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The Division's single-player is contagiously engrossing

The Division single-player.jpg

This is a first impressions review of the single-player campaign of Tom Clancy’s The Division. The game’s end-game and PvP will be covered in another article soon.

The Division Summary

  • Played on: PC and PS4 (Also available for Xbox One)
  • Servers: International (EU), none for South Africa
  • Modes available: Single-player, co-op and PvP Multiplayer in the Dark Zones. Game does require an internet connection for all modes
  • Verdict: Lives up to the promise, but has its issues. An engrossing game that is indeed a contagious experience

I’ve tried to figure out why, in the age of escaping to the stars and battering the heads in of hordes of zombies, Tom Clancy’s The Division resonates with so many. Maybe it’s because we’re all tired of the zombie slaughter or generic star systems. I think it’s more the case that The Division – even with the whole mass sleeper agent thing – is simply very much a real-world possibility (not that I’m saying zombies aren’t of course). It offers a real-world setting with real-world weapons, and most importantly, the very idea that a virus can decimate a city is a very, very frightening and real possibility. And we all want to save humanity really - or at least the slivers of humanity still worth saving.

Yes, there’s single-player, but…

So the big question for most South Africans is whether the game offers a campaign in the traditional sense of the word, and whether it can be played solo. The answer is yes, no, maybe so.

The first thing everyone should note is that the game – no matter which mode you choose – requires you to be online. However, once you’ve successfully managed that hurdle, you can choose to ignore the existence of all the other agents and play the game solo. It’s true that doing so means you will lose some of the game’s tactical nuances inherent with working with teammates, but it is very much a manageable solo experience in the campaign.

While we’re talking about the online requirement, I will suggest that you have a minimum of a 2Mbps line available with as little other activity on it as possible. There was some lag at times, but that might have been due to over-extended servers. Generally however, the experience was a good one from South Africa.

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What kind of game is it though?

If you dissect the game, The Division is a massively multiplayer online third-person cover-based shooter with RPG elements. So yes, it’s a bit like Destiny crossed with Gears of War and Fallout 4, but in the end, it’s more than a sum of those parts.

Importantly, The Division is a great third-person shooter. The cover system works well and moving from cover to cover becomes pretty intuitive after a few minutes of playing. The RPG elements see you able to level up your character via XP and their associated perks and skills, even crafting a character with a specific set of skills. The character selection at the beginning is a little limiting on the other hand (when compared to other RPGs at least) but you can satisfactorily personalise your character to reflect yourself in the virtual world.

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Base building exists too, and completing missions and side-missions will offer you opportunities to upgrade your Base of Operations via the three wings to ensure that the citizens of Manhattan have a place of safety, as well as offering your agent upgrade opportunities. Each of the three wings – Security, Tech and Medical – are essentially story arcs too, revealing pieces of what happened, who is involved and what the potential crisis point will lead to.

The campaign – or if you actually prefer, ‘free roam’ – also offers a variety of ‘Encounters’ which essentially requires you to save hostages, protect supplies, and generally kill the bad people trying to control the streets. You can trade with vendors, upgrade your weapons and equipment, which all comes about due to the looting you can (and most likely will be driven to) do. All this and you can craft weapons too, although in many cases you will probably still fall back to your old favourite.

In fact, the game has plenty to do and it would appear as if the main campaign should keep you busy for over 15 hours on its own – it’s difficult to be sure as there are plenty of distractions on offer at times.

The city is dead…

… and in a good way really. Manhattan is beautifully realised, and is possibly the star of the game. The city streets feel realistic and oppressive in equal measure, and when playing on PC on ‘Ultra’, the game looked spectacular, but the PS4 version was certainly no ugly duckling.

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On the other hand, as much as there is to do in the game, there were times when the streets felt almost too empty, and the journey felt long and hard. That’s mainly due to a pretty large map that can only be traversed on foot, or by a slightly limited number of fast travel points. Of course, in those quiet moments, you can truly take in the vistas and architecture that so many regular tourists would usually miss.

There were some issues

Let’s be fair, in this day and age, no game releases without some issues. The servers were under a little strain at the beginning, but as mentioned, that appears to have been stabilised. Player griefing also exists in the single-player component when you entering hubs (players blocking doorways, queues to activate your agent, etc.), but again, that might be patched or simply by virtue of the game being a few days old, the players may have moved on.

A few glitches were more noticeable in the PC version of the game than on the PS4 – disappearing weapons being the most common issue, but something that a patch is definitely likely to fix.

However, more worrying is the generic enemy types and some them also have the slightly foolish idea of charging an armed agent with a baseball bat. There are different factions and bosses, but almost all of them appear to be a reskinned version of another enemy encountered. It means that after extended time with the game, you get the feeling that it is all becoming just a little repetitive, but that’s why the game also features co-op and PvP.

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I’m outta here

When I got my hands on the game in the beta, I said it was an ‘engrossing, promising and frightening game’. It has lived up to all that and brought more to the table than the beta revealed. In terms of a singleplayer experience, The Division is worth considering, but you really should experience all it has on offer to fully appreciate just what the world of The Division is about.

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