For E3, secret announcements are becoming rarer and rarer. Most games that get announced are either leaked or at least heavily rumored prior to the press conferences, leaving little surprise when games are revealed. Amidst this, Ubisoft somehow managed to get an announcement for The Division into their press conference as a surprise reveal that had not been leaked beforehand [Ed: Um, it did a little, read PSLS]. Not only did it get announced, but Ubisoft also had a closed door gameplay demonstration to allow us to get a better look at the game.
The Division is a Tom Clancy game taking place in the middle of a pandemic that threatens to wipe out New York (and perhaps the world). The pandemic isn’t supernatural. It’s simply a virus that is killing people and destabilizing the foundations of society as we know it. Your task as a Division agent who is trained to operate without command in such destabilizing events is to assist with restoring New York’s stability and with rebuilding it to its former state. Oh, and don’t let the Tom Clancy name scare you off if you aren’t into those. It is different than you might expect.
The dynamic and persistent New York is very beautifully recreated in the Snowdrop engine with a myriad of tiny details that make the entire world feel familiar and believable while still remaining decimated during the time of this crisis. The lighting and the graphics are absolutely stunning to look at. Ubisoft has created one of the better looking next gen games with this one.
The Division is an online open world third person shooter, meaning that you will not be forced down a set path, but can explore New York and take on the dynamic missions and events as they come up. The map is huge and littered with a variety of things to do. During your exploration you will cross paths with other human players, sometimes to team up with and sometimes to fight against them. The whole process appeared very seamless.
Upon completing the preview mission, the game triggered an extraction event. A flare was shot into the air as a signal to extract you from the area, but also signaled other human players to your position who attempted to steal your loot. Once again, this process was extremely seamless. They then zoomed out to a full view of the map to reveal that this was not an isolated event and small skirmishes, extractions and other live events were happening all over the map.
RPG elements are very prevalent as you can level up, gain skills, and choose your own path on the skill tree to customize your player to your liking. You will also need to scavenge for items for the survival portion of the game. And then of course there is the third person shooting aspect. Massive has incorporated procedural destruction into the environment from both player and enemy fire. This game has all the trappings that look to show what next gen is all about.
Perhaps one of the most intriguing aspects of The Division is the real time, cross platform tablet play. There is a companion app that you can load onto your tablet that sets you as a drone within the world. The players on the consoles can see the drone in real time, and the player on the tablet can see what is happening in the game world in real time. If a player moves on the ground on the PlayStation 4, or something gets blown up, the tablet will see that without any delays.
The drone can offer buffs and debuffs such as increasing players’ armor, marking enemy positions, and healing player characters. They can also build up a meter to unleash aggressive attacks like a missile strike. Playing on the tablet doesn’t even need to be done in the proximity of the console. Anywhere that there is a wifi connection you can jump into the world of The Division in real time from your tablet.
Ubisoft appears to be playing a lot with seamless open world multiplayer and real time tablet integration, with both The Division and Watch Dogs featuring these characteristics. From the looks of things, these elements could change the way that we play and how we think about narrative, linearity, and multiplayer within games. The Division is coming out next year for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One and its potential impressed us so much that we awarded it with a Best of E3 award.