Should you give Tom Clancy’s The Division, the game I called the “biggest disappointment of 2016,” another shot? I’ll let you know after my ghost settles into the body of some unsuspecting gamer and continues to grind in the snowy streets of Manhattan. You did not read that wrong; I am, in fact, dead. The shame of buying this game a second time because I had credit in my PSN account (not real money!) was too much for my mortal soul to bear, and I collapsed on the spot. My roommate came downstairs and took one look at my lifeless corpse, glanced at The Division loading screen on the TV, shook his head, and then guiltlessly ate the leftover can of Pringles lying next to my cold, dead hands.
“You know that old adage about how trying the same thing twice and expecting different results is the definition of insanity?”
My last days in the third dimension were anxious ones as I reached into the depths of my being, hoping to pull out a handful of games I wanted to play for more than seven minutes. But alas, the only thing I could get a grip on was the crushing sadness of my inability to be entertained. I saw Julian, happily playing Deus Ex in my friend’s list, and it made me think bad things. But hey, The Division! You had fun with that! What happened? It technically has everything you wanted: big open world to explore, co-op with friends, XP, and even some PvP! Those are things you like! Right? Right?!
My thought process was that, perhaps after putting thirty-plus hours into The Division’s various betas, by the time the game released I was just over it. I think a lot of people felt that way. I’ve even heard people argue that The Division is the rare game where the demo was better than the actual game. But guys, it’s on sale! For thirty bucks! That’s not bad! A heavy sense of doubt and remorse settled over me like an angry parent, chastising me for even daring to think about purchasing this game for a second time (I sold my original copy to GameStop because I am the Willy Loman of GameStop). To make matters worse, you now have to enter your password a second time to complete purchases on the PSN store, so I was forced to decide a SECOND time to most likely waste my precious, precious store credit.
“Perhaps after putting thirty-plus hours into The Division’s various betas, by the time the game released I was just over it”
After waiting nearly an hour for the game to download (a whole hour of self-loathing and Pringles), it was slightly encouraging to see the Ubisoft’s servers had kept my character warm for me. There he was. A caucasian gentlemen looking like a poor man’s Patrick Wilson. Love Pat Wilson by the way; both the actor and Weezer bassist. Anyway, I looked at my stats and realized I was only a level twelve. A level fucking twelve!!! Who was I to judge this game based on my meager play-time and thousands of angry reviews by Redditors who had hurricaned to level thirty? I decided I had already spent the money, might as well fucking enjoy it.
You know that old adage about how trying the same thing twice and expecting different results is the definition of insanity? Let’s hope not.
I’m back in Manhattan now. The streets and snow look as good as I remember. Maybe a little better than I remembered. I futzed with the game’s two video settings for fifteen minutes before strolling around the base of operations in an effort to gather my bearings. There are more people here now: a brand new terminal where players can group up and patrol the city together. That’s new. Not bad. I notice a dimly lit stairwell leading down into the game’s first expansion: The Underground. What is it about a dimly lit stairwell leading into the abyss that makes people want to spend money? “I still have fifteen dollars credit in my account, so maybe if this goes well I can sink more money into this horse,” I think to myself, shoving the shame from moments ago under the rug and into the far reaches of my left kidney. Here are the things I noticed about the game before I collapsed into a puddle of embarrassing stew:
“The Division might be worth dipping your toes back into”
The game still runs great. No slowdown, little pop-in, nice lighting effects, good textures. Check. I’m noticing that it’s taking fewer shots to kill enemies. This is something I know they’re working on for patch 1.4, but to me it seems like there’s already been ground work done on this. Check. I’m also seeing much more randomized enemies on the streets. When I first played the game, it seemed like you had to just bounce between two or three areas in each zone to trigger NPCs to spawn. Now, it feels far more dynamic. I emerged from a subway to a glorious firefight taking place between good and evil NPCs. I of course joined the fray, and as my left arm began to tingle, I appreciated the fleeting feeling of something that seemed lost for ages: “fun.”
None of it matters now anyway, because when I try to pick up the controller my hand just passes through it with an accompanying static shock (typing this piece via telepathy BTW). I regret not being alive for the update that Massive has promised next month, which is said to be focusing solely on game balancing issues. However, if you look at Reddit, you’d think that the devs might’ve promised that the patch would unceremoniously slaughter every agent’s first born child. I don’t know. I think for those like me, who had burned out on the demo before the game even launched, The Division might be worth dipping your toes back into. There’s something good there, that with continued effort from the developers, could blossom into the game we all hoped it could be. For those who passed over it when it first released, $29.99 is a fair buy-in, methinks.
If anyone would like to discuss further, I will be on the campaign trail haunting Donald Trump. If you see his hair blow in such away that his fat, bald head is revealed, you’ll know it was ya’ boy.