Personally, I’m not one for jumping on-board the ‘hype train’, putting all my eggs into one basket, counting my chickens before they’ve hatched… Well you get the idea, enough with the pointless proverbs and let’s get stuck into the preview for Tom Clancy’s The Division (TCTD); because as they say, all good things come to those who wait. Damn it.
For all of you who don’t know, Tom Clancy’s The Division is the highly anticipated release for 2016 and is likely to be an instant classic for developer Ubisoft. The game, an online, open world, third-person RPG shooter, has already wetted the appetite for thousands of players during the recent open beta between 28th January 2016 and 2nd February 2016. The title is set for full release on 8th March 2016 on PC, Xbox One and Playstation 4.
In a nutshell, Tom Clancy’s The Division is set in a post-apocalyptic New York City following the spread of a dangerous virus during the Black Friday sales. The country quickly falls into disarray and chaos, which in turn activates a secret Government cell employed to combat such extremities and bring order back to the city; this is where you come into it. You are part of the Strategic Homeland Division or The Division for short, your role is to combat the virus and any fallout from it, by any means necessary… Think Chuck Norris, DayZ, Resident Evil without the zombies and you’ve pretty much got it. In order to help with your mission of salvation, you can go solo or be accompanied by up to 4 of your most trusted friends in either the campaign mode or The Dark Zone (DZ), we’ll get into the DZ in a short while. Tom Clancy’s The Division offers full cooperative online play, if you have no friends in your friends list, then you can easily add the ‘new friends’ you encounter whilst playing the game with the simple push of a button. That is, if they don’t happen to heinously gun you down and steal the contents of your inventory before-hand.
The game is broken into 2 distinct segments, the PvE campaign mode and the PvP zone, the DZ. The transition between the 2 is seamless and has been integrated into the story by the developers. If you’re concerned that PvP has been fenced off with the usual exit campaign, select multi-player, join server style of mechanic, then fear not. As a player, you must make your way to the DZ through the city which by default is the PvE campaign / free roam mode. The developers have crafted the DZ to be integral to the story, should you wish to enter; yes it is your choice, then you ought to be aware that the DZ is a walled-off quarantine zone. When the virus first hit the city, Government officials originally believed it to be a form of flu. As part of the efforts to quell the spread of the virus, those infected were held within the designated area of the DZ, a wall was built around the infected to contain the virus. Unfortunately, the government lost control of the DZ and had to evacuate the area, leaving behind the best medical supplies and weapons. Within the DZ there are areas of high radiation, rebels seeking to kill and steal your equipment, there is no law and order, only chaos.
Why, you may ask, would you subject yourself to such risk? Well, in order to equip the best weapons and armour, you must first enter the DZ. Mechanically, the DZ is the PvP aspect of the game. You can enter the DZ with a group of up to 4 players, you can also go solo should you wish. Inside there are NPCs that you must kill in order to obtain weaponry, clothing and armour. You also have the choice to kill other players, although you must be conscious of the potential ramifications of taking such an action. All equipment obtained from within the DZ is radioactive and can not be equipped, in order to access the items you must first remove them from the DZ zone by airlift. To do so, you must summon a helicopter to an extraction point, this takes approximately 90 seconds to arrive, of which you have a further 30 seconds available to extract. When you summon an extraction, all players within the DZ are made aware of the time remaining and exactly where the extraction will take place. Encounters between players at the extraction point can be akin to the old Western stand-off, who will fire the first shot? Who can you trust? It’s enough stress to cause even the most hardened soldier to fill their pants with a kilogram of the brown stuff… Nuff said.
Whilst inside the DZ you are able to observe if players are carrying items for extraction, a small yellow radioactive pouch will hang from the base of their backpacks. As a player you can not know whether they are carrying junk or an item of particular value. This adds to the risk of whether or not you wish to go rogue, or continue on your exploration.
The application of PvP within Tom Clancy’s The Division is quite splendid. As a player, you have two distinct roles within the game, both require you to level in order to progress and equip better weaponry and armour. In essence, you have a character level for PvE and PvP. Whilst inside the DZ you will gain PvP levels and currency for completing certain tasks, such as killing NPCs and rogue players. You will also gain points for going rogue and then returning to a neutral status. You must consciously make the decision to go from neutral to rogue, you do this by attacking or killing other neutral players on the server. Whilst in a rogue status, other players within your vicinity will be able to see you on the map. If you are killed whilst being rogue, you will lose currency and points, there is potential to lose levels. This may have a detrimental effect for the items you have equipped as you may lose the level required to equip them in the first instance. Should you continue to kill players as rogue, then the amount of time required to return to a neutral status will increase. The only way to return to neutral is to stop killing players. A neutral player who kills a rogue is rewarded, there is no negative consequence.
Vendors can be located within the DZ, the inventory of the vendor will change depending on your current level. You have the option to purchase rare weapons and armour here with the currency obtained inside the PvP zone. The mechanics of the DZ is brilliant, it creates an uneasy atmosphere between groups. Players must weigh-up their actions prior to engaging, the glory of gunning down another player and stealing their items may be short-lived, should you succeed then you may loot an exceptional weapon, they may have been carrying junk too. Even still, you may be gunned down whilst rogue and lose all that hard-earned currency, lose a level, anything. The consequences of failure generally outweigh the lure of success. The balance between neutral and rogue is set-up beautifully, the usual shoot-on-sight mentality that we see other games simply does not exist in the DZ. Sure, some players will always try their hand, but at least they now have to think about their actions and are punished should they fail. It really is wonderful.
Stepping away from the DZ and into the free-roam campaign mode, the player can progress through the city and complete various missions. The game and storyline will develop as your character develops. Your central hub will be Base Camp which is an unused building at the start. The Base Camp will develop overtime too, this will reward you with increased perks and attributes. In essence, the game rewards you for spending time in the PvE zone, the perks stay with your character in both PvE and PvP. Unfortunately the beta did not allow for much customisation, but clearly this will be a major part of the game following full release. Inside Base Camp you will find vendors to increase your weaponry and armour, also NPCs that provide missions and direction through the story.
The city is packed full with side missions, quests and NPCs. Although the beta gave only a snippet of the city, I was able to spend hours wandering around and exploring. You can acquire additional clothing that can be used to adjust the look of your character. This became somewhat addictive in its own right, I wanted as many beanie hats as I could find! There are also echoes that can be activated at certain points. The echo is like travelling back in time, often the echoes represents the crucial moments when the Government was attempting to quarantine the virus. You will hear the screams of terrified people as they run from gunshots, the fierce roar of flame throwers. I don’t want to spoil it, but you really must activate as many echoes as you find to get a real sense of the horror the city has to offer. The storyline is deep and rich with detail.
Additionally, you can enter a PvE dungeon style of play, whereby you must progress through the area and defeat the end boss, who in turn, will drop a rare item for you to equip. You can complete this as a solo operative or in a group, the difficulty of the instance will depend on the number of people you enter with.
The graphical design of Tom Clancy’s The Division is at times astonishing. The city is beautifully crafted and captures your attention immediately. The weather effects are mind-blowing, in a single moment you can go from the sun dazzling in the distance, sending enormous and domineering shadows high onto the walls of nearby buildings, to a thick and blinding snow storm. As the snow falls and lays on the concrete pavements and vehicles, should you stand out too long, it will collect on your wool hat and shoulders. With every breath you see a plume of condensed air escape your mouth and disappear into the atmosphere. As the temperature warms, the snow will melt to water, this in-turn will bloom and reflect all the different type of lighting. As it beins to cool, you will see the water frost over, gorgeous. The snow will fall again, as it does the sound around you will muffle and dampen as it struggles to echo through the deep snow that covers and collects on every available surface. This is a master-class in-game design, an absolute master-class.
The controls are exceptional too, they feel natural and allow for seamless interaction with the game and environment around you. You can hide behind vehicles, walls and other available objects with a snap-to-grid precision. The controls in the game don’t feel frustrating or difficult, they make sense. They suit the style of game-play Should you wish to aim down the sight of your weapon, then you can do. You may have adapted your weapon to include your favourite optic, you can quickly jump between third and first-person with ease. There were no times when the camera caused issue with my ability to see what was going on around me, there were no times when I had to consciously think about which button to press or how to move to a certain area. The fluidity of movement is precise, I love this about the game as too often games fail to address this issue correctly. Poor control design can destroy the immersion for the player, it is safe-to-say that the developers have nailed this aspect.
You can pre-order the game now from most of the usual retailers, you have the option of 3 version to go for. The standard edition, a pre-order will give you a special skin for your character. The gold edition, which includes the season pass and other perks when the game is fully released, or the collector’s edition, which includes everything from the gold edition and more, real-life watch and armband being two of them. I’ll let you make you’re own decision about how much of your hard-earned cash you’d like to part with.
For the short time that Tom Clancy’s The Division was release on beta, I managed to accumulate a rather embarrassing and shameful 34 hours of game time. Not bad for a beta that gave only a snippet of what the full game will be. I was fully absorbed, fully immersed, 100% engaged in this delightful title. It wasn’t just me either, my friends and colleagues have been completely blown away by the game, it is simply that good. Although this is a preview for the game, I am excited to bring a full review following the release on 8th March. I have no doubt, it is unequivocal, Tom Clancy’s The Division will be the game of 2016, for me it is easily one of the best games I have ever played. Make of that what you will.
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