I’ve been playing Tom Clancy’s The Division–from here forward more succinctly written just as The Division, because, really now, I don’t think Tom Clancy the author man had anything to do with it–for about two weeks now, plugging away at keeping virus-laden Manhattan, New York as safe as one possibly can during these tough times. I’ve also given a lot of bottles of water to those in need for clean, sometimes trendy, attire, and I’ve also done my fair share of shooting “bad” dudes in the fleshy bits while hanging back to heal my teammates and distract enemies. It’s a cover-based shooter, for better or worse, and good fun with a group of friends.
The story has promise, banking on at least my fear about both chemical warfare and the mass hysteria that unearths during the annual Black Friday shopping event, which, with every new year, begins to expand and trickle into the Thursday prior. Maybe even starting on Wednesday night for some greedy stores. Anyways, a smallpox pandemic called “Green Poison” is spread on banknotes and then circulated around, forcing Manhattan to be quarantined by the government. The U.S. government jumps into action, activating sleeper agents in the population who operate for the Strategic Homeland Division to assist emergency responders, now called the Joint Task Force (JTF), in restoring order. You play as one of these agents, doing things like retrieving important personnel and combating criminal groups, like the Rikers, which are escapees from Rikers Island.
To be honest, and I don’t know if this is because I’ve played the majority of story missions cooperatively with a group of chatty souls, where it is often hard to pay attention to cutscenes and ambient dialogue, but the story seems like all premise and nothing truly substantial. I’ve rescued people, but they aren’t interesting or important to much else that happens afterwards, and every scenario is built around getting the Division agents into a room full of low barriers and red, explosive barrels to have a chaotic shootout. That’s fine and all, considering the shooting gameplay is solid and enjoyable, but a lot of the action doesn’t feel very purposeful. Especially when you walk away from a story mission with only a new weapon blueprint and some XP.
I completed the last main story mission a few nights ago, and the reason I know it was the last main story mission is because a screen pops up afterwards, telling you about going into the Dark Zone and promising more content in the future. I don’t really even know what happened. I hid towards the back while my higher level teammates shot down a helicopter. I thought we were looking for a cure or a means to get there, but I don’t know why we did this, and why the plot ended here. Seems like it stopped too short, and the rest of any story bits can be picked up via the hundreds of collectibles scattered across the map. I’d like to tell you that I won’t go and get them all, but this is me…I love setting a waypoint and heading to it to grab a thing.
If anything, The Division has a fashion problem. Which is unfortunate, because it’s the aspect of the game I’m drawn to the most. Yup, you read that right. I’d rather play dress up than shoot up. I love dressing up my avatars in games like The Sims or Animal Crossing: New Leaf or Fallout 4. It helps bring out both my personality and theirs, and getting a new piece of clothing to try on is exciting. Not in real life, but digitally…yes. I can’t really explain it. Alas, the clothing drops in The Division are drab and dull and barely contain any character. I’ve mostly leaned toward outfits that feature sharp oranges or blues to at least stand out a bit in this colorless world. Thankfully, your clothing inventory is separate from gear and has no limit, but it can still be overwhelming to sift through in search of a new hat or pair of hiking boots.
I hit the level cap of 30 last night, which now unlocks daily missions–basically the same story missions you’ve already done, but at a higher difficulty with the promise of good loot–as well as high-end gear. Which means a gun that does more damage, a backpack that provides more health, and so on. You know, numbers going up. I haven’t experienced much of the Dark Zone yet, with intentions of entering it after checking off most of the story-central stuff. Unfortunately, I still have like three hundred different collectibles to get, not an exaggeration, as well as two more wings to upgrade back at my main base of operation. I suspect I’ll keep playing, certainly to get all these items, but also because I bought the game’s season pass, and there’s more content down the road. Hopefully it’s more than just a bunch of generic-sounding missions that force you to aim a gun at someone who is also aiming a gun at you.
Overall, I’d say that The Division is a pretty good game, with some severe weaknesses when it comes to its story and mission variety. It is at its most enjoyable when playing with friends, telling stories, making jokes, and occasionally paying attention to the dangers that actually lay ahead. Running to and fro across the map by myself reveals just how lonely of a time one can have in Ubisoft’s diseased New York City, and getting into firefights along the way results in either being amazingly easy or the most difficult struggles of your career as a secret agent. I prefer a crew and playing a part in said crew, which, for me, is to toss out a turret to distract enemies while running around and ensuring everyone is healed up. I’ll also occasionally fire a bullet at someone. It’s camaraderie that keeps The Division together, keeps me navigating through less-than-impressive menu UI. Without that, the sickness will win.