Released in 2016, The Division is prescient with its theme of a virus-stricken New York, where you play as an agent specially trained to combat disorder and gang warfare in a broken-down city. Primarily a multiplayer game — PVP, PVE — it also has a superb single-player campaign which I’ve been hooked on for the last couple of months. This is possibly due to quarantine and the association of a fictional pandemic being played out to the background of a real setting. In fact, the game design is eerily familiar with reminders of the world-wide crisis that we’re all living through.
However, that’s where the similarities end because the New York of this game is a very dangerous place to be, with gangs roaming the abandoned streets wielding flamethrowers, machetes, submachine guns, Molotov cocktails, and grenades. As a Division agent, it’s your job to eliminate these rogue elements with any weapons at your disposal and that’s where the key to success — or indeed, failure — lies in The Division.
Believe me, it’s a tough game to master at first, mainly due to it’s ranking and levelling up system, so the more you play, the more chance you have of defeating enemies. This is often referred to as grinding, which can feel tedious until you start to collect the XP points which are awarded for successful missions, looting, and discoveries.
As a Division agent, you support the JTF (Joint Task Force) under Directive 51’s CERA (Catastrophic Emergency Response Agency) in maintaining law and order, with the main enemy being a rogue US Army element know as LMB (Last Man Battalion). Referred to as a looter-shooter, the more missions, side-missions, looting, and discoveries you carry out, the more XP you earn, which then adds up as your level increases from one to thirty. This is really the hook because, by the time you’re at say, level fifteen, you just want to keep exploring and grinding away to level up. However, the enemies vary in toughness with most of them being bullet sponges in every sense of the word. But this isn’t real life where one bullet would probably kill you; some of the tougher enemies need several mag’s worth to bring them down, or indeed more than one direct headshot.
My favourite aspects of The Division are:
- The cover system – hiding behind objects with automatic moving from cover to cover, not forgetting that line of sight is fundamental
- Looting – discovering weapons and useful items for crafting gear and weapons
- The post-apocalyptic atmosphere – dogs and members of the public roam the snowy streets in search of food and shelter. Abandoned vehicles and body bags litter the streets and steam escapes from vents and drains into the icy atmosphere
- The voiceovers – often with a sense of black humour, such as the pirate radio broadcasts and the real sense of urgency and desperation from game characters in pleas for assistance
- The music – it ramps itself up when danger is near, with melancholic tunes playing from apartments
- Finding more powerful weapons – you can go back to seemingly impossible missions and wipe out your enemies once and for all
Does It Look Good?
In a word, The Division looks stunning with amazing attention to detail, right down to all those everyday objects you’d expect to see in apartment buildings, shops, or littering the streets. This builds a sense of realism throughout the game and I often stop and look around, particularly when the snow is swirling about in a very realistic fashion, which is quite mesmerising. If you’ve ever driven a car through a blizzard, you’ll know what I mean.
My favourite enemies are, without doubt, The Cleaners, who roam the streets with flamethrowers and gas tanks strapped to their backs. A couple of shots to the tank causes them to scream and run around in a panic until they finally explode.
The Cleaner bosses even carry an extra handheld gas tank which, with some careful aiming can be targeted with two or three shots until it goes bang. Mind you, these bosses require some work and patience, relying on the fact that they are cumbersome and move slowly, allowing you to find the right cover while evading their ferocious flames.
The Division is a superbly crafted and intricate game with so many features that it would take too many pages to describe here. If your bag is intense, action-packed looting and shooting, then this is the game for you. Personally, I don’t do multiplayer and although The Division is primarily a PVP (player vs player) game, the single-player is worth the entrance fee alone. I picked up the game last year on a Steam sale for about $5 and frankly, at that price, it’s an absolute steal when you consider that the launch price for this AAA game was $60.
I’ve already played 140 hours and with my need to increase weapon firepower, I can see myself playing for many more hours to come.
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