Tom Clancy's The Division (PC) Review

By David Lovato 24.03.2016

Review for Tom Clancy

Ubisoft has had a bit of a rocky ride lately, with the less-than-amazing reception to Watch_Dogs and announcing the scaling back of Assassin's Creed titles. Despite this, hype has been high for The Division, the apocalyptic third-person shooter first announced in 2013. After a few delays, the game finally hit store shelves several weeks ago, and now Cubed3 takes a look at the PC version.

The Division is a third-person shooter, but incorporates many elements of MMOs, like a skill and perk system, experience, and match-made multiplayer. This has drawn many comparisons to Destiny, although unlike that game, matchmaking doesn't happen automatically in the wild (but it is actually common to see random players standing around vendors in safe zones). Still, The Division features a similar grind, with players earning better loot as they level up. At its core, it's a sturdy third-person shooter/looter, with gunplay reminiscent of Watch_Dogs. An extensive cover system gives players plenty of space to lay low, waiting for enemies to reload or appear from cover before unloading on them.

Screenshot for Tom Clancy's The Division on PC

Unfortunately, the "rinse, and repeat" factor is incredibly strong. Go to a place, hold X to get an item or talk to someone… rinse, and repeat. Take cover, wait for incoming fire to stop, start firing… rinse, and repeat. Levelling up will grant access to one of a few skills or perks, although none really change the gameplay much - nothing seems to. This was a similar complaint in Destiny, yet that offers the occasional mix-up by switching to a strike, or raid, or Crucible, while The Division's options are doing the same thing alone, or doing the same thing with other players (which tends to be more fun, besides constantly hoping that nobody gets disconnected).

All of this is wrapped in a story that has potential, but never capitalises on it. Characters are generic and flat, and their dialogue demands players feel a certain way instead of letting their actions or surrounding events evoke it in them. There's an inescapable layer of nonsense to the plot, which can essentially be summarised as commanding officers saying, "These people are threatening to kill others. Not cool. Go kill them," or "These people are looting, that's not okay. Go kill them and loot their corpses." Bugs are also present, with things like the lead character falling through floors, being unable to shoot or perform an action unless positioned correctly, a sudden dark fog permeating the area, or randomly disconnecting, although a poor Internet connection is probably more to blame for this than shoddy programming.

Screenshot for Tom Clancy's The Division on PC

On the whole, Ubisoft has built a visually stunning world - and given players absolutely no reason to take it in. Abandoned cars, suitcases, equipment, and so on, are there for cover and little else. NPCs will repeat the same stocky animations, and in one case, during the review process, AI teammates continued to shout battle-themed military jargon long after all hostiles were eliminated, completely breaking the immersion. A post-apocalyptic setting often gives a feeling of wanting to explore, scavenge, take in the sights, and see the lives people left in a hurry. The Division does none of that; it touches on that last bit, but it feels phoned-in. Underlying this playground is the same open-world gameplay now commonplace in many Ubisoft titles: the map will highlight where various missions and side-missions are, gamers will run from one to the next, and the space between is filled with cool architecture and world design, only this time around it can't be climbed and serves no purpose. Ubisoft built a legacy on this system. It was once awe-inspiring and massive, but here it feels like a step backward from Assassin's Creed and Watch_Dogs; there's nothing truly new here, it could just as easily be a skin for one of its other releases.

The graphics in general are pleasing, looking and playing nice even on a mid-level machine, and characters can be customised in a number of ways: loot, obviously, but also in the form of initial character customisation and finding cosmetic-only items to alter character appearance. Not all loot or perks are cosmetic-only, and those who buy a Season Pass gain access to exclusive perks, which is a concerning practice in the gaming world.

Screenshot for Tom Clancy's The Division on PC

Endgame content in the form of The Dark Zone (yet another reason to draw parallels to Destiny) started out as a good idea, but doesn't exactly work in practice. Players can work together or turn on each other for a chance to earn high-end loot, but by the time they are good enough to truly compete, most won't need that loot for anything but another go at the same activity. There's not much reward for the risk involved.

All told, this just doesn't change things up enough. Activities aren't varied and little to no reason is given to repeat them. The Division seems almost like a tech demo for Ubisoft's new engine, and while the base mechanics and appearance are impressive, not much is actually done with them. From a gameplay standpoint, there's nothing here that hasn't been covered by other Ubisoft products… or by other developers.

In essence, Ubisoft has created an impressive new engine but delivered the same old content. This isn't to say the content is bad; far from it, as there's fun grinding and gunplay and open-world play to be had, but The Division doesn't feel like a new experience so much as a polished conglomeration of old ones, and considering the long development cycle and numerous delays, there should have been a lot more substance to its style.

Screenshot for Tom Clancy's The Division on PC

Cubed3 Rating

6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Good

The Division is a solid shooter, but there's nothing compelling about it, either in terms of story or gameplay. Those playing with others will likely have a lot more fun than those playing alone, although it's safe to say anyone who likes a decent shooter will probably want to check it out. Like Destiny, there's sure to be a dedicated following of players for whom the game simply clicks, and the endless grind is reason enough to keep coming back. For the rest, it will probably disappear to their shelves after a few months' time - unless Ubisoft comes up with some compelling post-launch content to keep them holding on.

The Division (as well as other games in the Tom Clancy series) can be bought from Play-Asia.com on PC via Uplay and on other formats today, along with many other great digitally released titles on the likes of PlayStation Network, Nintendo eShop, PC via Steam, and so on, across all regions.

Image for

Developer

Massive Entertainment

Publisher

Ubisoft

Genre

Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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