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Tom Clancy's: The Division Becomes an Unrealistic Shooter Game Just Because of This...

After a recent preview event, ahead of the upcoming beta, a ton of officially OK-ed footage from The Division has made it online, and fans can watch hours and hours of the game to their heart’s content.

Though there has been a fair amount of buzz about the game as a possible Destiny competitor, there’s one aspect that seems to always be brought up every time footage from the game is shown.

The enemies are bullet-sponges.

This manifests itself in a few different ways. Enemies can take multiple clips to bring down, or they can take repeated headshots without dying. The situation is amplified when lower level players go up against higher level enemies, seeing as this is an RPG which is going to have a damage disparity in situations like that. Unfortunately, in the world of The Division filled with non-superpowered human beings, this kind of destroys the realism of the world that Ubisoft is trying to create.

Ubisoft is in a weird situation here. If they let enemies be taken out in just a few shots like “real life” or games like Call of Duty, The Last of Us, and so on, they lose much of the point of their RPG leveling and gear system. If they keep the damage/defense disparity like it is, combat is going to be pretty exhausting and goofy-looking, as flesh-and-blood humans are riddled with bullets yet remain standing.

This is sort of a unique problem that other games don’t run into. Granted, the shooter RPG is a somewhat new experience, but other games have had excuses as to why higher level enemies can absorb a lot of bullets.

Games like Destiny and Mass Effect take place in science fiction worlds when you can easily assume that aliens are more likely to be able to shrug off multiple shots due to armor or natural toughness. In those games personal shields also help mitigate damage while being sci-fi concept everyone is generally cool with. A game like Borderlands also has the same kind of bullet-sponge issue sometimes, as you can pump half a dozen shotgun blasts into a particularly tough human raider and they’ll keep coming, but the game’s cartoony style means “realism” isn’t really high on its list of priorities. It’s a game that gives you a gun that can shoot exploding swords, after all.

On the other side of the spectrum, most games with “normal” enemies aren’t also simultaneously RPGs. These are games like Call of Duty, Tomb Raider, Uncharted, Grand Theft Auto, Watch Dogs, Far Cry and so on. You may upgrade your guns damage here and there, but rarely will you face a human enemy that can just eat your bullets for breakfast. Yet in The Division, because of the leveling system, this seems like it’s going to happen frequently.

What’s the solution here? For “elites” in many of these games, you’ll see enemies layered up with armor. In Uncharted and Far Cry in particular, you will shoot the hell out of armored “tank” enemies, peeling off their armor and ultimately exposing their weakpoints. A game like Far Cry starts putting helmets on enemies so you can’t immediately one-shot them, but once that helmet is gone? It’s open season once again.

What Uncharted and Far Cry both have in common is that you have to rely on tactics to defeat these groups of enemies, more than just sheer firepower and your inborn “damage” stats. Combat in Uncharted is like a puzzle, as you scramble from cover to cover, trying to figure out the best way to dismantle a room full of enemies. It’s not their health that’s the obstacle, it’s their ability to kill you. The same goes for Far Cry, where carefully laid out bases pose a challenge of infiltration, and head-on assaults often mean death.

Though we're sure tactics are important in The Division, it sure seems like every combat encounter we see in that game is a frenetic firefight where players are just trying to dump gallons of bullets into their enemies. And boss battles? Forget about it.

Boss battles pose an additional problem, because even in games like Uncharted, Tomb Raider and Far Cry, they usually take a step back from their “armored enemy” elite solution and will eventually just dump their big bad guy in a helicopter or tank which will escalate things to an “ultimate boss challenge” pretty quickly. But in the world of The Division where no one even drives cars, much less tanks or helicopters, it seems like boss battles almost have to be just normal humans with god-like amounts of health, which again, feels goofy.

It’s hard to know what the solution is here, as it does feel pretty lose-lose whatever Ubisoft decides. We think the best way forward might be giving everyone less health, both players and enemies, to reflect the reality of taking bullets to the head or chest, which would encourage more cautious and tactical play, rather than what we’ve seen in the early footage so far. While we understand the game wants to rely heavily on RPG elements, you just can’t make an enemy take 25 shots to kill, and over time have players crawl their power level up so it only takes five instead. That may work in some genres, but not this one.

This may sound like a nitpicky issue, but it’s a hugely important one. The only reason a game like Destiny has found so much success is because of its innate “shooter feel,” which is more or less the best in the market thanks to the expertise of Bungie. If The Division’s shooting is annoying or exhausting thanks to bullet-sponge enemies, that does have the potential to sink the entire experience. A game that is simply not fun to play cannot be supported by addictive leveling and looting elements by themselves.

We have to imagine Ubisoft is absorbing all this feedback, and they’ll have even more to sift through after this upcoming beta. There’s still time to make changes, but the innate concept of the game will make it tough to figure out a solution for this.

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