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Is The Division A Good Single Player Game?



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we are your co-workers we are your

neighbors we might even be your friends

when we get the call we leave everything

behind

we are the division Division is the

latest game from Ubisoft the creators of

Assassin's Creed and then Assassin's

Creed and then more Assassin's Creed and

then probably some more Assassin's Creed

it's a shooting game which you know

there are a lot of those but this one

has a bit of a twist in that it is been

remarked upon as sort of the new destiny

it's a game that has all sorts of online

hooks with you connecting with other

players but also playing on your own

it's set in sort of a decimated New York

City or parts of New York City anyway

there is a virus that has been passed

through money so by touching money it's

infected people at all these different

diseases and it's not super clear

exactly what's going on when the game

opens and in fact I'm part of playing

the game is discovering what is actually

happening in New York what is the

motives behind this pathogen it seems to

have been a terrorist attack bah la la

la blah but basically it is descended

New York into chaos it seems like it

might be happening on a more global

scale but you are concerned with New

York and you were part of this secret

organization called the division where I

guess only brought in when things get

really bad it's basically like a special

military service of highly trained

agents they have these weird

wristwatches that you think people would

notice but for some reason they don't in

any way that none of that really matters

like what matters is that you get

dropped into New York and in fact a

gorgeous New York the thing you notice

first about the division it is

unbelievably pretty this is a just

jaw-droppingly

good looking game it is a amazingly well

rendered version of New York as someone

that doesn't know that much about New

York other than having visited every

once in a while I just love walking

around this world I think it's easy to

kind of land the criticism that well you

know they've spent all this time

building out this beautiful world then

what you do and it is really shoot

things over and over again and that's

true but I don't think that takes away

from the fact if the division is

extraordinarily uh

fun and enjoyable to look at and really

it's not just that it's it's beautifully

detailed and well rendered and oh it

makes New York look great like what's

impressive about it are the attention to

detail in trying to communicate a story

about what happened here because what's

interesting is the division fails on a

couple of fronts you know I've only

played about five hours of the game and

so I want to be upfront that this isn't

sort of a qualitative review that is

looking at the game holistically like my

premise here is to look at the division

as a game that when I play video games a

lot of times I'm usually playing

single-player games and so I approach

the division as a single player game

primarily is this something that if I

played solo would I have a really good

time with it and that ties into this

idea of the narrative because often I'm

playing video games before the narrative

it doesn't mean that I don't play other

games for other reasons I just played

you know 30 hours XCON - not for the

narrative I'm gonna play Fire Emblem not

for the narrative I play destiny not for

the narrative there are playing this is

when I don't do that

even in genres where story is a part of

it but I do kind of first and foremost

approach these games wondering what is

the story they're going to tell and

division will succeed and fails in some

interesting ways and it's getting

contextualized and I haven't finished it

I guess there could be revelations but I

think five hours is a pretty good

landmark sort of a stylish how do you

feel about this what is the game doing

well what is the game doing poorly and

the reason I started by discussing the

aesthetic the visuals is because there

are there are instances in this game

where you will just come across things

that tell little stories about what

happened before you got here what

establishes the chaos of what New York

must have been like when it was

descending into the state that it's in

now you know you come across parachutes

that show that it supplies but

everything's kind of wrecked and torn

apart suggesting there was a firefight

there and in your head you kind of start

putting together what exactly happened

in this world and then there are other

instances where you come across what are

called echoes which are just these

little landmarks there whatever reason

you have technology that can scan and

tell a story of things that happened in

the past it's not really clear why it's

possible but I'm willing to go along

with the goofy narrative conceit because

it allows the developers to tell

interesting stories little vignettes

about what

happened in this city okay

now drop the goods and get the hell out

of my sight

pack this up we're taking the garden

next and so there's a combination of you

being in the different version of the

chaos but getting a window into an older

version of that cast a story that was

told there about you know whether it's a

truck that got righted or a couple that

was taken by surprise by a group and

that was killed like these are effective

storytelling devices that essentially

are the division's version of a audio

diary and you know let me there are

plenty of audio Diaries in this game as

well there are in fact hundreds of audio

Diaries in this game but I tend to

actually not even bother picking them up

I don't find them that interesting but

the echoes I think work effective

because it allows you to get immersed in

that world and get a slice of that story

in a way that I found really interesting

you know again like it's a leap of logic

but it's fine other than that like we

get back to this idea of like how is the

division as a single-player game it's

interesting so I think the division is

one of the first games to really nail

this this thing I've been hoping for so

when I play destiny you know I enjoyed

quite a bit of it on my own but I was

really frustrated because it seemed like

a lot of the game was locked away unless

you had time to group up with friends

and I'm never going to argue that

destiny isn't a better game with people

especially your friends it absolutely is

made for that but I think there's plenty

to enjoy about the game especially the

missions and the combat design and the

gunplay that are enjoyable on your own

and yet the game has impediment to that

to where the matchmaking is set up makes

it frustrating to do so in destiny I

really wanted to be able to go on

certain missions with other people and

just match make for it and the game

doesn't allow you to do that it only

allows you to matchmake very specific

things what the division does

differently is it allows you to

matchmake for everything in the world at

anytime and it's not perfect but let me

let me show you this example where when

you walk up to a mission it just says

hey do you want to automatically match

make with some people and you'll jump

into an instance now you can have people

jump into your game you can jump into

other people

games the game gives you options on both

fronts you can either wait for people to

be jumped into your version of the world

or if you want to jump into someone

else's mission you can jump into their

version of the world it's not perfect

because you don't know where they are in

the mission when you join so not only do

you have to load a sequence up but then

you might start mid fight and so it's a

little disjointed but the idea that you

can just jump into another world or they

jump into yours I found profound it's

like suddenly it makes these games make

sense in a way that allows me as someone

that largely plays them on my own

I can play them with other people and I

have mostly played the division with

other people now when I'm doing side

missions what I'm doing small stuff when

I'm just kind of Hut singing around in

the world I'm doing that on my own but

the moment a mission becomes available

rather than having to stress out over

well I guess maybe I should text my

friend or what who's on my friends list

like where are they relative to me in

level or in gear I don't have to worry

about I just click match make and people

come to my game or I go on their game

and it works like it really just works

and I know maybe it sounds like a goopy

thing to get excited over but I think

for people that largely play

single-player games

I have spent a lot of time division

playing with other people I haven't gone

to the next level of adding a mic but I

think I might do that because the

division takes out the stress I find

setting up multiplayer games engaging

with friends online scheduling around my

life that doesn't have a ton of free

time to be incredibly stressful and so

the division takes that away in a way

that allows me to actually do it and so

I want every other game to copy this I

want all of the games to approach

matchmaking in this way because it means

that I actually engage with other

players and enjoy the game I think a

little bit more the way it was meant to

be played that all said everything else

how does it really stack up you know

it's kind of just okay I am enjoying it

I'm gonna keep playing it I'm probably

all the way to the end the missions are

pretty boring the story isn't really

going anywhere like all of the most

interesting parts of the narrative are

kind of tucked away there's some really

problematic elements I hate that word I

really hate that word that words really

tired out but the fact that you're

constantly shooting humans all the time

for seemingly no reason like I don't

know what it is about the

technology that both a allows them to

summon echo visions out of nowhere and

be immediately identified who the bad

guys are like you're constantly

exploring this highly realistic New York

City in which sometimes people are good

civilians and then immediately other

times these people need to be shot in

the face and killed and there's no like

real narrative justification for why

you're constantly shooting these people

like when I come across a group of

people that are going through a suitcase

I don't necessarily think they're bad

people but in the division they just

tell you all are the bad guys you shoot

them in the face and so you can't think

too hard about what you're doing in the

game because the moment you start doing

that it doesn't make a lot of sense and

in fact seems really creepy that in 2016

you're playing a video game where you

are an elite police force who are just

rolling up to random people and shooting

them because you suspected them to be

bad

there is no context given for these

people there's no context given for why

they are quote unquote bad you're just

to assume that you are the good guys

they are the bad guys and if you try and

not think about that subtext if you try

and not think about the cultural and

political context the division falls

into then you can get away with that and

that is has allowed me to just sort of

enjoy the game as it is but I can't help

but feel uncomfortable every once in a

while or rather constantly when you are

just walking down an alley you just see

two guys in the game says shoot them and

I do shoot them because it says they're

bad guys in the gimme experience points

and they drop here because I want that

stuff because that is the endorphin mix

I am getting from this game but I can't

help but look what's happening on

television what's happening in our

culture and then look at that and go wow

they sort of ah I I don't think they

were intentionally trying to make me

uncomfortable but I can't help but look

at this and feel uncomfortable and so

you kind of have to pull yourself away

from it and I don't think the game wants

you do that right like the game wants

you to be immersed in its world and its

narrative but I think the way they have

set it up where you are fighting other

human beings without a whole lot of

context for why really really troubles

me and so I have to detach myself from

the game in a way that I wish I didn't

but I kind of have to and furthermore

it's just boring to shoot humans like

it's there's one something about aliens

that can be a little more dynamic and

interesting and also because the game is

running on an MMO structure where

or you're constantly measuring your

weapons through dps you know damage per

second it just doesn't make a whole lot

of sense why some humans are bullet

sponges and other humans aren't because

they look exactly the same but this one

I guess has armor on it it just doesn't

it's not that this game needs to have

aliens I just don't think it works or at

least I guess it goes back to what I was

saying before and that there is a

detachment narrative Lee it bothers me

in which I can't quite get into the

world in the way that I'd want to where

I eventually just have to accept okay

this human for whatever reason is going

to take three minutes of bullets to put

down as opposed to this other human who

took 20 seconds and volts put down no

real reason for that not really sure why

let's just accept it and move on and I

have and by doing that by stepping away

a little bit I have been able to enjoy

the division and it's gorgeous

if the gunplay is really good it has

allowed me to interact with other

players in a way that other shooters

have never allowed me to do before and

all that kind of adds up to something

where I say I'm really enjoying the

division so fun and there a lot of

caveats that go with that I don't know

how satisfying it's going to be ten

hours from now but five hours in when I

ask the question is the division a fun

game to play as a single-player

experience I think so now I can't say

that especially or more pointedly as a

pure solo experience if you were to

literally click offline and play it by

herself maybe it would be different but

I think what I want to impress upon

people and what I was talking about

before is that as someone that comes

from a solo sort of primary way of

playing games what the division allows

you to do is casually interact with

players without impeding your progress

in fact it enhances the experience in a

way other games have not done for me

before so right now really enjoying the

division right now I want to go play

more of the division and right now I

think I'm gonna go play more of the

division

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