How long would it take a diseased world to collapse? A month? A year? How about five days?
Our culture is overly complex, and hence, fragile… because of money. Considering the statistics on how much Americans spend in one day of shopping, we get a lesson on influenza, which can apparently survive on bank notes for up to 17 days. Despite the fact that practically no one uses cash during the holidays, Black Friday is ominously pinpointed as the day that the possible end begins, due to the rapid exchange of contaminated dollar bills. By the time patient zero feels the first sore throat, it’s already too late and five days later, the United States is on the verge of collapse.
But whether this far-flung premise is timely, or just plain tiresome, starts to become irrelevant as you watch The Division transform from what seems like just another cover-based military shooter into an honest-to-goodness MMORPG(TPS). “RPG-style progression” has been steadily becoming a marketing bullet-point for all things multiplayer over the last few years, but in the case of The Division, it isn’t just lip service.
Sure, at first glance, it looks like any other tactical Tom Clancy affair — one of so many assault rifles and street sweepers. And it plays its portrayal of a New York City in mid-crisis arrow-straight, with all the colors and non-colors you’d expect, making it that much more visually interesting when your character suddenly projects a holographic map of the surrounding city blocks onto the asphalt around him. This is a true open world, replete with random events you’re free to ignore and other player characters going about their merry business with or without you.
Of course, no RPG is complete without the promise of good loot, and The Division appears to have that base covered too. After fighting through the dilapidated police station and freeing a few officers who had been locked up in the very cells they used to keep watch over, our heroes gain access to an armory where one of them found a shiny new assault rifle. Tangible rewards aside, getting places like police stations back up and running has effects on the world at large, though what those effects are exactly remain unknown.
It should be clear by now that The Division breaks a lot of rules. It establishes a believable, grounded aesthetic only to shatter it with gadgets and abilities straight out of a sci-fi action flick. It appeals to one crowd with its tactical, military-based shooting, only to court an entirely different audience with substantial RPG elements. It even has “the nerve” to be an MMO with cutting-edge visuals.
Slightly ridiculous premise aside, The Division is an ambitious and highly polished-looking title that does a lot of new things, even while looking and feeling familiar enough to just jump into. Don’t let its bog-standard name or initial look fool you — there’s a unique experience here. And come its 2014 release on Xbox One and PS4, I think I’ll be losing more than a few hours to it.