The Division: Review in Progress
You know when a game gets it right straight of the bat when you just can’t wait to get home from work and head right back to it. Those games are pretty rare at the moment especially within the AAA mega game market so when one comes along you need to hop straight on that train. I played quite a bit of Ubisoft’s latest attempt at gaming dominance during it’s various Alpha and Beta stages and always came away interested but with concerns I’ve previously noted still looming large. For the release though they have largely been swept away and those that remain are actually not as big an issue as I expected. So before we delve into the positive of which there are many I’m going to go through the few niggles that remain in the days after it’s release.
During the Beta I often found the amount of screen clutter irritating with a HUD throwing all sorts of stats and information around seemingly all over the place with little logical order. Playing in a team of 4 multiplies this issue considerably and during hectic moments it can be seriously distracting. Numbers fly all over the screen showing damage and critical hits that just like Destiny feel to invasive and turn the scene into a cluttered, confusing mess. Add to this the waypoint system which paints lines that guide you in the right direction and you have one seriously invasive HUD that just feels out of place in the game world and at odds with the gritty and realistic tone.
The last little annoyance is the implementation of the wheel menu for choosing Grenades which is a prime example of form over function. Cycling through the various grenade types is made far more tricky by the grey fonts blending into the background especially during the night or missions that see you fighting through a snowy New York. It just doesn’t work very well in practice despite how good it may look I frequently found myself unable to select a different grenade because I couldn’t see the symbol for smoke or fragmentation. A really poor piece of design that thankfully doesn’t appear to be repeated elsewhere.
So with the negative out of the way let’s talk about the good things The Division does and put the kettle on we may be here for a while.
Gunplay is often sacrificed when it comes to RPG styled games like The Division but the lengthy development has been kind to put it mildly. Weapons are punchy, weighty and varied with multiple modifications and upgrades available and the different weapon classes enable you to create a load out to suit your current mission and character setup. Finding a good balance with your squad is really key to getting through the missions on the higher difficulty levels mixing up long range weapons like the Marksman and the Assault rifles is a good place to start. I really enjoyed the Marksman Rifle they are powerful especially with headshots and prevent enemies getting to close for comfort.
The cover system is that was a little hit or miss in the Beta has been tightened up and is far snappier than before resulting in less frustration and fewer cheap deaths. In a game like this the simple sounding cover system can really make or break the experience. Gears of War defined how a cover based shooter should feel and behave but The Division feels more like Ghost Recon in practice. Your character moves into cover quickly but without that slamming impact
The first few set pieces are fun, challenging and a rewarding when playing with friends. The game is clearly setup to maximize the experience when playing with a group of friends with multiple routes, cover and flanking opportunities & making the most of them is really worth the effort. Communication is also very important as the enemies are often numerous and challenging to deal with in large numbers even more so when a more powerful class is added to the battle. The enemies are still a little spongey taking considerable damage to take down even the grunt class and they can get a little over powered when they get up close. I’ve been really surprised by just how tactical the game is when playing with friends and it’s lifted the experience no doubt.
Destiny took almost a year to hit it’s stride and whilst it’s still very early on The Division looks like it has a really solid base to build from. The game world is refreshing and beautifully built and the mechanics all solid enough. Providing Ubisoft keep the content coming and listen to the feedback from the players The Division looks like it could be the mega success the company desperately needs.