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Tom Clancy's The Division review: Bow before the Grind

Hayden Dingman | April 4, 2016
What a grind.

I’ve put off reviewing The Division for too long. I “finished” it a few weeks ago, insofar as you can finish any game of its ilk, but I kept thinking I might go back and wrap up some loose threads, find some more meaningless doodads and kill more dudes in hoodies.

It’s not to be. The spell is broken. The Division no longer has power over me.

Deja vu

Which is to say I played The Division for maybe 30-40 hours in two weeks, and I am left empty. Sometimes I laugh when I see Steam reviews that say something along the lines of “1,000 hours played. Do not recommend.” It’s so unthinkable. How does something like that happen?

The Division

Tom Clancy's The Division is how it happens. Games that are fantastic at exploiting the human need for progress, wrapping it up in fancy clothes so you don’t realize you’ve ultimately gone nowhere at all and accomplished nothing.

And to be fair, this applies to many games. Playing Rocket League, for instance, the goal is...to play more Rocket League. The same with Call of Duty or Battlefield or Red Orchestra or Arma or whatever brand of multiplayer treadmill you prefer.

For some reason I find it particularly distasteful in these singleplayer/multiplayer hybrids though. Here we find neither the spectacle of a purely offline experience nor the rapid-fire pacing of one that’s purely multiplayer.

Instead everything is stripped down to the grind. To that peculiar compulsion to fill up bars. The ultimate goal is, of course, to get new (better) gear—guns, bulletproof vests, gloves, et cetera—so you can kill more guys so you can get better gear so you can repeat and repeat. It’s a roller coaster. You’ll enter a new area just underpowered enough to feel challenged, and then a new gun or backpack turn you into an unstoppable killing machine for an hour or two. 

The Division

That’s all there is here.

Diablo wraps its loot mechanics in grimdark cinematics. Borderlands wraps its gun pursuit in stupid humor. The Division is just naked loot-greed, so it’s good Ubisoft at least nailed the psychological aspects of shooting guys so you can shoot more guys with bigger numbers next to their names.

 

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