If there is one major city in the world that can take a punch and get right back up, it would be New York City, one of, if not, the most famous city in the world. From a 50 feet primate swatting planes at the top of the Empire State Building to a giant mutated iguana making Madison Square Garden its nest, the Big Apple has been the backdrop for some of the most horrific events imaginable. However, in Tom Clancy’s The Division, New Yorkers don’t have to run for cover from collapsing buildings or an alien invasion. Instead, the population has been devastated from the inside, thanks to a cleverly designed virus transmitted by banknotes on the busiest shopping day of the year; Black Friday.
New York City erupts into widespread anarchy, as the U.S. Government activities the first set of sleeper agents in the city, known as The Division. After the “first wave” fails due to the overwhelming amount of criminal violence that has stricken fear into the citizens stuck in the city, the "second wave" is activated. Being part of the second wave, it is your task to re-establish a base of operations in the Post Office across the street from the most famous arena in sports, Madison Square Garden. Broken out by three main upgradeable wings, medical, security, and tech, you'll strengthing the base by completing missions for each of the wing leaders.
Standing in the way of Division agents on their mission to take back the city and discover the origin of the virus are organized groups of rioters, escaped prisoners, sanitation workers with flamethrowers, and private military contractors. Completing missions earn points in each of the wings, unlocking new abilities, talents, and perks. With players being able to form up to four-player groups, having a balanced team is the key to success when attempting missions on the harder difficulty levels. Thankfully, players are free to switch out their abilities and unlocked talents at will. You may have a different loadout if you are playing in a group, compared to if you are trying to take back the city alone.
Unlike previous games that were blessed with the Tom Clancy moniker where a single bullet can take foes down, enemies (and players) in The Division can take round after round, at least, the higher level ones. The game is more akin to Bungie's sci-fi shooter Destiny, or Gearbox Software's Borderlands, as health and armor ticks down as you unload on unexpecting enemies.
Set in present-day, all of the weaponry is grounded by today's military standard. Of course, equipment and abilities are more far fetched, as I doubt soldiers today are deploying briefcase size automated turrets that clip onto their backpack along with healing devices that can revive downed allies. The Division doesn’t force cooperative play on players, as the story can be completed alone or with a group. The main story missions change dynamically based on the amount of players in a group, adding enemies and changing enemy types as groups expand or shrink in size. Because of this, the missions always feel tailored perfectly for the right amount of players at all times.
Outside of the players in your group, you won’t come across any players roaming the streets of NYC unless you venture into the Dark Zone. However, scattered across the various zones, you'll come across safe houses, where you can purchase new gear, fill out your map with side missions and interact with other Division agents. As long as you have players on your friend's list that are in-game, you can follow their position on the map, giving you the option to join them at any time.
Along with your two main weapons, Divison agents come equipped with a sidearm, two active abilities, and a signature skill. At the onset, most of these are locked, but as you complete missions and open up more of each wing in the base of operations, you'll gain access to these abilities. Depending on your combat approach, you may decide to change any of your abilities at any time. For example, I tend to keep one slot reserved for my heal and rotate the remaining slot between seeking mines and a sticky bomb. Each of the abilities also has unlockable talents, such as altering the standard turret into a flame shooter instrument of death.
The Division employs a robust cover system, turning almost every surface in the game into protection to hide behind. At any point, you can point to a new location and hold a button to travel to the new spot in a hurry. This comes in handy in the middle of a firefight, as you attempt to gain a positional advantage. At the same time, enemies have the uncanny ability to always know where you are. Snipers tend to stay further away and in cover, trying to pick you off when you pop out of cover. Foes with shields and melee weapons will charge towards you, making them easy targets. Shotgun equipped enemies, however, will also charge you, but if you stay out of cover too long, they can easily cut you down.
After completing the story and reaching the current level cap of 30, daily missions will become available. These can be completed for additional rewards, but are quite difficult to complete. They provide your best chances at acquiring new gear outside of the Dark Zone.
The Dark Zone occupies the middle portion of the island of Manhattan, containing some of the most sought after attractions in the city, such as the Empire State Building, and the New York public library. Anything can happen in this PvE, PvP hybrid zone as other players can target you ay any time. Players will be flagged as rogue agents if they kill other players, but the risk may be worth it as killed players will drop Dark Zone loot. Before the gear can be used it has to be extracted. Upon reaching an extraction zone, you must wait 90 seconds for a helicopter to arrive. During this time, high-level enemies characters spawn to try and stop you.
The Dark Zone is broken up into multiple zones and has various level ranges. This prevents higher level players from trying to gank or troll lower level ones. Once a player reaches the level cap, they will only be able to interact with other players that are also at level 30. Just as it was in Destiny or Diablo, the end goal of the game is to find better quality loot. Loot is broken out in a typical RPG fashion, with purple (superior) and yellow (high-end) loot signifying the best loot in the game. High-end gear, the most desired, is where you will find the highest DPS and the most wanted talents attached to items. These can have a game-changing element to them, by decreasing skill cool down timers or provide extra damage for headshots, for example.
Bounties are placed on rogue agents, and until they serve out the remaining time on their bounty timer or are killed, they can not leave the Dark Zone. Players in the zone at the time will see an indicator for these rogue players, allowing you to team up to hunt them down.
Tom Clancy’s The Division is an enjoyable shooter with social implementation for those that want to play with friends. After putting 50+ hours into the game, completing the story and running around the Dark Zone as a rogue, Massive will need to keep updating the game with new end-game content. Daily missions are currently the same content, but harder, and running the same missions for the umpteenth time will eventually grow tiresome. The Division has a solid base to build off of, and I'm sure that Massive will keep updating the game with new activities for players to enjoy.Note: Tom Clancy's The Division was reviewed on PlayStation 4. A digital copy of the game purchased by SelectButton.