Hands-Off Preview: The Division – The Next Generation of RPG

Hands-Off Preview: The Division – The Next Generation of RPG

I’ll be frank with you guys: when I saw The Division trailer from last year’s E3 I wasn’t impressed with it in the least. Why would I have been? It was yet ANOTHER post apocalyptic third person shooter. Been there, done that. The fact that players could jump in and out of your game was also a big turn off to me as well since I don’t like the thought of people coming into my game and ruining things. Yeah, it LOOKED beautiful but besides that it didn’t seem like something that I should pay attention to.

A trailer for The Division’s Snowdrop Engine is what made my view on the game turn around. It wasn’t that the graphics looked incredible, it was all of the stuff that was happening under the hood which impressed me. This engine was capable of creating dynamic environmental damage in a way that I’ve never seen before. The weather effects were very impressive as well and, as silly as this may sound, the fact that the game had different types of snow got me very excited.

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I really liked the trailer that was shown during this year’s Xbox Event so I went into this demonstration in Ubisoft’s booth with some high expectations. The demo consisted of two parts. The first was an extended version of the trailer we saw earlier that day which showcased some of the weapons and abilities. The second was the same scenario only at night. Although both parts took place in the same area of the game, the time of day made them feel completely different.

This being a Tom Clancy game, it had a lot of fancy technology in it. The one that you’ll use a lot is the “Mega Map” which shows you a three-dimensional image of Manhattan. With this, you can see what areas you need to take back. This may be a post-apocalyptic type game but instead of accepting things as they are, you’re actively trying to restore order. Things like Security Level, Contagion Level, and Citizen Morale are all affected by your actions and you’ll see all of these on the map.

On the face of it, The Division looks like a straight up third person shooter. It isn’t. Shooting is your primary means of attacking but the people demoing the game repeatedly kept saying that this was an RPG. This is 100% accurate. Before the characters engaged their enemies, you saw them preparing their equipment by changing their attributes. For example, grenades could be made to be non-lethal and the flying drone could be turned into a strobe light to distract enemies. All of these were moddable in real time. There are no specific classes in the game but you can mod your character to fit a specific role.

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The action in the game is fast paced but also tactical. During both demos, we saw the characters use technology (such as drones, stun grenades, scanners) to get the better of their enemies. While a drone was sent to distract foes, the team flanked them and took them out. Once they were spotted though they had to make use of cover as the enemies became extremely aggressive. This is where we got to see how shooting works in the game and it was pretty tight. We didn’t get to see too many types of firearms but I’m sure that the game will have a wide assortment of weapons to choose from.

We got to see the multiplayer aspect of the game which I was glad to find out was actually co-op. Players can come in and out of your game but to help you. I know there will be PvP areas in the game but those are (thankfully) optional. The one interesting thing with the co-op is that players can actually use a tablet to play. During the second part of the demo, a player controlled a flying drone and he was giving the others tactical information about the battlefield. Granted, some players COULD come in and ruin your game by not helping out but I’m happy knowing that some random dude can’t just hop into my game and shoot me in the head.

The fact that this game is current-gen only is a big advantage. The effects that I saw during the demo never failed to impress me. In particular, I liked how bullets went through glass at odd angles. This is all dynamic and will be different every time. Having the characters actually affect the environment in such subtle (and not so subtle) ways helped make this world feel more alive. Aside from physics, just the actual look of the game is mind blowing and everything from characters, buildings and debris were all meticulously and beautifully rendered. The game is a feast for the eyes.

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I do have some reservations however. First off, there was a bit too much clutter on screen. Practically every stat from player health, enemy health, ammo, and all manner of other things were always on screen. While useful, it kind of took away from the realism of the game. I’m hoping that some of this stuff can be turned off. Also, I am slightly worried that this game won’t look as good when it’s finally released. You can blame that worry on Watch_Dogs and how different the actual game is from the 2012 demo.

Aside from those two things, I’m really looking forward to this game. The fact that it’s actually an RPG is what finally sold it for me. This is also the first game that may be truly “next-gen” in terms of the things it’s doing under the hood. I’m hoping that there will be a playable demo at the next event I go to because I desperately want to try The Division out myself.