Black Friday. A day that causes seemingly level-headed people to lose their minds, clambering over each other to grab the last 3D TV with a 20% discount. Fitting then, that this day should be mankind’s downfall. On the day after Thanksgiving, A deadly virus transmitted by banknotes nicknamed “The Dollar Flu” sweeps its way across New York City, leaving it in a state of chaos and quarantine.
We’ve seen Manhattan in countless games, but never quite like this. The City That Never Sleeps has become an eerie wasteland. Streets and buildings adorned with decorations of a missing Christmas. To restore order to the city, the U.S. government activates a group of sleeper agents known as “The Division”. As one of these agents, the player is tasked with patrolling the streets, killing the looters and murderers that occupy them, and basically getting the sweetest gear around.
At its core, Tom Clancy’s The Division is a standard third-person shooter, but one surrounded by the multiplayer and RPG mechanics of a game like Diablo or Destiny. Story is less a focus here than levelling up your character and finding the best loot. Thankfully, this is an incredibly addictive task and the massive game world is packed with collectibles to hunt down, audio logs to find and missions to complete.
The near 1:1 recreation of Manhattan is a joy to explore. Well-known areas like Hell’s Kitchen and Times Square are replicated in immense detail, and there’s something unnerving about seeing them deserted. Unlike most open-world games, many interior locations have also been modelled: offices, department stores and apartment blocks offer an insight into the last moments of those affected by the virus.
At the centre of the map is the Dark Zone, a highly contaminated area that also serves as the game’s player-versus-player setting. Here lies the best loot in the game, but it needs to be decontaminated before it can be used. To do this, a player in your group starts the extraction with a signal flare, which alerts nearby enemies and players to your presence. If you manage to hold off the AI enemies and players attempting to steal your gear, you get to keep it. These are the game’s tenser moments, especially as you size up another player to decide whether or not they’ll turn hostile.
The Division is best played with a few friends. As a Tom Clancy game, there’s a bit more tactical freedom than your average shooter. Flanking and suppressing fire play a key part in combat, so communication is a must, particularly when attempting missions on harder difficulties. The entire game can played solo, but you still need to be connected to the Internet, and it definitely isn’t as fun as playing co-operatively.
There’s no questioning the game’s value for money. At launch there are dozens of hours of original content, although some of it can be a bit repetitive. However, with free updates and three expansions already announced, it’s safe to say the future is bright for The Division. I, for one, am looking forward to seeing what’s in store.