Overjoyed with my recent paycheck, I thought I’d treat myself to Ubisoft’s The Division. Spoiler alert, I returned The Division within an hour and a half of playtime – you’ll find out more about that in this (relatively short and sweet) post.
When The Division was released in March, I largely ignored it. I’d enjoyed Destiny in the past, but I didn’t think that Ubisoft’s attempt at an MMO third person shooter would be particularly good. Their push toward the ‘Ubiworld’ style of game is off-putting, with most games (including a particular favourite of mine, Assassin’s Creed) being a slightly different world with the same objectives; short introduction to the world with control tutorial, large blacked out map that you reveal by attacking and conquering outposts, then fast travel between each one to run between mission markers.
When this genre of MMO third person shooter had been done so well by Destiny, it felt like a cash-in on Ubisoft’s part.
To begin with, The Division isn’t too bad – you’re thrust into the world in a small tutorial area, learning the controls and getting a bit of story under your belt. Everything looks quite pretty, handles well and can be quite fun. Character customisation is limited, but when the end-game is probably full of helmets and gas masks, what’s the point?
The concept behind the game is that some sort of virus has infected the world, everyone has descended into chaos and you are part of an Elite Force tasked with restoring order. This is done by shooting people, obviously. When the world (read: America) is plunged into chaos and people with guns are shooting each other to riot and loot, the best solution is to shoot back with expert training.
Admittedly, the ‘instance’/’dungeon’/’raid’ that finishes the tutorial area did set me back a bit. Ferried into a building, with tight corridors and plenty of chest high cover, you had to make your way to the roof to murderise the Named Baddie. The cover system was a helpful aspect, essentially a floating box that showed every flat surface you could stick to – hold down ‘A’ and you’d float across the battlefield like an expertly trained ballerina. Pretty useless when the baddies will just run alongside you and shoot you in the face.
It was here that I decided to try out the matchmaking and instancing technology.
It was also here that The Division had spontaneous failure of the everything and cemented in my decision that I really shouldn’t have bothered.
First of all, the matchmaking threw me back to the beginning of the mission even though I was over halfway through the building – I’d hoped we’d be matched up depending on progress and bought into the same sort of place, kind of like Destiny or World of Warcraft. Not to worry, the first half of this mission was pretty simple and it’d take no time to catch up.
Then the game seemed to have the greatest trouble keeping tracking of what up to (and including) 3 characters were doing at one time. It quickly became one of the jankiest multiplayer experiences I’ve had the misfortune to stumble in to, watching my character charge into the back of a car when I’d asked him politely to stop 20 feet previously.
It crashed and burned. Positions were reset every few seconds, the sights on my machine gun were useless as the slightest twitch would send it flying back and forth, and everyone took turns to freeze in place in doorways as if they’d suddenly remembered a fear of entering rooms. I got so fed up that I quit the group and just did the mission myself.
The Named Baddie for this mission was surprisingly difficult and took a few tries to conquer, which was mostly running around in circles and never, ever being in range of his apparently titanium-plated-wasp-firing machine gun. I can’t begin to imagine the level of Hell I’d be subjugated to if we’d attempted that fight with the previous group.
I made it out of Manhattan (probably) alive and got whisked off to the second zone, which is consequently where my elitely trained soldier will stand forever in purgatory.
To keep this short and to the point; if my previous experience was a hiccup, this next section was projectile vomit. The main allure of an MMO, surely, would be the large open world in which you could move freely and do what you wanted without being negatively affected by anyone or anything else?
Ubisoft apparently missed this memo. As I dutifully followed the Floating Orange Line of Great Purpose to my destiny, there was – in the distance – a pack of ne’er-do-wells in my way. I was half a block away from my quest turn-in, for the very first mission of the open world game. I took cover behind a conveniently placed jeep and planned out my attack carefully, making sure I had some grenades and plenty of room to manoeuvre. I made the first move and attacked, ducking back behind the car and carefully sidling to the left so I could line up another good shot.
And then, to my horror, I carried on around the car – directly into the firing range of my attackers. And then, I carried on around the jeep. Around and around I went, unable to stop, aim or shoot until I was gunned down because, apparently, I can’t doing anything when the game takes away my control but they can do whatever they want, to the elitely trained idiot circling a parked car in the middle of a gunfight.
To be fair to The Division though, the refund was processed pretty quickly and I was able to buy XCOM 2 the next day.