- + Unparalleled level of detail in every nook and cranny
- + Cover mechanic works fluidly
- + Looting in order to upgrade and customise to suit your specific playstyle is both rewarding and addictive
- - Information overload to begin takes a while to soak in
Want to look beyond the score? Check out the full review below…
Start Replay: “This Is My City”
Destiny may have my heart when it comes to an addictive online experience, but Ubisoft’s The Division is close to winning it. Whilst a lot of people have been quick to compare this to Bungie’s first-person shooter, both titles reside in the same cone but are two different flavours of ice cream.
The Division takes place during a smallpox pandemic in New York City. Many people have died because of the contagion, which spread through cash transactions made on the busiest shopping period of the year, Black Friday. You get to fill the shoes of an undercover agent who’s sole purpose is to help support the residents of Manhattan and track down the origins of the deadly pathogen.
Whether you aid pedestrians who are in search of food, or take out a local gang patrolling a certain area, the city always feels full of opportunity. Its dynamic weather system also brings a dramatic change to the environment. It might not match the first demo given in 2013, but the minute detail given to every aspect of the game is commendable. Whether it’s a sudden blizzard that sweeps through an area, or the rustle of rats moving into between the garbage piled up in the street, something is always happening to keep your environment lively.
Progression revolves around the completion of activities, whilst you earn XP and increase your character level. Similar to Destiny, gear is colour coded to represent its rarity; white is common, green uncommon, blue rare, purple legendary, and orange is exotic/elite. Items also contribute to your character’s progress. This includes improving a weapon’s accuracy through the addition of a hand grip, or choosing a couple of skills to act as an add-on to your gear. Altogether three different skill trees are available: tech, medical, and security. Each of those trees have their own set of missions that, once complete, add supplies to upgrade each tree and its hub. It might sound like a lot to take in, and at first it is, but in time everything starts to gel together.
Though you can roam the streets of Manhattan alone, commencing main missions will be a struggle without help. Each safe house acts as a hub for other players to connect, but before entering a mission on the streets you can opt to create or join a lobby that’s already been set up. I’ve spent most of my time playing with Tom from the team here at Start Replay, and it’s been nothing but fun working together and using our own tactics to work through missions. The best part is the game’s cover mechanic, which is easy and smooth to execute in the heat of a firefight; simply point to a piece of cover and hold down the X button to get your character into position.
The last major feature I’ve yet to talk about is The Dark Zone. This is a location in the centre of the map that lets online players loose on the streets within a contaminated zone. Working your way through enemy groups will let you acquire more advanced gear, which is great, but comes with a few caveats. Once your stash is full it needs to be extracted by helicopter, but before or during extraction, any other agent can opt to kill you and take your gear. Doing so results in that agent becoming rouge, making them a target for other players to gain a higher amount of XP.
This experience will add itself to your very own Dark Zone levelling system, allowing the purchase of specialised gear. Be careful though, because if you die in the Dark Zone you will lose XP and could potentially level down in the process. It’s currently my most favourite part of the game, since you never know who might turn on you. There were quite a few moments wherein Tom and myself sported the idea of going rogue together, many times we did, but it mostly ended up with our death.
There’s a lot I love about The Division, but there are also a couple of things that bugged me to begin with. Maybe it’s because I have a short attention span, or perhaps I was tired, but the beginning requires your attention every step of the way. It took me a while to wrap my head around how The Division works, especially with the amount of details on your hud for you to digest. Again, graphically the game has been degraded slightly since its debut, but the details are still present and explosions never get old. In terms of content, and drawing another problem similar to Destiny, I only hope that new content comes thick n’ fast to keep the game from growing stale.
Ubisoft has created a compelling world that truly feels alive – despite its bleak setting. Its storyline is something that could believably happen in today’s world, plus the amount of detail put into the environment is incredible. Consider this a worthy rival to Bungie’s Destiny.