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Tom Clancy's The Division PS4 review: Redefining an open-world

Tom Clancy's The Division screens-slide0
Permission given to use photo by Ubisoft

Tom Clancy's The Division (PS4)

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The Division is a fantastic single-player game, a wonderful co-op game and fascinating competitive multiplayer game. This game gives you so many ways to play an incredible experience, which all leads to one conclusion: Tom Clancy’s The Division is a phenomenal game.

Tom Clancy's The Division launches on March 8.
Permission given to use photo by Ubisoft

Perhaps what I respect The Division most for is its ability to embrace the way you want to play, whether that is alone or with other people. One of the biggest questions gamers had coming into The Division’s launch was just how much of a single-player game would it be, and let me tell you, it can be a seriously amazing single-player experience.

Aside from the excellent customization and progression systems in the game, what stood out to me most was how entertaining the game’s open-world and campaign was in single-player. Not only can you conquer, or take back, New York City alone, but also you can do so with a ton of challenge.

I decided to play through as many main missions as I could under the Hard difficulty and man was it worth it. Enemy AI is extremely intelligent and challenging to overcome. Enemies are wise to your moves and tactics, and I found them to really force me out of my repetitive gameplay strategies.

The difference between playing a mission under Hard versus Normal is the total number of credits, which I found to be an interesting choice. I figured Ubisoft would’ve altered the amount of XP a player earned, however, it’s a nice and fair choice to make XP the same across the board and just vary up the amount of credits awarded.

Mission design is excellent and while it all centers on the concept of cover-based combat, Ubisoft did a phenomenal job of introducing verticality into each battleground. Staying on the ground time and time again will more than likely trap you in a precarious position. It’s important to make sure you are varying up where you choose to play because the higher ground can be the difference between succeeding easily and failing miserably.

Combat is absolutely addictive and a lot of that comes from how authentic the game’s weapons have been created. There is great diversity in the sorts of weapons you can wield, and each has unique value to them. Even if a weapon didn’t have the type of attributes you wanted, you could absolutely still gain from it through the game’s deconstructing system.

Deconstructing weapons, gear and clothing was a way to help gain the resources needed to craft new weapons, gear and clothing on your own. These resources can also be found throughout the world of New York City, but you have to look hard in order to find them.

Crafting in The Division is simple and easy to understand. Be a certain level, find a blueprint, have the necessary resources and you’ve got yourself a new item. Throughout my dozens of hours with the game, I found the best way to obtain new blueprints was through side missions. Sure, there are other avenues to discover these things, but side missions tended to reward me the most.

If you’re talking about an open-world game, then you absolutely have to talk about the side content that’s carefully been woven into this world. These activities can be found simply by exploring New York City or by unlocking a new Safe House. Once inside a Safe House, you can wander over to a map of the region you’ve just discovered and synch up for more missions.

Side content includes items known as Encounters, which are based around the three wings of your Base of Operations: Tech, Medical and Security. These missions will reward you with credits, XP and supplies to help you upgrade certain wings of your base, and the game’s main missions do the same. Base of Operations is one of the most addicting elements of this game, and that says a lot.

When you upgrade your Base of Operations, it’s always a very difficult choice to say you want this upgrade versus another and it is in that tension where you will define yourself as a player, especially early on. Each upgrade will unlock new skills and perks, the former which can be modded a number of times, providing further depth to each skill in the game.

Choosing your loadout couldn’t be more difficult, yet fun because of the many different ways The Division allows you to choose. When you look at the basic number of skills in The Division, it seems like an average number, however, when you take into account the different types of mods you can toss onto a skill, that is when the true depth begins to enter the realm of the astounding.

It wouldn’t be a true open-world game if there weren’t items to collect or mysteries to uncover. Discovery is such a treat in The Division, whether you are talking about voice recordings that convey a sliver of context from an individual’s life or an Echo that recalls a previous event from when the virus hit and all hell was breaking loose in New York.

The Division is a revolutionary game from many standpoints and perhaps most striking to me is its ability to tell stories outside of the conventions of AAA game production. You don’t always have to tell a gripping, emotional or entertaining story through moving pictures. Sometimes sounds, stills and a player’s imagination can do that better and more intimately, and The Division’s Echoes are proof of that.

The city of The Division is massive in size and is jammed packed with interesting opportunities for adventure, progression and fun. New York City is absolutely stunning and looks magnificent, especially when you take a stroll through Time’s Square.

People who have been following news coverage of The Division and thought Manhattan would be the only borough showcased in the game will surely be pleased with the opening of The Division. The beginning of the game actually does take place in Brooklyn and I must admit that gave me goose bumps when I first was given control over my character.

I must give Ubisoft a mountain of credit for allowing players to play through Brooklyn at the beginning of The Division. Who knows if this was all part of the plan all along, but this seems to make up for what seemed like a huge disappointment previously of not having Brooklyn in the game, even if Brooklyn’s appearance was only for a brief part of the campaign.

Customization and the different RPG elements of The Division are simple to understand and go a long way in enhancing the addictive nature of the game. It’s funny how fast six hours can slip by when you are trying to find the right knee pad or holster to help increase your character’s stats.

There is so much for people to bite their teeth into that it truly is astonishing to consider. Progression, both overall and in the Dark Zone, are deep and they inspire players to continue to come back for more and more, not just some.

The Dark Zone is a terrifying, thrilling and amazing, which will allow people to be able to spend dozens of hours journeying through with friends. The co-op elements of this game are fun to enjoy, but I must admit, my experience will carry on long over 50 hours because of the game’s campaign and open-world, not its multiplayer.

I’ve been waiting for this game for nearly three years and I must say that I was skeptical heading into The Division’s launch, however, now that I’ve had the chance to soak up everything this game is, I’m confident in saying that it is the start of something amazing.

Despite the cynics who might try to marginalize what this game truly is, it's something you must experience, whether that is with friends or on your own. The Division shows you can have both an incredible online multiplayer experience, while staying true to the roots of an immersive campaign. The Division is a magnificent revelation and one that was well worth the wait.

Pros

  • Amazing single-player
  • Addicting progression and gameplay
  • Brilliant open-world

Ubisoft provided Examiner.com PS4 and Xbox One copies of The Division for the purposes of this review. The lead platform was PS4.

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