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The Division review

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Awards

  • Recommended by TR

Summary

Our Score:

8

Pros

  • Fiendishly addictive gameplay
  • Immersive post-pandemic world
  • Accessible co-op action
  • Ingenious progression systems
  • Incredible tension in the Dark Zone

Cons

  • Some bugs and technical issues
  • Still a bit repetitive and grindy

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Available on Xbox One, PS4, PC

*Editors note* With the release of the first significant update to The Division – Incursion – Stuart dove back into New York to see how the changes impacted The Division, and if Ubisoft has worked to improve the bugs and glitches. You can find Stuart's original review on page two.

Just over a month from launch, The Division hasn’t lost much of its allure. If anything, familiarity brings more appreciation for its tight gunplay and clever interlocking systems, as you get more adept at using its smart cover system and choosing and modifying your skills and equipment.

In some ways, The Division suffers from its lack of distinct classes – where Destiny’s Titans and Warlocks give a different experience and different play styles, one agent in The Division looks and feels much like another – but the payoff is flexibility and the ability to tune and re-tune your character for each mission.

If you’re on a team that’s short of support or a sniper, you can usually switch your loadout and your skills. And if you’re battling through side-missions and encounters, you can change to a more balanced, independent build.

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It’s also worth making progress. Some of The Division’s finest missions are found in its final act, and the skirmishes through the Russian Consulate or the battle to take Grand Central are well worth replaying at harder difficulty levels even once you’ve polished off the storyline. The range of side-missions and encounters means there’s a lot of PvE content to explore and replay. Most importantly, playing with other players always injects a sense of camaraderie and tension into even the most banal of The Division’s missions.

I’ve been playing mostly with pick-up groups rather than actual friends (who remain glued to Destiny despite my urgings) yet the rush of working as a team and pushing through a mission never seems to fade. Just remember: revive if you want to survive.

5 Things you need to know about The Division

The more time I spend in post-Pandemic New York, the more impressive Massive’s work seems to be. True, there are factors that spoil the impression, including repeated dialogue, bullet-sponge bosses and the tendency of the same Riker to be beating the same guy nearly every time I emerge from a particular safe house. None of these ruin what is surely one of the most lively, detailed and atmospheric open-world settings around, especially at night where the combination of lights and weather effects creates some really eerie or melancholy scenes. And while the storyline is fairly standard Tom Clancy stuff, there’s a humanity here you won’t find in your average Call of Duty or Ghost Recon, particularly when you’re working on the Missing Persons cases or as your actions start to turn a dark situation round.

The Division’s third-person, cover-based gunplay still lacks the pace and exuberant motion of Destiny’s super-powered, first-person action, but that doesn’t mean it’s not very good. Different enemy types still push you to adopt different weapons and strategies, and being able to spot solid cover and a good vantage point can be as crucial as the ability to pull off rapid headshots. It’s still a little trickier than it should be to disengage from cover when a grenade is sent your way, but with experience this becomes less of an issue. Some of the later foes of the Last Man Battalion are infuriating, combining smarts with armour and brute-force to lethal effect, but who wants The Division to be a cakewalk? When you survive some of the game’s toughest scraps, you come out with a real sense of pride.

In short, I’m convinced that The Division is a very good game that’s well on its way to being a great one. If it falls down, it falls down in two key areas. The first is technical issues. The Incursion update bought a new slew of horrors, including persistent connection problems and characters disappearing, which really shouldn’t crop up with a major update to a major game. I’ve been lucky and not experienced anything so drastic, but I have experienced and continue to experience a list of lesser problems. These include long waits to connect, falling through the floor in the middle of a mission (thankfully, you can fast transport to another team member), losing sound mid-mission and being unable to recover it and the game freezing and locking up entirely in the last phase of the last battle of the General Assembly mission. Good news for the swearing jar, bad news for my wallet.

The Division screenshots 2

The second is that The Division’s endgame is still finding its feet. Sure, you can keep coming back, do your daily missions on high difficulty levels and earn your Phoenix Credits. These in turn unlock a whole new upper class of kit. All the same, you’re still effectively replaying the same old content. The cycle of looting and upgrading keeps you hooked, as it did in Destiny, but The Division has to do without Destiny’s baroque aliens and exotic gear, not to mention its more outrageous sci-fi weaponry. In fact, Destiny’s greater variety of enemies and settings makes it, in many ways, a more interesting game to re-explore.

Of course, The Division’s endgame is easier to grasp and there’s a lot more content already in place; you can comfortably play for thirty hours or more before even getting to the storyline’s climax, and that’s a lot of material for higher-level challenges. The new Gear sets, designed to hyper-charge the most common builds, are a real draw back to keep you playing, evil if you’ll face an uphill struggle collecting them.

That’s because the key to collecting them is the new incursions. Ubisoft has realised that while new challenges and new gear will take their game so far, The Division is going to need substantial new material to keep players coming back long-term. Incursions, the equivalent of Destiny’s strikes and raids, are the new vehicle for delivering it. The first, Falcon Lost, is basically a huge arena battle against wave after wave of enemies, and really designed to test the best players with the best gear. Go in expecting a sort of horde mode and you shouldn’t go away disappointed, but go in expecting the equivalent of Destiny’s more sophisticated raids and you could be. In fact, you’ll find it not just disappointing but actively dispiriting, simply because the difficulty bar is set so high. No checkpoints, guys? Seriously?

The Division

That still leaves the Dark Zone, already a fabulous cauldron of teamwork and treachery, and now enhanced by the new Dark Zone Supply Drops. These are regular events where you can grab uncontaminated gear and hotfoot out without the usual extraction, and give plenty of opportunity for thrilling co-op action against the Dark Zone’s local brutes and thugs. Of course, they also act as a honeypot for rogue players keen on an easy mark. Consider yourself warned.

Verdict

Let’s get this in perspective. The continuing presence of technical issues is both wearisome and annoying, while there’s a sense that future content really needs to up the ante and give us something more. Yet the Division is generally in much better shape than Destiny was at launch, and it remains a hugely compelling, fiendishly addictive persistent shooter – one so good that it’s getting hard to go back to straight, offline action games.

We’ll be watching the upcoming updates and DLC expansions with interest. Will Ubisoft and Massive make the same mistakes Bungie did with The Dark Below and House of Wolves, or skip straight to the Taken King and give us something really substantial? Let’s hope it’s the latter, because The Division and its fans deserve it.

Matthew Bunton

September 2, 2013, 7:16 pm

The best looking and new franchise next gen game that I have seen so far.

The game concept looks really interesting and should be a lot of fun. Plus it is a Ubisoft game and they tend to not disappoint.

Clamp

October 28, 2015, 8:03 pm

New IP have allways a hard start, but after that what did Ubi to Watch_Dogs people will be careful. I was playing WD and must say it wasnt so bad, but graphic could be better [w/o mods]. Eitherway The Divison got my attention together with Sniper Ghost Warrior 3, which have open-world supported by day and night cycle and advanced weather system. These games are on my radar and both will be released in next year.

L4lefty

January 16, 2016, 7:55 pm

It does look good, no doubt. Clamp has made a really good point though, new IP's need to be approached with a certain level of wallet twitching caution.
I hate to be cynical Matty, because like you I have loved Ubisoft's output in general. But, Watch Dogs was a misstep and AC is looking tired as franchises go, and I don't trust new engines on current Gen hardware until it's bedded in.
I so want this to be as good as it looks. But Watchdogs didn't work out as well as it should have first time out, despite the hype.
I don't trust pre-ordering anymore either, in fact I think it's a blight on gaming...So wait and see, I guess.

Sebastian Favale

January 17, 2016, 12:41 am

I don't like this new tendency of games to put lots of UI, helpers and outlines to all game elements, it really changes the game experience and not in a good way. The screenshots are clean and cool, the gameplay is awful.

godafoss

January 18, 2016, 9:04 am

Well the most important thing is that it's available for PC, which makes it infinitely better game than Destiny just on that alone.

Fire Marshal Bill

January 23, 2016, 7:42 pm

Hmmm....I wonder how much this guy was compensated for this. Console peasants have to eat.

Chris Utirons

January 29, 2016, 7:29 am

For me Watch Dogs and Assassin Creed Unity was a fail.

Matthew Bunton

January 29, 2016, 2:32 pm

Seems strange replying to a 2 year old comment.

Anyway each to their own, I enjoyed both of those titles.

Aaron Stanworth

January 31, 2016, 8:28 am

NEVER BUY THIS GAME! Never in all of my life have I seen such a por excuse of a tom Clancy's franchise. The gameplay for the pve is kinda cool and so are the abilities, but once you go into the darkzone it is a whole different story. The game says that you can get all this loot that is better than anything you will find in the story but what is fails to mention and all the glitchy laggy bullshit you will come across in the process. I never seen in any game beta or otherwise such bad hit detection and so much laggy bullshit. EVER! As a matter of a fact this is the worst beta I have ever played. Sure rainbow six had bad servers but damn at least it was playable. All in all I am giving this game a 5/10. The only thing that saved it was the story with all the side quests and somewhat cool abilities otherwise it would be a 2/10 if it was lucky.

Aaron Stanworth

January 31, 2016, 9:06 am

Also I forgot to mention the worthless laggy priks. Some are invisible some are invincible and some just straight up 3 shot you when it takes you 6 clips to kill one. You can truly tell their was no effort put into this game

Aaron Stanworth

January 31, 2016, 9:21 am

It makes me what to cry because the game is beautiful emersive and fun but unfortunately unplayable with the current state it is in however if the problems are fully fixed it might be a good game but only time can tell.

Aaron Stanworth

January 31, 2016, 9:28 am

On top of all the worst glitches I have ever seen, the weapons are in some bad need of re tuning like making shot guns more effective and high end weapons a lot more powerful becuz in the state they are now they are not worth the grind

Fire Marshal Bill

January 31, 2016, 3:38 pm

It's a Beta for an MMO. How many MMO betas have you played? I tested SWTOR from the very beginning of testing and I can tell you it was the laggiest of anything I've ever seen. MMO's need time to work out server issues, even after launch the servers still have issues. I'm sure Ubi will work it out over the next 2 months. Just like Bioware did with SWTOR. We were all worried about how that would release just a week before, and it released very well.

Aaron Stanworth

January 31, 2016, 5:39 pm

I hope you are right becuz I really want to play it becuz it could be an amazing game if it is fixed but right now it is unplayable.

Hun Jun

February 8, 2016, 6:13 am

http://goo.gl/IDGso6

PricyCorgi

February 21, 2016, 11:20 pm

My only problem with it so far is that the Dark Zone, you'll most likely be attacked by someone no matter what. Or at least the same 3 people over and over. I'm just hoping that it has a decent story that can make me forget about my experience with the Dark Zone. Also, it being in Beta I can understand there are people out there just to pretty much go there and kill everyone as much as possible since they don't want to buy the game and ruin the experience for everyone else.

Benny Ballin

February 22, 2016, 12:11 am

placed a auto-turret, turret attacks other players, I become rogue and get killed
10/10 would not buy

Tim Barrett

February 22, 2016, 4:14 am

Awesome game....Built a new computer to play it, ran flawlessly. High and Ultra settings 60 fps. The audio was very immersive and beyond the 2 main missions (in beta) lots of side missions. The graphics are insane, the snow? Crazy fog effects, weapon controls are good.

Going to be blunt if you don't have a beefy machine forget about it you wont enjoy it cause it needs a pretty high powered system to run with all the bells and whistles.

My only complaint? Its not March 8th yet.

Martins Ramza

February 22, 2016, 7:25 am

best game ever, cant wait when it comes out.
i made a short gameplay video, check it out.
https://youtu.be/zkAIZaV68f0

Lex Irons

February 22, 2016, 10:36 pm

I hope the single and co-op will be good. The Dark Zone was boring and frustrating at the same time. You either just randomly kill MPCs and take some loot, than get killed while extracting it from some rogue losers.

Kevin

February 23, 2016, 6:53 am

You're able to bait other players when they're using turrets. The game gives you a few shots (usually a damage percentage) grace period for errant shots before it declares you rogue, however the turret reacts immediately to the attack, and ends up causing them to go rogue. It's been reported, I'm sure it will be addressed. Most learned not to use turrets in the DZ during the beta.

Kevin

February 23, 2016, 6:56 am

The Dark Zone is a PVP area. If you want to treat it as PVE and avoid player threats, do what prey animals usually do in the presence of predators: herd together in a large enough group that other players will avoid attacking because they don't want to risk the outrageous penalties of dying while rogue.

BigRuss730

February 23, 2016, 3:56 pm

On playing the beta, I'm not sure I could be as enthusiastic about as this article seems to be....

USAMPVet

February 26, 2016, 4:21 pm

Rewarding TKing PVP A$$hats is a new low in gaming. If this was a stock I would vote it a sell not a buy. If your buying The division for the PVE it will be too short and then all you have left is tking PVP. It don't take but a couple of hours in beta to know, people will be sick of this game fast and then what are you left with? Another $60 game in your steam library you will never play again. No Thanks. I posted this commentary on many sites to warn those that didn't play the beta, that this game has the Rogue system as a huge downfall to an otherwise enjoyable game. Only people that will buy and keep this game are the same a$$hats that tk you in other games cause they stink at gaming to begin with and thus must work off your sweat and tears for their survival. Kinda like welfare in the US is now. I would wait for a fix, or avoid this game at all costs. Or wait a few months for a steam sell. Come summer this game will be $30 cause no-one will be playing it.

Xabiel Schindler

February 26, 2016, 8:44 pm

Never had any issues. The beta was flawless for me. Saw a tiny bit of ground clipping. Nbd. Pvp was insanely fun. Mostly went solo and held my own. It was an absolute blast exploring and fighting in the DZ. The small events that occured for extra xp dint seem that interesting. Nothing remarkable, but it was a beta. Coop anywhere is fantastic. Hard modes for missions was fun. AI was just tougher, not any better. Oh well.

Seemless transitioning without loading was surprising. Whether it was missions, story mode, or pvp, it was all one big piece and I loved it. Enemies are sponge bullets, but as I progressed and upgraded my gear, it wasn't that much of a problem. Mostly upgraded stability on my weapons. Having bosses were cool. AI actually used tactics and did flank and use other ways to take you out. It could be better, but it's fine.

The atmosphere in the game is truly amazing. Graphics are top notch, although they take a couple of seconds to load up and be fully textured. -1

Great game so far.....will definitely be reading full reviews when it comes out. Want opinions before I buy. Happy gaming

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