‘The Division’ Impressions: Ubisoft’s Latest ‘Tom Clancy’s’ Entry Worth The Wait?

Tom Clancy’s The Division is one of those games that many fans weren’t sure was ever going to release. After being showcased at E3 2013 in Ubisoft’s press conference, the development of Ubisoft’s newest entry into the Tom Clancy’s series had its fair share of road bumps. The Division depicts an epidemic that has rendered the United States’ most important city a veritable wasteland, after a virus begins to spread and take over the city. After Marshall Law is declared throughout New York, a classified group of self-supported tactical agents called The Division are activated to restore order to the city, as well as find the source of the smallpox virus that has been spread throughout the city.

When you are first introduced to The Division, Brooklyn looks in shambles. You are placed into the middle of the borough and Brooklyn serves as a tutorial to get your bearings in The Division before being brought to Manhattan proper. On PC, the game handles exceptionally well, with a port that Forbes says is one “PC players deserve.” This is something that Ubisoft has slowly improved upon in recent years, with each port being progressively better than the last, ever since the botched launch of Assassin’s Creed Unity. The Division features Massive Entertainment’s new game engine, named Snowdrop, and it really shines on PC.

This is especially apparent after the beta, where a lot of features were patched back into the game at launch such as global illumination, improved ambient occlusion, and so on. The Division looks and runs better than it ever has on PC, and a lot of credit should go to Ubisoft Massive for putting out an incredible port in a market where PC ports aren’t always up to snuff. Currently, I’m able to run the game at 1440p downsampled and get 55-60 frames-per-second, a solid benchmark for a game that takes great advantage of your PC hardware.

Tom Clancy's The Division
The lighting in The Division is simply some of the best in a game to date. [Image via Ubisoft Massive]

Gameplay-wise, The Division is your typical cover-shooter, put its RPG elements really make it different than other shooter titles. Players gain levels by completing story missions and random encounters throughout Manhattan, upgrading their equipment and skills as they go. It’s not a strict shooter where players and enemies alike can succumb to one-hit kills, rather The Division uses a “damage-per-second” like most massively multiplayer online games. The enemies in The Division are aptly named “bullet sponges” and it’s directly because of how long many of them take to bring down. The higher your DPS, the faster you’ll bring down some of those bullet sponges, like most RPG games.

The world of The Division is truly open, however. No explorable area is off limits due to level, though The Division does warn you if you’re too low or not well enough equipped to handle the section of Manhattan you’ve ventured into. Additionally, much of central Manhattan is part of what The Division calls “the Dark Zone,” a Player-versus-player environment which allows for greater rewards, at a much higher risk. Players can form impromptu teams to fend off enemy AI and rogue agents alike, as they deign to get some of the game’s better gear back to their safehouses.

Tom Clancy’s The Division is likely a game that will appeal to many, myself included. The ability to simply pick a direction and head that way, tackling whatever I choose is incredibly appealing. The Dark Zone in particular has provided some of the most tense and stressful moments as a gamer, yet it’s also proved to be a source of great exultation and relief once your objective is complete. Also, the added bonus of the Dark Zone having a separate level progression really makes the area seem disjointed and cut off from the rest of Manhattan, something The Division alludes to when it first introduces the Dark Zone early on. This helps to solidify the idea that you really are on your own in that area and your actions outside The Dark Zone matter not. All that matters is what you do on the inside, opening up a whole new way of playing The Division.

Tom Clancy's The Division™ Manhattan Times Square
[Image via Ubisoft Massive]

Seeing locations such as Times Square, Madison Square Garden, and so on in such disarray is wholly surreal as well, and gives an emotional connection that would otherwise be missing if the setting were a “made-up” location. The Division is a Tom Clancy-esque story, though the game does fall flat when it comes to some of the writing and voice over performances. At times where you would expect a normal person to be talking with some urgency, the lines are given in almost a dead-pan fashion, as if the actor was receiving no directional input from anyone during recording sessions.

However, The Division is really worth trying out, even if you’re on the fence. If you enjoy RPG titles, min-maxing stats and equipment to get the most out of your character, or simply want to take a break from another role-playing shooter such as Destiny, The Divsion packs a lot for you to do. If you can, grab the PC version and treat yourself. However, all in all, The Division is a game that, to this point, has been worth the long wait.

[Images via Ubisoft Massive]