Massive’s cover-based RPG shooter does not divide opinion.
As I close the holographic map that was spread out across the floor, having set a waypoint to a mission a couple of kilometers away, it’s a clear and sunny morning here in post-outbreak New York. The navigation aid points me north, and as I make my way past the discarded cars and piles of rubbish, pausing to give a civilian a can of food and watch a dog take a dump, the sun streams through the corridors of skyscrapers and brownstones.
Sneaking past a couple of enemies huddled over something in the middle of the street, I ignore the orange line pointing me directly to my destination, and saunter down an alley and in to the back of an electrical store. My mini-map says there’s some parts there I can loot, and I’ll need them later on to craft some new piece of gear; kneepads probably. As I open the door to the front of the store, I realise my mistake. I’d not used my pulse tech in a while, so had no idea there were 4 enemies in the store, chatting idly while they waited for trouble. Me.
Snapping in to cover behind a display case I blind fire to make them scatter, and then place my portable turret on top of the cover I have. It automatically suppresses the grenadier while I pick off two of the other enemies trying to rush me, each falling to a burst of half a clip each from my silenced Steyr Aug A3. My turret is about to run out of power, so I select a regular grenade from the three types I have available, and pitch it off the wall behind the suppressed enemy. He yells out as he dies, as the one remaining foe charges me. I’ve not reloaded. Shit. I pull out my sidearm (my secondary weapon is a long range rifle, so is as useful as a Move controller was at launch) and frantically pull the trigger, backing away as I fire, felling the onrushing enemy with two bullets to spare. He drops a new pair of gloves for me.
As I walk outside to rejoin the path to my main objective, it’s started snowing. Visibility is less than 100m. I sprint along the closed off roads, ignoring the passers by and the other Division agent I pass every now and then. Crossing over in to an unexplored section of the city, the level of enemy I might come across now matches my own level – without a team of three other agents, it can be dangerous to take on better armoured enemies solo, but the reward of increased quality loot is a risk worth taking.
…exhilarating encounters, if you’re on our own, with a team of randoms, or a full squad of friends.
Blizzard conditions have kicked in, and the light from the still-decorated Christmas trees is all that illuminates the street corner. Moving indoors to pick up a phone recording – I heard it tweep – from a nurse and search for supplies in the abandoned apartment block; it’s addictive searching every nook and cranny of the surprisingly well decorated, almost entombed, rooms. As I exhaust the backpacks, fridges, and storage lockers, and move back outside, the storm has broken, and it’s clear daylight again, the slightest amount of fog hanging in the air.
Cutting a corner I almost run straight in to an enemy, his armour full, and level one notch higher than mine. What’s worse is that he has two lieutenants, as powerful as I am, and aggressive with it. I dive backward and find cover, pulsing them to add some much needed damage to my attack, and setting up my turret to try and suppress them. It doesn’t work – while I’m dealing with one of the lieutenants, the other is making short work of my turret, and the powerful yellow level enemy (I hope he drops something of worth) has pushed up on my position, throwing a grenade to force me back. As it takes off half my health, I escape in to the back of an open semi-truck, using the last of my health packs to survive, pinned down in a corner. Catching my breath, and fending them off with the last of my grenades, I decide to make a break for it. My turret is ready to go again, and bouncing it off a wall to get a favourable position, I dive out of the truck and sprint up some stairs while my pursuers are pinned down. It’s a dead end. Pinning myself to a wall, I blind fire to try and dissuade the advancing enemy. He isn’t having it. With no other option, I have to try and pump as much ammo in to him in critical areas and try and beat him at a war of attrition.
It didn’t work. I died, revived back at my base of operations, a long way from where I wanted to be. I never did get to that mission.
The Division’s underlying cover-based RPG shooter is mechanically sound, it’s story interesting (if not without its socio-political problems), and it’s addictive loot-as-numbers game just a few steps above Cookie Clicker sometimes, but where it shines – and shines very brightly – is in the emergent world that can provide some exhilarating encounters, if you’re on our own, with a team of randoms, or a full squad of friends.
That’s not to mention the Dark Zone and it’s player vs player vs AI encounters and subsequent honor or betrayal extraction patterns, the upcoming free DLC (and subsequent paid for additions, obviously), challenge modes and ongoing (and timely) support from Massive.
The current state of, and the future of The Division looks completely opposite to the current in-game state of New York; healthy.
A fantasticly realised world, and a very good RPG on top, made better with friends.