Despite the author himself passing away in 2013, Tom Clancy’s name continues to be applied to a number of different video game series, many of which – including titles such as Ghost Recon and Rainbow Six – have been hugely popular for many generations of hardware.

The Division, which arrived in 2016, was the first new franchise to bear Clancy’s branding posthumously and has since seen a sequel, which released in 2018.

Thanks to its appearance on Games with Gold, I’ve finally given The Division a try. It’s a mostly co-op focused, RPG-esque loot shooter (though it can be played in single player, many missions don’t seem to lend themselves to solo play) – and despite its politically charged military-based action, feels quite different to other Tom Clancy titles.

One thing I’ve always appreciated with the games bearing  the Tom Clancy name is a focus on a more strategic approach to combat, due to its lethal nature. It’s always something that’s given the games a more realistic and tactical feel than many other third or first person games. So it was a huge disappointment when I began playing The Division to find enemies that barely reacted to being shot multiple times; right from the beginning, pretty much any enemy you encounter feels like a total bullet sponge. The numbers indicating damage done to an enemy when they’re shot don’t help to sell a feeling of realism either; it all just feels so much more artificial than I’m used to with this type of game.

The plot sees a virus unleashed upon the US via bank notes on Black Friday; the resultant outbreak, lockdown and quarantining of citizens just feels a little too on-the-nose at this point in the real world. Likewise, the fact that you’ll be gunning down looters in civilian clothing just hits very differently now than it may have upon the game’s initial release. Though this is a great example of how the plots in Clancy’s fiction were often just one step away from real political situations that could potentially develop, it did make me somewhat uncomfortable at first.

Despite this, I’ve been able to set aside my discomfort at the setup and have some fun with The Division. The desolate, devastated New York setting is incredibly detailed and the snow covered, wintry surroundings give it an eerie, unique urban feel. There’s an awful lot to do and so much to unlock, with a steady stream of abilities, perks and loot to collect. It’s a shame that most of the loot is so dull from a visual standpoint – but it’s in keeping with the realism and newly-activated non-military agents of the setting at least, given that they’re often in fairly nondescript civilian style clothing.

I’ve found it quite fun to take on bad guys alongside other players, though – raising the point again – bullet sponge bad guys can get repetitive and in some cases, particularly with bosses, frustrating to take down.

Though I can’t see that it’s going to keep my attention in the long term, I’m glad that I’ve been able to give the game a try at least; who knows – perhaps once I start really levelling and gearing up (which can at times be quite a slow process – the presence of real world monetisation perhaps leading to the in-game economy being deliberately slow), The Division may yet grab me a lot more than it has so far.

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