Tom Clancy's The Division is a Addictive Must-Play

Tom Clancy's The Division
Ubisoft

It’s been a few years since I was as woefully addicted to a game as I am to “Tom Clancy’s The Division,” easily the best game of 2016 so far (and that’s keeping in mind how much I like “Far Cry Primal”—we already have two must-plays this year). Critics of any kind—film, television, theatre, art, video games—like to think that they’re open to any genre, style, etc., but we’re only human. We have our favorites.

“Tom Clancy’s The Division” ticks all the boxes on my checklist.

First, it has a ton of authorship, the most important element of gaming for me. The best modern games offer the player a sense of control—that they are crafting a story that is unique to them. This can come through moral choices that change an ending (a la “ Mass Effect”) or the deep character/weapons/skill customization of the modern RPG. Wherever it comes from, I’ve realized I need it to love a game. Don’t put me on a rail track. Let me carve my own path.

I’ve also discovered I’m something of a collector. One of the most addictive elements of “Borderlands 2,” still one of the best games of the decade, was its non-stop parade of “loot.” Each mission would result in a slightly better weapon, piece of armor, a new toy, etc. “Tom Clancy’s The Division” works from the same template, designed as a series of missions that can be played solo or co-op that result in new toys with which to play.

The world may have ended, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find new weapons of mass destruction.

Finally, I love immersive worlds, places with new surprises around every corner. At first, the landscape of “The Division” looks familiar and repetitive—another post-apocalyptic cityscape with amazing attention to detail but streets that all look relatively similar.

But “The Division” constantly surprises you—whether it’s taking you down to the tunnels under NYC or up into a building or to the amazing, lawless Dark Zone, there are secrets in this iteration of the Big Apple that make it feel alive—deadly and fascinating.

“Tom Clancy’s The Division” opens with live-action news footage. Smallpox has been put on money before Black Friday by a terrorist organization, spreading the disease across the country. The death toll soon tops AIDS and Ebola. Central Park becomes a mass burial ground. Martial law is replaced by complete anarchy. You are a member of The Division, a team trying to take back the city from looters, cleaners, and other enemies. You will form a Base of Operations, building three wings—Tech, Medical, and Security—by completing both story and side missions. As each wing grows, so does your skill set and available perks. As the game progresses, you explore more and more of NYC, rescuing hostages and taking back your city through sheer force. You can do story missions alone or co-op with friends or just through matchmaking with whoever is online. It’s very much “Destiny” meets “Call of Duty” with the best elements of both games intact.

Gameplay in “Tom Clancy’s The Division” is tight, fluid and organic. It’s a cover shooter, and one of those games that’s easy to play but that you continue to master as it progresses. As I’ve finetuned my gaming style, the experience has only gotten more enjoyable, picking the weapons I like, using mods to make them more refined, and building my skill set accordingly. I’m willing to bet my Division soldier is different from anyone else’s, and that’s something I truly enjoy in gaming. It’s an RPG element that’s been grafted on to a “Battlefield” or “CoD” experience. In terms of graphics, it's one of the best-looking games of all time.

The detailed replication of New York is mind-blowing and I've yet to run into a single glitch (although some of the cover is a bit silly in that a cubicle wall probably isn't bulletproof).

What about the story? Yes, it’s a little thin, although not as much as you may have heard. Most of the early missions are hostage rescues, bringing key team members back to your base to help it grow, which gives you purpose. And the incredible setting adds a sense of realism that makes the lack of a more detailed narrative more forgivable. You feel like you’re a part of this world, writing your own story within it. And if you want a break from the mission structure, you can go to the lawless Dark Zone, in which you basically just kill enemies (and other players if you so choose) for loot and XP. Finally, Ubisoft has promised that there will be multiple story-based missions released throughout the year. There is likely to be no game that I plug more hours into in 2016 than “Tom Clancy’s The Division.” It’s going to be a good year.

Disclaimer: A review copy of this game was provided by the publisher.

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