Tom Clancy’s “The Division”: clear graphics, muddy storyline

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Tom Clancy’s “The Division”: clear graphics, muddy storyline

A screenshot of

A screenshot of "The Division's" new style of skill tree, through building a base of operations.

Madison J. Tidwell/The Skyline View

A screenshot of "The Division's" new style of skill tree, through building a base of operations.

Madison J. Tidwell/The Skyline View

Madison J. Tidwell/The Skyline View

A screenshot of "The Division's" new style of skill tree, through building a base of operations.

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Ubisoft’s new baby, “The Division,” was released on March 8, following great anticipation and hype.

The studio behind such notable releases as the “Assassin’s Creed” series, “Far Cry,” and “Splinter Cell,” Ubisoft’s grand plans for “Tom Clancy’s The Division” have come to life in breathtaking graphics, but ultimately do little to keep the story alive.

“The Division” marks Ubisoft’s entry into a new genre of video game that combines RPG, Role-Playing Game, elements with a third-person cover shooting system, rounded off with a loot system, in order to create a massive multiplayer online game (MMO).

This foray into MMOs stems largely from the success of “Destiny: The Taken King,” which pioneered massive online matchmaking gameplay in 2014.

The premise of the game is that a weaponized pandemic, nicknamed “the dollar flu,” has been released in New York City, prompting the city to be quarantined and, ostensibly, left to its demise.

The player is part of a special sleeper cell unit of the titular division, and is called upon as a last resort to rebuild operations, investigate the outbreak, and fight the crime running rampant within the city post-law enforcement withdrawal.

A third person shooter game, “The Division’s” open world allows players the opportunity to explore plague ridden NYC, in all its rat infested, trash filled glory. The clear, interactive graphics create an eerie sense of realism, and fights can erupt quickly, giving the player an immersive experience within the game world.

However, the open map starts to become repetitive as the player moves from neighborhood to neighborhood, each with a similar setup of safe house, hostage situations, and supply drop side missions.

There ends up being very little in the way of originality between firefights, and the enemies blur together into a mass of dark male shapes, most with hoodies and bandanas, or, in the case of the cleaners, beanies and gasmasks.

Furthermore, the enemies lose all sense of realism once the player has emptied several full magazines, only to find the sweatshirt clad looters still very much alive, nearly unharmed, acting like a bullet sponge.

As the player moves murkily through these deja vu inducing scenarios, much of the storyline becomes lost, leaving questions like “who are these cleaners, and why am I fighting them?” or “why are so many people looting diseased people’s things?” or even “why am I the only one who seems to have the technology to enter any diseased building I please?”

When the player tires of rolling from car to random cement block in the clunky cover system, it’s time to head to one of the most hyped aspects of “The Division,” the PVP combat arena known as the Dark Zone. A walled off, quarantined area in the center of Manhattan, the Dark Zone is where players work together in teams to find the best loot.

Or that’s what is supposed to happen anyway. Instead, the Dark Zone has essentially become a cesspool of player trickery, turning friends into enemies and eliciting a fair amount of backstabbing as, inevitably, each player turns rogue and steals his or her teammates’ hard won loot.

Perhaps the most intriguing and successful aspect of “The Division” is the skill acquisition system. Unlike most games where the player gains skills through either leveling up in gameplay or acquiring loot equipped with special attributes, “The Division’s” skill tree is based on rebuilding operations systems within the city.

Once the player reopens the base of operations, each wing functions as a different set of skills: medical, tech, and security. Selecting which quests to undertake and which operations to restore gives the player a wealth of character builds in an interesting and meaningful manner.

Overall, “The Division” is a solid addition to the 2016 game offerings, showcasing unique ideas and spectacular graphics, but many players will likely be eager for much needed updates and downloadable content to address the lackluster storyline and dearth of teamwork within the Dark Zone.