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Preview: Tom Clancy’s The Division

Ubisoft’s long-in-development Tom Clancy’s The Division launches on 08 March 2016. Ben had a good old playthrough of the open beta and, unsurprisingly, has a few opinions he’d like to share.



Title overview
Name: Tom Clancy’s The Division
Developer: Ubisoft Massive
Publisher: Ubisoft’s
Release date: March 2016
PEGI rating: Not listed
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
More information: Official website

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Ben says…

New York (apparently created on a 1-to-1 scale) looks and feels fantastic. I’ve only been there once but Tom Clancy’s The Division captures the way the city towers over you perfectly. There’s a real sense of size and scale here that allows for a map that takes time time to explore. The game also throws in day- and night-time cycles and changeable weather that help bring the environment to life. Importantly, the placement of available cover feels realistic too. Abandoned cars, concrete barriers, scaffolds and emergency checkpoints a situated in such a way that the player can duck behind what they need to without it feeling too obvious.

Graphically it’s great too: player models look sharp and the attention to detail on clothing and rucksacks are great. There seems to be a decent amount of variety also, with outward appearance being separate from armour so if you find a jacket you really like there should, in theory, be nothing stopping you from wearing it from start to finish. I only came across one performance issue in the beta, where a defeated enemy model clipped halfway into the floor but aside from that it ran nice and smoothly.

It was also a lot of fun. The cover mechanics and shooting are great, although if you’re used to a Gears of War one-button-for-everything control system you’ll have to get used to a format that requires much more dexterity. The RPG elements work well, as does the base-building side of things. Even though my character was randomly generated (because, you know, beta) I felt invested in getting the look of him just right and was able to spec him as a sniper / healer who could handle his own in a close range scenario. Player-versus-player (PvP) is a tense affair and worth it for the loot but there are big problems there that need to be addressed. Thankfully, grouping isn’t one of them but by God there needs to be a way to communicate outside of voice chat. As you might expect, I learned a few uncomplimentary things about my mother from the mouths of teens. Charming.

The city is a beautifully crafted thing but lacked that certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ that would have made it feel alive. More survivors wandering the streets, more looters, more sudden and unexpected outbursts would have been appreciated. As it happened the world felt dead – if you’ll excuse the pun. I appreciate that the city was decimated by the viral outbreak forming the cornerstone of the plot but there should be more people trying to scavenge, more citizens to help and assist. The best open worlds, whether massively-multiplayer online (MMO) or RPG manage to feel alive and with things happening. The Division, at beta admittedly, lacked that.

This was reinforced by the lack of variety in citizen and enemy character models. Random thugs especially all wore the same hoodies in the same colour with the same mask over their face. I agree it helped identify them as hostile but seeing the same guys again and again really breaks the immersion. It works when they have a uniform, such as the faction known as The Cleaners, but random thugs should be just that: random.

There was huge dialogue repetition too. It seemed every bad guy I took off the streets was called Alex. “He shot Alex!” rang out just as frequently as my bullets. As with the character models, it’s difficult to know what variety there will be in the final game but I hope it’s something that Ubisoft address.

The premise is excellent and when it works, it works really well.

The Dark Zone: the wonderfully-tense PvP area where you never quite know if your team-mate is about to shoot you in the back to steal that hard earned loot from your still-twitching corpse. It’s just like the main game but friendly-fire is on and the only way to can keep the new stuff you’ve earned is to make it to an Extraction Zone. Here you call in a team to get you out. So long as you survive the ninety seconds it takes for them to arrive, you’re home free. The premise is excellent and when it works, it works really well. Teaming up with (polite) strangers who may turn out to be a snake in the grass (they will) as you wait for the extraction timer to count down is a blast.

But… extraction points are fixed which means they are full of high-level campers just waiting to pick you off. It’s gamers being gamers and exploiting the system for the best loot, I know, but it spoils the fun immensely. And because they are high-level, with all of the best loot you don’t stand a chance in a firefight. It’s a big turn off from the Dark Zone and as things stand I won’t venture in there again until I’ve hit the level cap. Or a Thursday night Bromance adventure takes me back…

Whether Ubisoft intended this final beta as a stress test, demo or other clever marketing ploy I can safely say The Division has my attention. The pros definitely outweigh the cons and it strikes me as a game I can take my time with, learn, explore and improve at over time.

To cut a long story short, I’ll be hitting the streets of New York on 08 March 2016 – will you?

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10 thoughts on “Preview: Tom Clancy’s The Division

  1. I can’t remember where I saw it, but I’m sure it was said that the numbers of NPC’s in the PVE areas would be more in the final game. As it stands it is pretty quiet.

    Also I guess the rioters all look the same because they are technically a faction. Then you have the cleaners, LMB and Rikers, so I think they will all have a few similarities. Although I agree it would be nice if even a couple of them looked slightly different and weren’t all called Alex.

    With the DZ, I guess you need to think that it will be much, much bigger in the final game and it would be pretty pointless for high level players to camp in the low level areas as they won’t get the decent loot – so hopefully that should kind of fix that issue.

    There is also PVE end game content that should offer the best loot so you should be able to avoid the DZ completely if you want. Although we don’t really know what it is yet.

    I loved playing it, and can’t wait to get the full game. Guess you’re on PS4 though? I’m still debating over PC or XB1.

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      1. Oh yea, definitely. There were certainly some things that needed to be changed from the closed beta to the open and thankfully a fair few things were addressed, so let’s hope they continue with that support.

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  2. I was really impressed with the beta – except for how dumb the writing was. Good writing has never been Ubi’s strongest suit, but man, it really stuck out – especially since a lot of the gameplay reminds me of Bioware (specifically Mass Effect 3). In any event, yeah, I can’t wait for the final version.

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    1. I agree in part. The dialogue in the opening helicopter ride was naff and the doctor rescue just as bad, but the mission in the subway to rescue the tech guy from the cleaners was great. I thought the radio chatter was good too.

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  3. I loved every gameplay video that’s been posted about The Division so far. But the only reason I’m not going to get this game is because it’s online-only. I’m bad at online multiplayer and I stay away from the multiplayer world for that reason. If it had a campaign mode I’d definitely go for it.

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    1. I wouldn’t let that put you off. You can play through the entire game without having to team up or fight against other players.

      If solo is your bag (and that’s how I’ll spend 70% of my time in game) then you’ll be just fine! No need for other player interaction at all.

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  4. It’s been a few months since The Division launched now. It’s a pretty good game for the most part. The missions and boss battles and such are kind of repetitive, but they’re challenging and fun to play with a group of people.

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