Tom Clancy’s The Division Review – A Bodacious, Highly-Ballistic Bonanza

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Tom Clancy’s The Division
Ubisoft

A few gaming friends and I carefully navigated our way down a dilapidated avenue near Manhattan’s once grand Grand Central Station, now a burned out shadow of its former glory. We’d just emerged victorious from a harrowing firefight (literally) with a large contingent of Cleaners—flamethrower wielding paramilitary types who had tried to give us some up-close, extreme sunburns. We’d divvied up the loot that we gained from the ordeal and had crafted a few new improvements for our weapons.

Now, we were tasked with clearing out an aggressive band of newly armed Riker’s Island escapee’s, appropriately enough called Rikers, from a nearby area. It wouldn’t be easy, the Rikers were comprised of the worst of the gang populations and the most hardened of criminals, and had pledged themselves the new “kings of the streets” with a violent fervor that would make the gangs from Walter Hills’s 1979 film The Warriors bite their fists with envy.

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We encountered the Rikers soon enough, and soon enough we realized that these dangerous foes were far from the typical rioters and looters we’d encountered previously. They actually fought with their own crude yet effective brand of urban combat. Not only that, but they’d had time to collect some pretty impressive weaponry from just about anyone they’d recently bushwhacked or otherwise caught slippin’. The ensuing life-and-death battle played out like a scene from a good Hollywood blockbuster action film, and win or lose, we knew we were playing through one of the best open-world experiences that we’d ever encountered.

I will try to keep this review as unbiased as I possibly can, since Ubisoft has long been one of my favorite game developers. They made the first tactical shooter that I’d ever really gotten into with Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six, which single-handedly revolutionized the shooter game genre. A few years later, following what Rainbow Six had done for shooters set in urban settings, Ghost Recon came along and set the bar for what tactical shooters should aspire to be in outdoors environments. I still remember playing the original Ghost Recon for hours on end, sometimes even until the morning sunshine would begin to filter into my room. Its expansions were terrific too.

So, it’s not surprising that when I’d initially heard about Ubisoft’s massive open-world extravaganza, Tom Clancy’s The Division, I got all giddy like a little school girl with anticipation. I’m happy to report that all of that built up hype around the game has, for the most part, not been a load of hot garbage. Here are those goods…

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Tom Clancy’s The Division is set in an Apocalyptic, present-day Manhattan, where things have gone absolutely haywire. Terrorists have succeeded in distributed contaminated currency around on America’s most hallowed of rabid consumerist holidays: Black Friday. As said bills passed around in a free-for-all frenzy of hyper-capitalism, millions upon millions of people have become ill or already died in increasingly exponential numbers. As society collapsed and the government was thrust into a state of ineffectiveness, people have either gone insane and rioted, or banded together into tribe-like factions in order to increase their chances of survival.

Players take the roles of sleeper cell operators that form The Division. This highly classified unit are ordinary-seeming people that you might come across every day; the grocery store clerk; the insurance salesman; the auto mechanic. There’s just one thing different about them: They’re complete badasses. Badassery aside, The Division’s operatives are only called upon (via glowing watches) in such catastrophic events such as has happened on Black Friday, and modern society teeters on the brink of certain disaster.

Sound like something out of a Bruckheimer movie? Well, it should since it also plays very similar to one. The Division, with its taut gameplay mechanics and brilliantly-articulated visuals (especially on higher end gaming PCs), is an absolute blast to play. Ubisoft has perfected its cover system in this game, and I haven’t had this much fun dashing from cover to cover since playing one of the Rainbow Six Vegas titles. Popping up to blast away at similarly cover-swapping enemies, only to drop back down in order to refresh your gun’s magazine is pure, unadulterated man-fun.

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The Division isn’t just all about being engaging in unabashedly hyper-violent exchanges of lead, however. It also features an addictive progression system that will have to saying to yourself “just have to get to that next level, and then I’ll stop playing for the day.” And then it’s the next level…and then the next…you get the idea. It also includes a robust and easy-to-use crafting system that goes hand-in-hand with its admittedly shoot n’ loot moorings. The Division almost reminds me of a dungeon crawler with guns—one which of course replaces a high fantasy setting for a contemporary one.

Many gamers and reviewers out there have complained about server issues and the like, but fortunately for me, I experienced nothing of the sort—no hiccups, framerate drops (a smooth 60 FPS on my CyberpowerPC GTX 970 4G Gaming card), or server crashes. I’m not disputing what others have experienced, and it’s highly unfortunate that they have had issues, but my play-throughs have been hassle-free, at least so far.

The Division is mainly comprised of a bunch of main missions, ensconced by side-missions and a vast multitude of even smaller mini-missions. The larger, longer missions are more cinematic and immersive than the shorter ones, but that’s not to say that the smaller ones are necessarily bad at all. I’d even dare to say that the core gameplay mechanics and highly enthralling progression system (along with vast character perk system) are so good that you can keep playing the game for hours on end without getting bored. It’s just that great.

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Manhattan has been faithfully recreated down to a 1:1 scale, meaning if it exists in real life there is a good chance that you’ll see it rendered in the game. This extreme attention to detail must be seen to be believed, and as someone who has been to Manhattan I’ve never seen a closer virtual representation of it in all my gaming years. The sounds complement those graphics quite nicely as well, and really pulls you into the action, struggle, and triumphs, as you navigate from location to location amid all the chaos and carnage.

Tom Clancy’s The Division is an absolute must-buy for any fans of open-world games, tactical shooters, survival games, or action games in general. Its carefully constructed world will draw you in and its tight combat mechanics and looting will keep you hooked. I, for one, can see myself playing The Division for a long time to come.

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SCORE: 86%

Tom Clancy’s The Division has some real eye-popping graphics but will require a more muscular gaming PC or gaming laptop in order to enjoy:

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