Why The Division Is Better Than You Think

Graham: Tom Clancy’s The Division is out. It’s a mish-mash of genres: a cover shooter, with realistic weapons, an emphasis on multiplayer and co-op, in which you kill enemies in order to level up and find new loot as in an RPG, set among the looted streets of a post-viral collapse New York. It feels like a collection of well-observed trends, packaged together under a covering of very pretty snow. It’s much more fun than I, at least, was expecting.

If I wanted to make you click the read more button, I’d say it was a better RPG than The Witcher 3. Our full review will be along early next week, but until then you can come read me justify that statement in conversation with Adam.

Adam: Don’t be daft. It’s a better cover shooter than The Witcher 3, sure, but as far as RPGs go it falls somewhere between Dragon Age II and Mass Effect 3. I haven’t played either of those games.

There was a brilliant moment when we were playing a couple of days ago when I suddenly realised I was a cleric. I have a gun that shoots area effect healing domes, I run up close to the mobs of baddies and fire my tiny little SMG into their faces – which is a lot like laying on hands to turn the undead – and… I’m not sure how to integrate the incendiary grenades into this particular analogy because they clearly belong to some kind of elemental wizard. Not a cleric’s bag, all that burning.

But the important thing is this: Mr Clancy’s The Division has successfully tricked me into playing what is effectively a very MMORPG type of thing, with kiting of enemies and big bosses that take loads of effort to kill, and parties made up of characters with specific skills and purposes. It’s not an MMORPGs because there’s nobody else around, for the most part, but it’s a lot like all the bits of MMORPGs that I definitely don’t like.

And yet, here I am, thoroughly enjoying every minute I spend playing this big old bastard of a game.

Graham: I played the beta and I saw the draw of its progress mechanics: complete missions to expand and improve your base, basically. But I figured that was it. The enemies are bulletsponges and the guns consequently felt unsatisfying to wield, and I figured I’d never play it much because progress is compelling but ultimately meaningless and I have limited time.

I’ve been surprised then to find its pleasures lie deeper. I’m not being (entirely) facetious when I say it’s a better RPG than The Witcher 3. Like you, I’m enjoying that characters are made with specific skills and purposes. I feel like I’m making important decisions when I upgrade my base and decide which new room to add (and consequently which skills to unlock), and when I then decide which of those skills to take with me in the field. I didn’t experience that so early on when levelling Geralt.

Those decisions improve the shooting, too. Enemies are still absorb absurd amounts of damage, but I’m now incentivised to pursue headshots because a passive ability gives me a 50% chance of keeping the bullet if I do. My main active skill is also a small deployable turret, which means that suddenly the semi-automatic rifle I have – which seemed initially useless – has a role because the turret gives me space to carefully pick my shots.

It’s… it’s kind of great, Adam. I’ve had great fun flanking bads with you.

Adam: Remember when we went to the Sewer Morgue? It was a sewer but instead of being full of poo and wee, it was full of poo, wee and hundreds of dead bodies. I think they were pox bodies. It was a horrible place. We killed some people down there and I’m not even sure what they were doing – did they want to live in the Sewer Morgue? That doesn’t seem right. Maybe they were trying to occupy the Sewer Morgue as a form of political protest?

Whatever the case, we killed those people and we trudged through the poo, the wee, the blood and the bodies because we are heroes and that is what heroes do.

The point I’m making here – and there is a point, honestly – is that it shows what great company I am that we had a good time in the Sewer Morgue. It is not the kind of place people generally go to when they want to have a good time, but we had a blast.

For a while I thought the entirety of The Division might be a bit of a Sewer Morgue – a big stinking corridor that we were enjoying trudging through only because the company was good. But it isn’t – the progression feels like it might just be endless grind, in the way that enemies get tougher as your guns get stronger, sort of cancelling each other out, but there’s just enough variety in the baddies, for now, to keep me interested.

And the flanking is important! We actually do tactics and everything when we’re playing and that’s the key to the whole thing for me. You’re not just watching numbers go up in your inventory and down on the enemies’ health bars, you’re trying to figure out how to make the numbers go down faster by using the environment to your advantage and communicating as a team.

I agree. It’s pretty great. Do you think the enjoyment will last? We’re only level 7 or 8, right? You might be more because you were playing with other people while I was working though, you hussy.

Graham: I felt pretty bad about that. I guiltily played through some wholly inconsequently side missions and hoped I wouldn’t unwittingly level up and throw us out of sync.

I can see the enjoyment lasting, at least for as long as I have people to play with. Like you, I don’t think it’s only fun because we’re playing together, but it is slightly lonely when playing it alone. There is plenty of story to try to support you, in the way that story can be a comfortable hammock that holds up all the activities of a game, but it’s story in that contenty way that you get with MMOs. You create a character, but you don’t talk, you don’t have a personal journey, it’s not a singleplayer game. So it feels like you’re watching the low budget webisode spin-off to some Showtime series, while the real heroes and characters are off somewhere else.

But aside from that loneliness, yeah, I think it’ll remain fun. It’s not just that it has introduced enough enemy variants to keep it interesting – machinegun guy, melee guy, melee guy with shield, flamethrower guy with explodable gas tank, etc. – but that it seems to understand things about the cover shooter that a lot of other games with waist-high walls don’t. Mainly, that it’s not really about the cover. It’s about how that divides an arena into tranches (and trenches, I guess) of progress, and supports defined tactics like flanking and covering fire.

MMOs normally have concepts of “mobs”, who stand around waiting for heroes to come around and bosh them for treasure. The Division is really good, better even than the scifi world of Destiny, at giving a structure to encounters by putting you at one side of a space with enemies in fixed emplacements at the other side. We had one particular mission that was difficult, in that we died a couple of times in the same space, but it felt methodical and satisfying to change our tactics and work out how to take out the combination of sniper and rocketlauncher men that had us pinned down. That’s the level design as much as anything, mapping our progress of thought on to the physical progress of advancing through the arena, low wall by low wall.

Adam: I was so relieved when we died. It made me feel good that we were actually capable of fucking things up – we didn’t lose because we were out of our depth, in terms of being in a high-level area – we lost because we didn’t do things the right way.

And then I was even more relieved that when we ran back to the fight, we didn’t just try the same thing again and whittle away a little more, so that we could repeat the dying and the respawning and the whittling until we won by default.

We had to go back into the fight with a new approach.

So, yes, The Division gets the really important stuff right. It’s a good cover-based shooter and it’s much more tactical than people might think from the outside looking in. But you know what else is important? The details.

The animations are great. I commented on the quality of the wounded Division agent early in the game. It’s a shame that I don’t care about the actual conversations in the cutscenes because they’re quite attractive to watch. And even though I’ve complained, while we’re playing, that the streets all start to look a bit samey, I’m impressed by how legible the world is. Different enemy types have certain tells, as well as UI pop-ups to identify when they’re going to throw down suppressing fire or use some other skill. I struggled to identify loot and restock locations at first but I’ve learned to read the screen now and find it very easy to use.

You know what I hate though? You do know because I grumble about it whenever I have to go in the base. I hate that there’s no menu interface for all the HQ upgrades. I have to walk around the bloody place to collect ammo and grenades that I’ve built upgrades SPECIFICALLY to provide for myself. It’s tedious busywork and I am very cross about it. Extremely cross.

The HQ is basically the way you level up your character so having to walk around it to unlock things and collect things every time you visit is a bit like having to swim through Geralt’s arteries, Fantastic Voyage-style, so that you can inject elixirs directly into his muscles and organs. RUBBISH.

Graham: There are lots of details I like. I’m enamoured with the snow. It’s not just a that they’ve made snowy textures; it’s that they’ve made a textured world, then put the snowy texture on a surface on top of that. So you can climb on top of a red truck and move around and your footsteps melt the snow, revealing more of the red truck underneath. All the streets of New York do start to look the same, but there were multiple occasions where I had to stop and take screenshots while we were jogging somewhere. It gives good mist, good puddle, and some of its weather effects affect the game, too, in that fog can roll in dynamically during missions in the open world spaces and force you change up your tactics.

You pointed out to me at one point too that the items hanging from your backpack actually reflect what you’re carrying. I love that. I love that I can see my grenades and water bottle back there. I also like parts of the interface – it’s quite customisable, and it’s nice having my health and ammo marked near the center of the screen rather than way down in a corner.

But there’s also lots of details that bug me. Like the bases, yes, which is like running around that old Doom-style interface for Windows 95 in order to access your folders and files. But also the interface for crafting or sorting through gear, which makes it too easy to think you’ve equipped something when actually you’ve unequipped it, which changes or hides prompts in such a way that it’s easy to accidentally recycle items you wanted to keep, in which double-click doesn’t do what you think it will and in which you’re sometimes required to press space or F rather than use the mouse at all. These are small things, but small things you encounter a lot given how much of the game is about comparing loot stats and selling or deconstructing what you don’t want for parts. For their cloth parts.

Adam: I think our readers should know that playing The Division with you has been like being the proud parent of a toddler who is seeing snow for the first time.


The snow is great, it really is, but there are people with flamethrowers and they are trying to burn us to death. And, of course, now I’m wondering if the flames melt the snow at all because that would be awesome.

We’ve talked about that lovely trip to the Sewer Morgue, when we took in all the sights down below. What about the time we went to the Dark Zone and made some new friends?

The Dark Zone is the only area in the game where players can kill one another. When we’re playing in the rest of the city, we don’t see other players, just AI characters. We can summon backup when going into a mission but otherwise, it’s just the people in our group that inhabit this particular instance of New York.

That all changes in the Dark Zone. Suddenly, there are other humans and they might not be trustworthy. I’ve seen lots of comparisons to DayZ – that creeping sense that people might betray you at any time, which makes running into other players so unnerving, is certainly similar. I think it’ll be the best part of the game, The Dark Zone, and it’s not just because of the tension and potential for interesting social interactions (murder; theft), it’s also the way that the loot system has been turned on its head to encourage those interesting social interactions.

We died before we could actually salvage anything – killed by an AI character with an axe while high-level players watched, silently – but do you know how all of that works?

Graham: I think so. Or at least the core of it: you fight groups of NPCs enemies, who have a chance to drop special Dark Zone gear. That gear is better than what you’re likely to find in the open world or story missions, but it can’t simply be walked out the front door and into the rest of the world. Instead you need to call in an extraction helicopter to take it out, and doing so sends up a flare that alerts all other players in the vicinity to what you’re doing. They might come over to attach some ill-gotten loot of their own. Or they might come over to bean you across the brainpan and steal what’s yours for themselves.

It has similarities with DayZ, but it’s more than that. Ubisoft seem to understand that “trust” is a bulging vein of potential within videogames. Boardgames have been playing with it for a long time, but videogames only very recently. Most Ubisoft games seem to do so; playing with disguises in online Assassin’s Creed, pretending to be an NPC while hacking other player’s games in Watch_Dogs, and now the uneasy alliances of the Division’s Dark Zone.

I’d like to play it more, if only to work out whether it’s worth playing more while still relatively low level. We did OK against the NPCs who were a few level above us, but I fear that it might quickly be populated by players who are three times our level and to whom we consequently pose no threat.

You asked me whether I thought the game had legs. Do you? You’re headed to GDC tomorrow, but would you rather be staying home and shooting men with me next week instead of visiting American diners and attending cool parties (and occasionally playing a VR game for work)?

Adam: I’ve been so annoyed by how little time I’ve had to play this week. That doesn’t happen very often. I’m usually happy to log out of my Steams and my Uplays and what have you when the work day is done so that I can watch a terrible atrocity of a football match or go for a walk to the pub.

But The Division is an evening game. That’s a rare thing. I want to carry on playing it right into the night.

Would I rather be going to GDC though? Just about. I once told an American friend that there are four great American artforms: Jazz, roads, baseball and breakfasts. Those diners call to me.

Thinking about GDC, and all the splendid things that will be there, it strikes me that The Division is distinctly untrendy. It’s a big, slightly confused and highly polished release with a somewhat vague online component, and ultraviolence at every corner. It’s the kind of game that has TV spots that make my friends chuckle and say, “that is what Adam does for a living. He plays games about horrible things happening and grim-faced people playing hero by shooting everyone. Isn’t he the silliest person in the world?”

It’s an easy game to roll your eyes at or sneer at, but what a lovingly crafted thing it is. I have no idea quite what changes were made and what ideas were thrown out during that long development cycle, but the end result is a much smarter game than the surface appearance might suggest. And I’m very glad that it exists.

The Division is out now for Windows.

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  1. Frank V. says:

    Will any of you be posting a Wot I think of this game? I’m patiently waiting…. :-)

    • Ergates_Antius says:

      Our full review will be along early next week

      • Frank V. says:

        Good call. I did a ctrl+f for “Wot” as I couldn’t read the article right away. I just started reading it… heh

      • Pogs says:

        Is is really that dull a game you can’t bring yourself to write the Wot?

  2. Aldehyde says:

    Early next week according to this article.

  3. mascarpwn says:

    As usual, an exhilarating, eloquently written, piece of work. Thank you.

  4. nearly says:

    I’ve been having a lot of fun with it so far, though I’m still not sure if it’ll be a lasting title (which uncertainty seems to be the consensus still).

    It’s really interesting, though, that you’d label it untrendy. It seems really unique in the sort of big buzz that’s been going on for it from people that have been really into it since Day 1, and the strange parade of commenters (on this site especially) who constantly feel the need to chime in with “it’s shit.” I mean, I’ve seen plenty of complainers and whiners in comments that lambaste various aspects of games they’ve come to dislike, but it’s just an endless parade of “it’s terrible” hot-takes from people that admittedly aren’t interested in it at all (so they say) for whatever reason, as if they feel the need to pose their opinion as statement of fact to oppose anyone that’s offering “I had fun” as an opinion.

    I don’t think it’s a real showstopper or gamechanger but it seems to be a perfectly competent game. Reminds me a little of Shadow of Mordor and the way people talked about how it was a middle of the road experience elevated by the AI mechanics. Here, it seems like the disguised-MMO (and maybe the Dark Zone) is going to be the real selling point, which means a really mixed audience.

    • Distec says:

      It’s interesting how much venom gets thrown at it. I’d bet that some of this is residual from a “Fuck Ubisoft” mentality. Which isn’t entirely unwarranted IMO, but there you have it.

      The comments on RPS led me to believe that even the beta was a to-be-expected disappointing shitshow, whereas every other place I checked seemed to espouse cautious optimism up to “Holy crap, this is pretty good”. It’s like these groups live in parallel dimensions.

      Not that the game’s really been on my radar any way. Although I’ve become recently intrigued, it’s not been enough for me to break my rule of buying Ubi games on PC.

      • Smoof says:

        I had absolutely no interest in The Division, but a month or two ago, whenever they did the beta invite thing, I figured I’d join up, just to have something to fuck around in over the weekend.

        I ended-up only playing about 2 hours of the beta and promptly put it down, realizing that I really didn’t want to spoil the game, because it suddenly became a Day 1 buy for me.

        I’m extremely happy with my purchase (Helps that I got it for $42) and have been feeling like Adam, where I just want to jump back into the game and play some more. My wife has been nearly completely neglected this week and I’m sort-of regretting the fact that I agreed to go out on a date tonight.

        • AngryAnt says:

          I’ve found it to be a pretty fine game so far. I wasn’t really interested in it (apart from teasers from E3) and I missed the beta but a friend said to buy it and we’ve not regretted it.
          Grouped with two other players, we were attacked as we were extracting our lowbie loot last night. We chased the rogue guy through to a hiding spot in the subway station (where you need high filter to enter so he thought he’d be safe). Legging it after him and then killing him was probably the most fun I’ve had in a long time in a pvp zone & I normally dislike PvP.

          There are a few pretty bad bugs in it (some driver issues for me) and some things that they didnt get right (like the menus and friends systems, plus being able to randomly join friends and have open coms as standard), but there are alot of things the game has gotten right. The AI is fantastic and doing the missions on hard and repeatedly dying because the AI decides to flank and charge you at the same time, is just wonderful (in an annoying way).

          I really hope this game has staying power and they do some end game as I’m worried it will just descend into PvP at top level.

      • XxBrentos9xX says:

        I like a lot of Ubisoft games, and I’m a Tom Clancy fan as well. But this game was so damn boring and dull for me. Everything about the game sounds appealing, but after an hour it felt exactly the same as every other base MMO. Grind for quests, which all involve killing baddies. Rinse, repeat. I know people like that and Ubisoft is great at making that repetitive shit feel nice, but it feels like Destiny to me without all the negative developer bull crap that accompanied that game. I just didn’t find anything in this game that felt like they did a damn thing different than any other game. It’s just the same recipe with better graphics.

      • Rindan says:

        I have a little venom for the game. My venom mostly comes from seeing this beautiful open world shooter game with an interesting premise… and finding out that is a straight MMORPG with MMORPG style combat included. There is nothing wrong with that, but I am burnt to fuck out on traditional MMORPG combat. I was hoping for an open world shooter with meaty gun play, not a game where you can empty a clip into a hobo and not have him die.

        Maybe I’ll give the game a shot if the reviews are good. It has been a long while since I tried boring myself with MMORPG combat, but my hopes are low.

  5. amateurviking says:

    So am I going to need to have actual friends to get anything out of this then?


    • Premium User Badge

      caff says:

      Don’t be ashamed. I’m in the same boat – none of my friends play PC games online, and I don’t want to have to make virtual friends just to enjoy a game.

    • Jinoru says:

      I’ve been playing it solo. Very enjoyable.

    • Evil Timmy says:

      You can auto matchmake from the map and hop into another player’s mission, there’s usually at least two people there and I’ve rarely had to wait more than 20-30 seconds for a game to pop up (on US West Coast). Of course playing with friends you actually know is better, but the public matchmaking has generally worked out well for me.

  6. MadMinstrel says:

    Better than the Witcher 3? Good to know! In that case I’m looking forward to the deep, fleshed out worldbuilding and lore, interesting non-repetitive sidequests, excellent variety of enemies to fight, moral dillemas with consequences, an enormous world to explore, a crew of well-developed characters, politics and intrigue, and of course, an enthralling minigame. The shooting and character mechanics don’t interest me very much, but I guess I’ll do it if it pushes the story along.

    • mechabuddha says:

      Don’t be an ass, it was very clear he meant in the character stats/skills sense.

      • Jediben says:

        So quite clearly not a better RPG then.

      • Catsplosion says:

        He’s not being an ass. Witcher 3 is a completely different type of game that is great due to it’s storytelling and rich and vibrant world. That is the witchers main focus – the divisions is shooting things and getting loot.

        It’s like saying it’s a better game than super smash bros.

        Now comparing it to something like borderlands or diablo would have made sense.

    • XxBrentos9xX says:

      If you like MMO’s and grinding to kill baddies, you’ll enjoy it. If you don’t, you won’t. I didn’t like Destiny (I never gave it a chance after they released TTK because I already got so bored with it and sold it) and I got real bored of this too. But apparently everyone else loves it so…

  7. Paul says:

    I wish Division was a better RPG than Witcher 3. If it had nonlinear narrative filled with choices and consequences and nonlinear well written dialogues and quests that don’t all consist of shooting anonymous baddies, it would have been brilliant.
    As it is, it is a really great cover shooter with well designed stats and progression system. Which is also fine, but not quite as exciting as “better RPG than Witcher 3” would be.

    • nearly says:

      I mean, you have to go to missions and start them yourself, so it’s literally a non-linear narrative in a sense that The Witcher 3 doesn’t even approach. Non-linearity in The Witcher 3 tends to mean that if you do things out of their intended order, you’ll have Geralt filling in the blanks with information he doesn’t actually have access to. It’s nice when you do a quest objective before getting the quest, like the Harpy’s feather for Johnny, but really jarring when Geralt suddenly knows the secret identity of a character that you don’t even know you’re supposed to be looking for yet.

      • Paul says:

        Can you give any examples ? I don’t think I have encountered this. On the contrary, I love the fact that I can go to Skellige and then do Blood Baron last and the game counts with it, eventhough it is not the “expected” progression.
        In any case, I mean nonlinearity more in narrative sense. Not just which quest/mission I tackle first.

        • Al Bobo says:

          I can give you an example. I had played W3 about 60 hours, when I found a high-level antler -monster that I clearly wasn’t supposed to be fighting at my level. It took about 20 minutes to whittle it’s hp down to 50% at which point it decided to leg it. I didn’t feel like fighting it another 20 minutes so I decided to track it down later.
          Now, there’s nothing weird about that, but it was super weird, When Geralt mumbled that this must be the monster that killed some rich guy’s son and the hunting party that went after it and that I will revenge his son like we agreed, when I had no idea who that rich guy was.
          There has been several quests like that where I accidentally jump in at the wrong moment and Geralt gets all clairvoyant.

        • nearly says:

          I can give a few more examples, the first of which is that you can’t just jump immediately into the Skellige story because it’s level 10+. The game scales very poorly and artificially so that higher level enemies don’t just have better stats but are programmed to take severely less damage and to deal significantly more because you’re lower. Luckily, there are a few mods that get rid of that, but still. That’s on top of being stuck in White Orchard initially: the game wants you at specific areas at specific levels and while you can potentially play very well and say “screw you,” you’re likely to spend a lot more time on something that was never intended to be completed. At that point, you’re not really even playing an RPG but a (somewhat poor) action game.

          Aside from that, depending on whether or not we want to dispense with spoilers or not, Crookback bog is a mess and most of the quests concerning it will run into each other regardless of what stage each is at. Johnny and the Harpy’s nest is a good example of when it works to do things out of order, but suddenly knowing the secret identity of someone Geralt has only just been asked to find without even doing any of the investigation is one place where it doesn’t work. You are meant to do Witches of Crookback Bog after Bloody Baron and the narrative reflects that. There’s also a certain tree that you can find your way to before being asked, and if you do that before being told to, the dialogue will be mainly unchanged which means Geralt will start talking about consequences he can’t possibly know about for people he’s barely met. Same thing with discovering the Griffin nest before reaching the quest where you have to investigate it. It really sucks when the narrative of an RPG gets broken by exploration of its world.

          All that said, it’s not quite as bad as when Alpha Protocol would allow you to progress in whatever order you wanted but show the story in the exact same order regardless (so you’d get cutscenes referring to events in areas you haven’t been yet) but it very much has a spectrum of jarring ways of handling doing things out of their intended order (when it’s even possible–you CAN kill significantly higher monsters but it’s generally an enormous waste of time and effort). I’m sure there are a lot of other examples, as I’ve only logged maybe 60 or so hours with the game. The biggest issue I’ve had with that in The Division is just references to the main bad guys’ leaders, but I think that information might have actually been revealed in promo stuff and may not even really be introduced in the game proper.

  8. Premium User Badge

    Philopoemen says:

    Got to level 30 playing solo, when all the extra gear and daily missions pop up, and it becomes apparent quickly that the higher level play is for groups only.

    You need the group dynamics of tank, healers , DPS, as trying to do it yourself is an exercise in frustration.

    The bits I find most entertaining is the random emergent gun battles between you and the JTF and and whatever faction is in the area; due to the way the AI is, and the run and gun nature of combat in the game, these streetfights ebb and flow up and down streets, storefronts, parks etc etc – AI is seemingly triggered by gunfire in a certain radius, scrossfire can be an ever-present threat, and you do need situational awareness – the ubiquitous “check six.”

    As for the Dark zone, its entirely skippable – you can buy equal if not better gear at the advanced weapons vendor. Also you will outlevel the enemies in each area pretty quickly. That said, they’ll still kill you.

  9. yogibbear says:

    The game is fantastic. I’m 40 hs in and Level 30, DZ Level 29. Currently playing through DZ with randoms I group up with until we all hit DZ level 50.

  10. The Algerian says:

    More of a RPG? Perhaps.
    Better RPG? I think not.

  11. Sp4rkR4t says:

    Well I’ve hit the level cap and done all the story missions and only now is the game opening itself up now. Today I hit the Dark Zone or should that be the Dark Zone hit me because bloody hell the baddies in there hurt.

    If I had to narrow down why I like this game it’s definitely the AI, I simply don’t remember playing a game where the enemy adapts to the situation it finds itself in quite so well.

  12. Gibs says:

    …if only I didn’t get those black screens at startup…this evening it keeps giving me those. Maybe cause server’s offline or something?

    The game looks great and runs smooth (around 50 fps) also on medium spec PC (radeon 7850 + old i7), it took some time testing the settings though.

    • melnificent says:

      Two solutions for the black screen.
      1) Don’t click anything after pressing play. For some reason it doesn’t draw to screen properly if you click another window while it’s loading.
      2) Press ALT+Enter to change view mode from Fullscreen to window mode, etc.

  13. Freud says:

    While I think the setting looks fantastic, I just don’t find cover shooters fun. I get why they exist with consoles having to make shooters work with a gamepad but it’s just so boring with the crouching and shooting heads popping up.

    Compare with the new Unreal Tournament and how fluent and kinetic fighting is.

  14. Laurentius says:

    It reeks Ubisoft AAA title in most typical way. Fortunately for me I’ve burnt the bridges with Ibisoft titles on AC:Black Flag and Watch_Dogs and I am not coming back. These game never deliver on their promise, core and often cool idea (pirating, hacking or neolith times in FC:primeal ) is alwayes squanderd by Ubisfot blandness nad icon map hunting. Unfortunately for me their skinner box shape is taking me in and I lost many hours in Black Flag convincing myself that I lik ethis game because I chased another pointless icon, I got out of Watch_Dogs faster thankfully du to very poor car handlingand abysmal story. When this moments hits me, it’s like “omg I’m wasting my life” and I don’t have this on any other game. So I know that I could very easily be sucked into this game for x hours until I feel terrible forall this wasted time so I am not even going to try.
    PS. Also , no driving cars in NY ? Even Borderlands has vehicels, for me every game with drivable vehicle is better, even if it is this terrible MAKO in ME1.

    • Gibs says:

      With what fuel?

      • pennywyz says:

        I thought the timeline for the game was weeks after the crisis, at least not years later. I would expect most cars to still be full of fuel.

        • Tekrunner says:

          The main issue would not be fuel, but the fact that the streets are full of abandoned cars and trucks. Everyone tried to get out of New York at once while the exits were being blocked off. Imagine the traffic jams.

    • MJFERN says:

      So, what you’re saying is, you’re complaining about a game and the publisher, but you didn’t actually PLAY THE GAME?

      • Jediben says:

        So what you are saying is that he should throw £40 at a game,published by a company which has already disappointed his expectations on two previous occasions, based solely on the opinion of a gaming journalism industry which has already mislead him (twice!) into believing that the game would be something he wanted but in the end was not? The phrase begins “fool me once”…

    • BananaMan3000 says:

      Do you have any f**king clue how much work it is to add driveable vehicles to a game like this? Any idea at all? I forgot why I stopped reading comments on video game sites for a second there. See you in another year.

      • pennywyz says:

        Plenty of online multiplayer games have vehicles. I’m sure it would be very difficult to add them now but I don’t see how it would be that hard if you designed it from the ground up with vehicles in mind. From what I’ve seen of the game the streets are pretty cluttered so no driveable vehicles doesn’t seem that odd to me in context.

        By the way, your very out-of-proportion freak out on a rather benign comment is one major reason that many people stay away from reading comments on gaming sites.

  15. KDR_11k says:

    I looked at getting it but it seems my PC is too old to even run it, only has 1GB VRAM (GF 650Ti). I tried remembering what the last AAA game I ran on this machine was and I don’t know, probably Vermintide. Damn it, I’m so out of touch with this big budget stuff.

  16. popej says:

    Does RPS have some sort of group going for this?

  17. Premium User Badge

    daktaklakpak says:

    Adam: Heat Metal, Flame Blade, Flame Strike – all fairly iconic cleric spells. I think your future cleric is quite down with the igniting of baddies.

    • Captain Joyless says:

      I logged in specifically to say that “Flame Strike” is 5th-level cleric spell.

      • BooleanBob says:

        Ah, flame strike. The ‘I wish I’d just rolled another mage’ spell.

    • MJFERN says:

      I was thinking holy hand grenade or jars of holy water for incendiaries myself.

  18. Xzi says:

    Wasn’t even as good as Dying Light in the beta. Let alone The Witcher 3. I really don’t understand how this sold so well. Just gonna encourage more broken promises and half-finished games being pushed out the door.

  19. Premium User Badge

    zigguratvertigo says:

    Multi-player. Meh.

  20. Thornback says:

    A lot of people here taking the jokey Witcher 3 comments seriously. Oh dear.

    Definitely think it’s most like Diablo. It’s definitely a skinner box type game, always wanting to find a newer better gun, or unlock the next perk/talent/ability at the base.

    However I find the general idea of aiming and shooting more fun than clicking with your basic attacks in Diablo, and seeker mines and turrets more fun than ‘right click for magic hammer.’

    People complain about the bullet sponginess, but if you compare it Diablo again, it’s pretty much the same. Against things my level I can hose a standard enemy with less than an SMG clip in a second, or one marksman rifle round, the elite enemies take about 2-3 times that and bosses are bosses and it all feels about as fast as the killing took in Diablo II to me. And yet there are basically no trash enemies. Even a group of four or five standard guys will attempt to flank and put pressure on you and can kill you fast if you give them the opportunity.

    In all I like it because it’s a skinner box shooter that demands you actually play and engage with it. It’s not amazing, not great, but it’s fun enough and I’m sure I’ll get my money’s worth from it.

    • Jediben says:

      Sorry but isn’t jokey, it’s click bait. Either RPS is a serious reviewer and should be held to account for some of these misleading statements, or it should forgo any pretence of being a serious critical body and start posting videos of cats surfing. The fact that you are so blasé in your dismissal of a headline comment means you are leaning toward the latter anyway, which is a pretty damming indictment of the esteem in which these reviews are held. That said, some readers will surely still think that RPS is on the level and will be bloody disappointed if they make the purchase fueled by this piece.

      • wu wei says:

        Either RPS is a serious reviewer and should be held to account for some of these misleading statements, or it should forgo any pretence of being a serious critical body and start posting videos of cats surfing.

        Those are the only two choices? Really? Really?

        The fact that you are so blasé in your dismissal of a headline comment means you are leaning toward the latter anyway

        Or maybe, just maybe, they’ve read this site before & understand what humour is?

        • Thornback says:

          This guy gets it. The whole article is just two people chatting about what they like and dislike about something.

          I’ve read the site a bunch, there’s no clickbaiting. It’s all good fun and joking. No problem here at all.

      • Sandepande says:

        Clickbait. Just what the internet needed, another word for simple dismissal of whatever must be not-my-thing.

        I do agree that the Division is a better rpg than any Witcher, but that’s because I found playing Geralt… dull. Also prefer firearms to swords.

      • Graham Smith says:

        Hello Jediben!

        1) I genuinely like The Division more than The Witcher 3.

        2) This is not a review. That doesn’t make what we say less genuine, but not everything with opinions in is a review.

        3) There’s nothing wrong with being provocative for fun or to make a point.

        4) Could you please link me to the surfing cats?

  21. vahnn says:

    It’s not more fun than I think. It’s about as fun as I think. Played it 4 times as long as these guys, and I was bored before the level they’re at. Kept playing, hoping I’d pass whatever barrier the fun was hidden behind, but it never came. Then again, I didn’t like Borderlands or Destiny, either.

  22. Morcane says:

    You really have to get past the first 10 levels or so, before the game opens up somewhat. The first 10 levels dragged on, and then you get some fun talents / perks due to HQ upgrades and the game opens up.

    I do would like to see them do something more with the Dark Zone though. Currently it’s either a team death match (when grouped up) or an FFA affair while they could pull out so much more.

    And yeah, all the people complaining about not being able to drive vehicles in a New York in this state is kind of stupid: the streets are full of left-behind equipment, driving a car doesn’t make any sense at all. In fact, it would make you one huge big fat target. It’s a Tom Clancy game, so some ‘realism’ applies.

  23. Monggerel says:

    Ok, yeah, I see what you mean there;
    but, the real question that demands an answer is this.

    Is it a better cover shooter than Def Jam Vendetta?

  24. Synesthesia says:

    Anyone know if a southamerican server is planned? I actually want to play this.

  25. rommel102 says:

    Sorry, Rainbow Six Siege has reminded me of how much I like strategic realism in my shooters. The sponge bullet boss I quit the Beta on seems to be representative of the game as a whole, and while that may indeed be a fun game if you like that type of stuff, it’s not for me.

    • Caelinus says:

      Good thing this is a ARPG rather than ta tactical shooter then. Just because there are guns does not make it any less a 3rd person Diablo clone.

      And it is a good game. Very fun, especially in groups. What it does really well is simulate the firefights of older, cheesier movies. Where countless bullets and explosions are going off on every side, and the characters run from cover to cover in close quarters.

      It is not realistic, and it was never meant to be.

    • Unsheep says:

      Rainbow Six is not realistic in any way, try some ARMA instead.

  26. Premium User Badge

    zaphod6502 says:

    I have a little girly giggle each time a detractor says something negative about The Division. Yet unsurprisingly it has gone from strength to strength, is a better game than that Destiny crap, and has made UbiSoft a truckload of money. Most importantly it is a well made tactical shooter with superb graphics and a stellar grouping mechanic.

    Take that whingers! ;)

  27. Provender says:

    Well said. I’m really liking shooter side, complaints about bullet sponging just don’t bear scrutiny, for PvE areas at least – no better feeling than 5 headshots with a marksman rifle and 5 inc enemy down. The challenge comes when you fluff a couple of shots and things get up close and personal. Flap and it can go pear-shaped really quick, reminds me of Stalker that way.
    The MMO paradigms of healer/tank/dps do apply but because your build is completely item and skills selection-driven you can switch roles in field. I can imagine this may turn into a problem in end game when a rogue group all stack damage shield or something, but great to have the flexibility to change as required.
    Dark zone is something else, loving the moral decisions when staring down the barrel at a rogue with a short timer. I’ve found it completely playable as a solo so far – but group offers seem to be commonplace and numbers do help as the mobs are tougher in there. My preferred approach in other MMOs has been to level up in PvP only, not sure whether it’s viable in the DZ.
    Stranded away from home atm so can’t play, counting the minutes to get back in…

  28. Shadrach says:

    I am sorry but I lost all interest in The Division after seeing the combat with all those hit numbers popping up like it’s some CoD clone.

    Someone do a realistic weapons mod and I might be interested again though, it still looks stunning. Just the combat looks stupid.

    • UncleLou says:

      It’s an RPG, it wouldn’t work, and it won’t happen.

      I am really not so sure what annoys so many people about this concept. Do you also expect single sword strikes and crossbow bolts in fantasy RPGs to maim and kill enemies, as that would be realistic?

      • Shadrach says:

        “Do you also expect single sword strikes and crossbow bolts in fantasy RPGs to maim and kill enemies, as that would be realistic?”

        Certainly not, I would never expect an action game to be Red Orchestra, but surely there must be a middle way between hosing enemies down while they bleed numbers, and single-shot kills?

        • Caelinus says:

          There is a middle ground. Once you are sufficiently geared, non armored enemies drop in less than a second, armored ttk is like 2 seconds at most. The only ones that you have to shoot a lot are elite types.

          The combat is much more fast paced. The only way you should be dumping all your ammo into a single enemy is if your gear sucks. But as this is a Diablo-Like rpg, that is how it is supposed to work. You want there to be a reason to get higher level gear and better stats.

        • Sandepande says:

          Bleeding numbers can be killed off from the settings.

    • Antongranis says:

      But cod has a fast time to kill, no damagenumbers, and is not a cover-shooter. Why do People compare things to Cod even though it does not make sense?

    • cqdemal says:

      Also, it’s an instanced, small-party MMORPG. No mods. Ever.

  29. UncleLou says:

    It’s the first game that really successfully merges the action of a shooter with the classic MMO tactics (tank, healer, etc.), and I am having a blast. It’s good solo, it’s great with friends. I don’t think Mass Effect nor Dragon Age are good reference points, it’s more WoW with guns.

    • UncleLou says:

      Oh, and every battle basically looks and feels like the shootout on the streets in Heat. That’s a good thing. :)

      • Premium User Badge

        Philopoemen says:

        Thats what I was thinking as I was blasting away with a FAL – Tom Sizemore leaving the bank in Heat; those running street fights that just occur out of nowhere in the game.

  30. barrel91 says:

    Better than witcher 3? Wot you smoke?

    • popej says:

      I agree with him. Opinions and all that.

      The Witcher 3 is very good of course.

  31. Raoul Duke says:

    I think the main reason most of us have low expectations is that RPS have created them, so it’s a bit odd for RPS to explain that the game will be better than I think.

    • bill says:

      This seems like a fair comment. The only things I know about it are from RPS telling me that the enemies are bullet sponges and that there’s a mismatch between the RPG-driven combat and the real-world setting.

      Otherwise I’d have had higher expectations.

  32. Sweaty Diapers says:

    Never really considered The Witcher 3 an RPG. There’s no character progression and only one play style. I played with my friend a bit, and over the course of an entire play through nothing changed. Combat was awful to boot.
    You walked around spamming AC eagle vision until a cut scene happened. Naked women, a great card game, cinematic ‘choice’ scenes that determined a narrative path and clutch dialogue. The best parts were sound design and voice acting.

    There are real stat requirements in The Division, based on loot rolls that tie into gear talents, character talents, skills and back through your stats. It’s a solid foundation. Much more in line with a traditional RPG. Co-op game play involves tight skill rotation, cool down management, character builds and variable complimentary tactical synergies. It’s great.

    • popej says:

      Similar issue as me with the Witcher 3. I got to the island, (Skellige is it?) and it wasn’t sufficiently different from the preceding 40 hours (for me). I got distracted by Bloodborne and never looked back.

      I think the biggest downer with the Witcher 3 for me was the poor loot, especially the green gear being the best choice no matter what. There was so much potential for more variety with the loot but it seems they weren’t inclined that way. Big shame that.

      The combat was involved enough on Death March difficulty, but it really highlighted how poor it was compared to Bloodborne and the Souls games that I was playing an awful lot of at the time. Having said, From Software titles have highlighted deficiencies in an awful lot of games for me in that respect!

      It’s surprising just how samey the gameplay was, mainly for the reasons you mentioned above.

  33. racccoon says:

    Other pursuits should of been implemented, as the game becomes same, same, same, as well as the fact all you find yourself doing is staring at & following the mini map icons, which isn’t really playing the game. You could say this interprets like being a cameraman, which I’ve been, you film the action but you miss the realism of the experience your shooting you may capture it through a lens but you lost the life of what could of seen without the camera…as in, looking at the dam mini map all the time.

  34. Crazygunman103 says:

    Now the game just needs to run at anything worth a damn to have on pc…

  35. Pizzacheeks McFroogleburgher says:

    When I see; ‘~Is Better Than You Think’ I read; ‘ubisoft want us to say its not as bland as everyone’s saying’

    • TormDK says:

      Why is it, that whenever someone disagrees with the review the base line retort is always “Big money bought them, so there!”.

      Thats down right silly, please stop making yourself look bad.

      Unless of course you have some proof that are forthcoming on how RPS staff is taking money from publishers to push an illuminati agenda?

      • Jediben says:

        There is as much proof of that as there is that the game is ‘better than we think’. No demo, poor beta, high price.

        • Caelinus says:

          Why give a demo when the game is selling as well as it is? They do not need more marketing, and the beta was effectively a free demo pre-launch anyway. That beta was a beta, small taste, only a tiny tiny fraction of the game. And it was fun for the couple of hours it was supposed to last.

          And the game costs the same amount as every other AAA game.

          Having played it: It is awesome. It plays out very tactically, offers up extremely intense firefights and content, and scratches the loot itch, all while wrapping it in a extremely well animated and beautiful experience in an awesome cityscape.

          Just because Ubisoft published it does not mean that Massive made a bad game.

    • Graham Smith says:

      Hello! We have zero tolerance for people accusing us of corruption aka crimes. Goodbye!

  36. bill says:

    Reading this mainly made me want a proper fantasy RPG where things like tactics, cover, positioning etc.. are important.

    Has there every been an RPG where you really need to scout out enemies, choose the direction you approach from, get your troops in position behind cover, and then launch a simultaneous attack. New XCOM i guess…

    Maybe it works better in turn-based or multiplayer…

    • Unsheep says:

      Yes but we already have a hundred of those games, I prefer something that feels more unique and original.

  37. haldolium says:

    It’s neither worse nor better as expected.

    Compared to Dying Light, as another coop-grinding game example, it is missing quite a few opportunities to make the gameplay more diverse and fun and also faster.

    It also offers plenty of the chronic deseases that come unwanted and unavoidable with every Ubisoft game.

    For example, since you said you “like the HUD at the character” – yes, nice idea.

    But why does it have to display “Press F to show HUD” each time it fades out? Are we all really that stupid, forgettable, or genuile uninteresed in the game that we wouldn’t remember a single key for a function that needs to be set by the user in the first place?

    That is one of many details and reasons why this is just another ubigame without soul, without confidence, without anything but catering towards the very basic needs of instant gratification through leveling and collecting stuff presented in a great looking engine that runs surprisingly well (although taking a closer look, you see why too)

  38. TheSplund says:

    Picture 4 is exactly what is wrong with the game – foobared 3rd person aiming. Pictures 6,7 and 8 show an helluva similarity to a leavel in Rainbow 6 Vegas (1 or 2?)

  39. Smidgey87 says:

    Aww look at all the people getting pissy and claiming RPS have been paid off because a Ubisoft game is better than expected.

    It’s fun, it’s got more combat depth than your average loot-a-thon and is far more varied than you’d think. Why not give the game a try before outright dismissing it people?

  40. zero_traveler says:

    For me, the main thing that has sold me on the game is the little story bits gained from the collectibles. I am genuinely enjoying the little stories playing out each time I find a cellphone conversation, or a video feed, or the strange tableaux of activating an ECHO Unit and seeing the split second moment in time it has reconstructed.

    I was running down a street, went right past a woman without really noticing her, and stopped in my tracks when I heard her shouting something encouraging after me. It really got to me, and those kinds of little stories are what matter to me.

    For me, STORY is a major selling point in games. There are times when we just want a cathartic, stupid, fun little time waster, but the bigger games really need a good story behind them. It doesn’t have to be overly convoluted either, as long as it’s good. OKAMI is still the top of my gaming list, becuase it’s story was relatively simple, but amazing. The Division isn’t shaping up to be as amazing, but all the little parts add up to a bigger whole than most people are giving it credit for.

  41. floweringmind says:

    One of the worst games I have played. The story is so thin and makes little or no sense. You are encouraged to kill people just because they are looting a store for drugs. You have no idea what they need the drugs for, but they are red so they have to be killed. There is nothing but go here kill this, go here kill this. It looks pretty but the reality is that all the good looks are superficial and can’t really be engaged with. Missions are super difficult and right off the bat you will die and then die again until you realize that unless you are an expert at FPS, you are basically being forced to join up with a bunch of people. Finally there are bugs bugs bugs. People block doorways, game crashing, black screen if you are running full screen.

  42. kud13 says:

    I’m glad to see others are enjoying this. I really liked the core concept behind the story when it was introduced.

    That being said, it’s a game designed to be played as multi-player, so I won’t be touching it. That alone makes it (in my eyes) vastly inferior to The Witcher 3.

    Good thing people have different tastes, no?

  43. Sunjammer says:

    I’m bouncing off this one so hard. The mechanics are sound and the UI stuff is pretty, but it plays less-than-great with mouse/keyboard and the writing is some of the worst in ages. Faye Lau wins my award for worst character of the year. A pretty world with ok basic mechanics, terribad writing, endless busywork and no reason to care for an instant. And that’s not even getting started on the absolutely pervasive ludonarrative dissonance.

  44. Skandranon says:

    Personally, just can’t get into it.
    18 hours in, and there’s just nothing interesting.

    There’s very few guns, and they’re all very standard, so picking up loot isn’t exciting, as its just straight stat upgrades.

    The abilities are standard – here a grenade, there a turret, with some mmo flavor thrown in like healing and more defense (yay more stat stuff) and quite frankly not very exciting.

    Your character isn’t very mobile, movement feels stiff, and sticks to cover like superglue.

    Bullet sponges everywhere. Enemy variety is nil (dudes in hoodies with guns, guys not in hoodies with flamethrowers). Very littke content overall.

    It’s just…not exciting, to the point where I’m legitimately confused what people see in it. I mean, I got bored of Destiny pretty quickly, but I understand the appeal.
    This, I’m blanking on.

    • Hobbes says:

      The big takeaway from the Division is that Bungie are giant idiots.

      Destiny would have sold like hotcakes to the PC crowd but they’ve been giant male organs about keeping it on the consoles, probably because they can’t handle the concept of coding for a more hostile environment (the arms race of bots and anti-botting protection f.ex is much easier to deal with on consoles) or they are just still prissy about the fact the PC market hasn’t forgiven them for their knifing of Halo.

      Either way, they missed a golden opportunity with Destiny, and this kindof illustrates it, because the Division could be interchangeably replaced with Destiny and if anything would sell MORE copies.

      Thus, Bungie, you are giant cocks. That is all.

  45. iainl says:

    So would it be entirely unfair to call this like Destiny, but for people who preferred the cover shooting and gritty monochrome of Gears of War to Halo?

    I mostly play Destiny single-player though, and I’m getting very much a team-based vibe off this.

    • LexW1 says:

      Not entirely unfair, to be sure.

      It’s also akin to Mass Effect 3’s MP, if you felt ME3 MP was far too dynamic and overexciting, and want something a tad more sedate.

      It’s not terribly team-based, just the endgame is really (but so is Destiny as I understand it). They are adding special extra-powerful soloer-only (i.e. can only use alone) equipment too (not yet though).

      Playing through the whole beta I felt the game was:

      A) Really pretty and smooth and slick – best animations I’ve seen for a long time, great environments and sound effects.

      B) Slightly dull. Not like, bad, but I missed the adrenaline rush most cover-shooters have.

      It’ll probably do incredibly well because pretty + slightly dull makes it an ultra-mainstream game.

      • iainl says:

        Thanks. The thing originally looked like GRAW Does Destiny, which is definitely a thing that interests me. But I’ll wait a bit for it to settle down and either become a thing that people still go on about it drift away from; too many games already.