gear one after another, but when you open a Dark Zone chest that you've spent hours grinding Dark Zone levels for, only to be greeted with a Blue or Purple that's significantly worse than what you were able to outright buy from the vendors, that's a problem.

  • The end game is still lacking. Sure, you can re-run missions on Hard or Challening for Daily quests to earn rewards, but after days of doing that, it can certainly wear on you. The Dark Zone is a fun and worthy time investment, but even the PvPvE environment can get stale after you've run through the same areas repeatedly.

  • While the future looks bright, I'm not exactly sure if a single Incursion release at a time will hold everyone's attention for an entire month. Granted this is speculation, but it's something we can currently infer from what's already on offer.

The Division took our breath away when we first gazed upon its gorgeous Snowdrop engine back in 2013. The game has gone through so many ups and downs regarding its release date, that by the time 2015 rolled along, I was so resigned from the game ever surfacing, that I thought I wouldn't even lament the game's cancelation.

Luckily, things didn't end up going south for Massive and Ubisoft, as the game did finally make its debut on March 8th, and since then, has been providing us, and a massive amount of players a great amount of content to sink our teeth into.

Comparisons with Activision's gigantic Destiny were inevitable, as both have very similar end goals in terms of repeating missions on harder difficulties, and embarking on the never ending quest to always find better gear. And yet, The Division manages to shake things up a bit with an interesting endgame scenario, that may or may not be for everyone, but its certainly one of the more engaging multiplayer implementations that I've seen in a shooter, possibly ever.

But even though The Division is certainly a fantastic experience, it's not without shortcomings and missteps along the way. While I can't say that I regret any of the 60+ hours I've already poured into the game, I will say that there have been a handful of frustrating ones due to bugs and glitches, and some odd design choices.

Let's take a look at what separates The Division from other third-person open world shooters, and why it's worth your time.