Platform Reviewed: PS4
Platforms Available: PS4, PC, Xbox One
Developer: Ubisoft Massive
Release Date: March 8, 2016
MSRP: $59.99 (Php. 2,695.00)
Ubisoft transferred its focus from the modern city of Chicago to the city that never sleeps – New York, in a post-apocalyptic setting. The Division was first revealed in E3 2013 showing the events of Operation Dark Winter and the execution of Directive 51. The game was in development for 3 years and the release date was pushed to a later date several times. The question would be: Is The Division one of Ubisoft’s successfully released titles? Let’s get into New York and find out…
The Division is an open-world third-person shooter game. It starts off in a post-apocalyptic environment where a virus was planted on banknotes that caused a smallpox pandemic across Manhattan. The game is your triple-A online massive multiplayer role-playing game that has identical gameplay elements to your regular MMORPG and some other Ubisoft shooter titles. The Division is a better version of Watch Dogs with minor bugs, a bit of server issues – in an online-only multiplayer fest with all other players. Believe me it’s a far better open-world game than Watch Dogs except that it has to be online.
Players can customize their own character in the game just like any other RPG games, but it’s a bummer how you can’t fully personalize your character to your preference. It’s limited to a number of faces which you are not able to change like how the eye placement is, how the nose would look like, and anything similar to this. The Division also lacks the voice-over of its player-made character… we all know that most MMORPGs don’t have any voice-overs on personalized characters, but it’s something that could have made your character more alive. And The Division uses your PSN ID as your character’s name, one basic thing like changing the name of your character would have been a good feature.
Agents are first deployed at Brooklyn where you get to play the tutorial and also gives you the chance to level up as much as you can if you want to be stronger before you get shipped to Manhattan. The tutorial is relatively easy to understand, it tackles all of the basic mechanics of the game you need to know before heading out to the other side of the border. Luckily, it’s one of the best tutorials I’ve seen so far in MMORPGs. It also integrates a little narrative to make the game interesting and it also gets you hooked up to the game.
The user interface of the ‘Inventory’ is satisfyingly simple to navigate as the other sections of the game’s menu. It’s classified by 2 separate columns: Weapons and Equipped Gear. You won’t get lost in navigating through your armors and guns or even have a headache from going through your list of items. Similar to one of the features in Diablo III, you can use ‘Compare’ to do a comparison between your equipped weapon and the one that’s currently selected on your menu. But frustratingly, to compare my Primary or Secondary weapons to any guns I have in my inventory, I have to switch back and forth from the Primary and Secondary weapon selection.
Skills, Perks, and Talents in the game are as straightforward as it can get but it can become a little bit confusing as well if you don’t read thoroughly. Every Skill is not unlocked by leveling up, but it’s made available once you upgrade the section of your base of operations. Sections can be unlocked after accomplishing the first mission based on either of the sections as you have to recover/rescue the people who will maintain them. The sections are also upgradable by using supplies, and once upgraded, it unlocks a portion of your Skill tree. It can take a while for each section to be upgraded. The supplies provided on your encounters and side missions can only yield a small amount of supplies which can be a little frustrating for those who are eager upgrade their sections.
Aside from the base of operations, there are Safe Zones scattered in Manhattan that mans vendors who sell weapons, armors, and mods but it lacks the place to craft weapons and items. I’m not saying that it’s bad, but it could have at least provided convenience for the players to do it from Safe Zone. In the Safe Zone, players can chill, listen to catchy rock songs or power ballads, meet other agents, and joke around. But the dialogue of NPCs gets bothersome since it’s usually looped. Also, if you’re not a vivid fan of foot-travel, The Division encourages players to use a convenient way to travel: Fast Travel. But it’s going to be tiresome for some players for travelling as the map is massive especially when going to your desired mission/side-mission/encounters… it’s really huge. Other than that, the HQ is the place you go back to 80% of the time for your section upgrades and crafting.
There is also this part of the Safe Zone and the headquarters where players can check what missions are available in the area, and that is: the Situation Report and the map board. Both can provide details about any available missions in the area. Each street or section of Manhattan is designated with recommended character levels. Players might miss the description on what level is recommended in an area as the sign disappears really quickly. But it’s not all that bad since it’s quite fun to be actually caught off guard that the brutes you encounter are in higher levels – if you survive then hurrah for higher experience points!
The leveling system speed is decently acceptable but it can take a while to level your character in the first few levels. The missions are easy to discover in most scenarios. You have your map to guide you through the extensive streets of Manhattan to discover encounters and side missions. Progressing my character did take a while though as the game has a lot of events to tackle in the Level 1 – 9 gap. The game only gives a fair amount of experience points from side missions and a lesser amount for encounters. The biggest chunk of experience points are from the main missions, but it’s hard to go alone as you encounter heavy brutes/enemies which makes the progressions a bit slow – I didn’t mind that it took a while to progress my character since I have that much patience.
Players can only equip 3 skills at a time, this includes your Signature Skill. With this limitation, I had to think of good combinations between Medical, Tech, and/or Security. It takes a lot of time and focus and even experimenting as one skill can be very essential in one of your missions – it might lead to some confusion and it can also frustrate impatient players. Signature Skills are the ones you need to get more buffs on character but it takes a while for you to get that. It’s good to note that you can change the skills or your mix abilities whenever you want without the worry of resetting them, makes the game forgiving in a way as you don’t have to think about which skill or ability to choose.
Similar to what you have on Ghost Recon games, The Division is a mix of Rainbow Six, Ghost Recon, and a little bit of Watch Dogs. The game also features a very flexible cover system. When you take cover behind objects and walls, the game gives you suggestive moves that will allow you to move from one cover to another just by holding the X button. It’s a good feature for a tactical-game and it saves a lot of nuisance from manually moving your character to another area for cover. The tactical-play is key to successful missions when played side-by-side with another player. It’s a great challenge for newcomers as this is not just your typical shooter where you charge up to them and do the kill, no it’s not like that.
What can be another challenge are the enemies you face in the game. There are two groups, the Rioters and The Cleaners. The Rioters are your typical thugs who have decent weaponry that a player can take out in missions alone, but The Cleaners are something you have to worry about. They are the enemies you have deal with advanced weapons and all-flame battles against a flamethrower. Missions with The Cleaners as your enemies can really be difficult, you’ll either die a lot of times or just partner up to slowly progress. You can bump into either of these groups in Manhattan while you wander the streets, and you have to deal with them first or you can flee. The enemy AI is relatively smart as they can also outflank you from sides or they suppress you from firing back while their melee-bat-smacking friends with shield comes to you.
The map is massive as what I’ve said in the last few paragraph. It’s Manhattan, New York. It’s a game where you get lost easily and you have to rely on your map and GPS to traverse through this huge map. Christmas decorations in some areas are pleasing to see especially at night in the game. There also times wherein I’m amazed when the areas are covered in fog. Within the streets you get to encounter a lot of survivors, dogs, enemy AIs, and JTF patrols. You may also see random people who needs help that provides you a small amount of experience points and random loots.
There are landmarks in the game that are really good to visit, even though the environment is set in a suffering post-apocalyptic New York, it’s still amazing to see a few popular places. One of these landmarks is the Madison Square Garden where your mission is to rescue one of the CERA personnel who maintains the Medical Wing – Jessica Kendel. Ubisoft made another remarkable game with jaw-dropping environments. They were able to do this in Watch Dogs and brought Chicago in a game where players can explore virtually. I just love how the cities can be remade in a game in realistic visuals.
Group missions are where The Division really succeeds. Provided you have teammates who knows what to do in missions and progress through the mission tactically, the team can succeed in a lot of things. Taking down a group of heavy Cleaner enemies with a big chunk of armor can really be challenging, but with good teamwork and coordination, a mission can be easy to complete.
There was a time in the game when I went inside the Dark Zone when I was level 9. Just looking at the entrance with those huge blockade of walls with biohazard symbols that separate the Dark Zone and parts of Manhattan gave me the creeps – it’s like the door to your never-ending nightmare especially at night. I died when I encountered some of the heavy brutes, luckily I was revived… twice by some random player – good to know there are still players who help you in the game especially that in this area you can kill other agents. In the Dark Zone, according to the game’s story, this is where the mass concentration of the virus’ impact is located. There are a lot of places that are highly contaminated with the virus, including items. But what do we exactly do in the Dark Zone? It’s pretty simple. The DZ is where players can go rogue. Yes, this is where the player-versus-player is. This is the part that can really be exciting like what you feel in zombie games such as The Last of Us.
The level system is also separated from the main campaign area and the PVP area (Dark Zone), including the credits. The place is occupied still by The Cleaners and Rioters but this time they are deadlier and harder to kill. You will need to be at least Level 13 or higher with high grade weapons to survive as a Level 1 DZ player. All in all, it still works the same way but you can go rogue and betray other players if you want to.
You can get a lot of high-grade weapons and armors, but adding up to the challenge, you will have to extract the items via a helicopter from Dark Zone in order for you to get it to the other side of the wall. These loots you get are contaminated with the virus, and if you go out from the DZ area through a checkpoint with items you acquired then it gets destroyed. Dark Zone is the place where you can have all the fun you need in The Division, you can go rogue or you can help others who are in need of help, but if you’re up for the campaign, then you can set Dark Zone aside for a later time.
The Division’s direction to be an MMORPG was not a bad idea at all. It changes the focus of the game but the only downside is that the servers can sometimes be a problem for players. There was one time when I took a side mission in which the damage indicators didn’t show from the enemy AIs, and they also stopped firing back. That was a sign that the server was experiencing issues as I was booted out from the game. But with minimal server issues at post-launch, I am deeply satisfied with the experience I got from the game. It got me hooked up every day just to go through the missions, and it was fun playing main missions with other players. There are also lot of things to discover in The Division. Intels, phone conversations, ECHOs (where you relive the events in a particular area), daily missions, virus research videos, and a little more.
Setting the server problems aside, The Division is satisfying at best. However, the game also gives you a lot of things to do in your first few levels below 10 which made the game’s pace a little slow. The Dark Zone, cooperative missions, and a lot of things to discover would be the primary reasons why you will be back in the streets of Manhattan. This is the type of game where online open-world shooter players and MMO lovers will enjoy.
This review is based on a review copy provided by the publisher.