The Division Eyes On

By: Conrad Reyners    On: PlayStation 4
Published: Thursday 13 Jun 2013 9:30 AM
An immersive and visually arresting world. Conrad Reyners
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Last year, Ubisoft hit it out of the park when they announced their latest project: Watch_Dogs. Not to be outdone by themselves, they've tried to replicate their own success by unveiling another big new title this year - The Division.

First shown at Ubisoft's press conference on Monday (Tuesday NZ time), the revelation foreshadowed a world on the brink of collapse. Apparently, in 2001 a simulated biohazard attack was conducted in the United States. From that attack arose "The Division;" a specialist group of secret agents ready to respond to disasters of climatic proportions. As it happens, in the twisted mind of Tom Clancy (on whose work the game is based) such an event did occur, and "The Division" is called into action to prowl the streets of New York City in a valiant attempt to stop the spread of the Black Friday pandemic.

It’s pretty clear that at its core, The Division is a perpetually online RPG style 3rd person shooter. But don't hold that against it. From the gameplay footage we have seen at E3 so far, it looks like it has depth, substance, and a decent bit of style.

At my behind closed doors session, I had a chance to sit down with Andre Tiwari of Massive Entertainment - the Project Coordinator for The Division. He told me that The Division has been designed from the ground up to be an online cooperative experience. This is a game that is supposed to be played with friends - or with other gamers through a matchmaking service that Massive are working on.

The gameplay appears to be fairly open and non-linear. There is an explorable world, and like most open online RPGs, gamers have the chance to decide what to do, and when to do it. However, this won’t be the kind of open world freedom that you'd expect from other post-apocalyptic titles like DayZ. Instead, gamers will be given the choice of finding new missions themselves, or completing major "critical" missions that the game presents to them. Completing these missions will secure the local area, progressing your group through the game. So you have the freedom to choose between choices, but not the freedom to invent those choices for yourself.

One of these critical missions is the shootout in front of the police station that was displayed at Ubisoft's press conference. Working together, a group of three players invaded a barracks and liberated the thin blue line imprisoned there. Andre took us through this combat demo in more depth, outlining the various roles that each player had. He emphasised that The Division is supposed to be a classless game. While it is built in the style of an online RPG, players are not expected to fit within specific genre stereotypes.

Instead, each player's style evolves organically according to the skills and buffs they select. Of course, those working in groups will want to ensure that they are complementing each other, but the game will not be forcing anyone to play in a specific type of way. For an online RPG style game, this is a welcome development.

Andre was also quick to point out the environment physics that Massive have built into the title. A special effort has been made to ensure that players really feel the world they are moving and fighting in. The first way this is done is through the greater fidelity that the next gen consoles are offering. The game looks amazing, and Andre specifically mentioned the ongoing work that Massive are doing to create an immersive and visually arresting world. Some of the lighting and particle effects he displayed up close were astonishing.

However, the second key fact he highlighted was Massive's attention to physical detail. The processing power of next gen consoles has enabled Massive to make realistic destructible environments a key part of the title's combat. For example, when battling bandits outside the police station, stray bullets sprayed into windshields created realistic and believable bullet holes - and not simple decals. These were crunching, shattering, splintering moments.

A second example was when your character blindly fired at an enemy hidden behind an aluminum billboard. Streams of light poured through the gaps you'd made giving the player the impression they'd really engaged. The true effect of this attention to graphical detail wasn't obvious in the press material that's made its way through the web - but up close and personal it’s incredibly impressive.

But what of the core gameplay? Massive Entertainment were not giving much away, and there was no actual playable code for us journalists to get our hands on. However, Massive are strongly emphasising the cooperative team-based play they expect gamers to embrace.

There is good reason for this - the post apocalyptic world of New York City presents a whole range of challenges. For example, in order to "save" your progress and the loot you find, each group of The Division will need to complete an "extraction". This is triggered by firing a flare into the air (and was the last scene from the footage Ubisoft streamed during its press conference.) However, this flare attracts more than just help - it also attracts other players around you who have just been alerted to your presence (and presumably the fact they you've got something awesome you want to keep to yourself). This will hopefully set off a game of cat and mouse between rival groups of players who have just discovered new gear and those that want to take it from them. It's an interesting new innovation in the online RPG genre. Hopefully it works and is enjoyable for gamers to fight through - and, as hinted, is a regular and perpetual occurrence in The Division's online world.

But what Andre really wanted to show off was not the lighting, the destructible environments, or even the new twist on online cooperative RPG gameplay. Instead it was the integration with Smartglass and the opportunities for tablet players to have an impact on your game.

While you and your friends are battling it out against NPCs or other players you can be supported by someone using Ubisoft's "Companion App". This app lets them join your game and help you out in sticky situations. This can happen from anywhere there is a reliable internet connection - in the living room next to your fellow players, across the street, or even on the bus on the way to work.

For example, in the footage we saw at Ubisoft's press conference a drone joins your attack on the police station and helps pick out dangerous enemies. What we didn't know was that the drone was controlled by a third person who joined the game on a tablet. Andre was at pains to stress that the integration of tablets through smartglass technology was not just a gimmick - it has a real impact on your game experience, and he demonstrated an impressive depth of combat to prove it.

In a further segment of the game that we hadn't seen before, three squaddies assaulted enemies on a roof and were joined by a drone doing air support. By viewing the game through a (reasonably accurate) representation of the console game, they were able to beam down healing buffs, damage enhancers, armour weakeners, and missiles. The drone tactical support to the troops on the ground was vital. And it was all done in real time, displaying the serious work that has gone into ensuring that the tablet and console experiences are seamlessly linked.

Overall The Division looks like an impressive new title from Ubisoft. It's clearly a flagship title, and it shares many similarities with Ubisoft's other flagship new IP: Watch_Dogs. Both have semi sci-fi storylines, both have smartglass integration through the companion app, and both feature impressive visuals with interesting combat.

Hopefully however, there is enough differentiation between the titles to give gamers two separate and distinct experiences. By situating itself in the perpetually online RPG world, it looks like The Division is taking the ambitious route.

From what I saw in my behind closed door session at E3 I'm excited - but also a little nervous. With Watch_Dogs last year and The Division this week, Ubisoft now have quite a few irons in the fire. We've seen some truly impressive gameplay over the last two days - but the jury is still out as to whether Ubisoft's headlong charge at the next generation of consoles will bear fruit worth eating. Here's hoping it will!

At a Glance

Pros: Amazing graphics

Cons: No playable code

"Keep your eye on this one"


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Comments (45)

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predatorhunter VIP VIP Silver
On Thursday 13 Jun 2013 10:25 AM Posted by predatorhunter
another amazing looking tom clancy game these are always different to the mainstream which i really like.
ReaperCrew VIP VIP Bronze
On Thursday 13 Jun 2013 10:43 AM Posted by ReaperCrew
Appears to be a title not aimed at the "causual" gamer, which is not a bad thing and may mean less idoits on the field than typically found in other (multiplayer) shooter titles. The more I think about this title, the more detail I want to know. Definitely one to watch out for.
twisterjamz VIP VIP Gold
On Thursday 13 Jun 2013 11:02 AM Posted by twisterjamz
Game of E3 2013
Deanology VIP VIP Gold
On Thursday 13 Jun 2013 11:50 AM Posted by Deanology
Awesome, I am interested in how this game turns out.
On Thursday 13 Jun 2013 12:22 PM Posted by sick_wierdo
This is now my most anticipated game for the PS4, looks absolutely incredible.
On Thursday 13 Jun 2013 12:38 PM Posted by woosaah
yep, I am also looking forward to reading more about this game as well!
Jono91 VIP VIP
On Thursday 13 Jun 2013 12:41 PM Posted by Jono91
Honestly blown away yesterday by the 7 min gameplay video. Looks absolutely engaging! Beautiful graphics too.
Vicx VIP VIP Bronze
On Thursday 13 Jun 2013 12:46 PM Posted by Vicx
The first of us?
On Thursday 13 Jun 2013 12:53 PM Posted by Booker_T_SUCKAAA
Graphics are STUNNING!!! I've been showing off this clip at work today.
tom_nz VIP VIP Silver
On Thursday 13 Jun 2013 1:10 PM Posted by tom_nz
Next-gen Ubisoft. Loving what I've seen so far.
On Thursday 13 Jun 2013 1:23 PM Posted by chunky
The detail on the trailer was incredible, can only hope the final product lives up to it
dark_hadou1 VIP VIP Bronze
On Thursday 13 Jun 2013 1:57 PM Posted by dark_hadou1
Visually? Damn sure.

Immersive? Depends if you have a wife and two dogs that want your constant attention :)
Mach1_9pants VIP VIP
On Thursday 13 Jun 2013 2:16 PM Posted by Mach1_9pants
Thankfully I think this is coming out on PC too, as I mentioned before. Unless there is a mix-up with EA's announcements. If not I WILL be getting a PS4, this is easily my most anticipated game of E3. Coming from a person who has sunk a few thousand hours into the BF franchise, this blows away BF4... which looks great and I know I'll love it, but it is just more of the same as BF3.
chinaman71 VIP VIP Silver
On Thursday 13 Jun 2013 2:25 PM Posted by chinaman71
So so suprised ubisoft well done!
On Thursday 13 Jun 2013 2:37 PM Posted by SaVag3_MiNd
I wanna play this with friends like they show in the 7 minute demo. My friends are all hungus guys and will most likely end up taking all the ammo, weapons, and loot for themselves . . . damn bastards.
I so cant wait for this lil beauty
On Thursday 13 Jun 2013 3:00 PM Posted by AsianFella
Definitely happy about this one, loving the setting of a collapsing society combined with elements that I love about Tom Clancy games.
Bunnny VIP VIP Silver
On Thursday 13 Jun 2013 3:22 PM Posted by Bunnny
Is it ps4 only?
Scuba_Steve VIP VIP Silver
On Thursday 13 Jun 2013 3:25 PM Posted by Scuba_Steve
God I hope the final version holds upto the demo reel
Mach1_9pants VIP VIP
On Thursday 13 Jun 2013 3:30 PM Posted by Mach1_9pants
Bugger looks next-gen console only ATM, want it on PC. Got it mixed up with Titanfall.
Super-Pangolin VIP VIP Silver
On Thursday 13 Jun 2013 3:41 PM Posted by Super-Pangolin
It's everything I love about TC titles and RPG games all mixed into one... insanity. Hope to god this comes to PC, otherwise it's kind of a dealbreaker... won't be able to afford a PS4 at launch and have enough unfinished/played PS3 games to last me some years anyway. Ah well, if not then at least there's still Watch Dogs which looks superb.
On Thursday 13 Jun 2013 4:10 PM Posted by M-to-the-T
All sorts of bad ass-ery goin on here, PS4 you make me happy
On Thursday 13 Jun 2013 5:31 PM Posted by NickJacques
Wow, I can't wait for this game. Those visuals look great, can't wait to see some proper gameplay.
On Thursday 13 Jun 2013 5:35 PM Posted by Robbstrosity
This game looks amazing!
On Thursday 13 Jun 2013 6:08 PM Posted by Lime_dude
Looks like another extremely addicting game shown at E3. Once I find out which console I'll be purchasing, this will be the first game that I add to the cart! I think my favorite feature about this game is the smooth movements that each character makes and the sweat graphics.
Seraphim VIP VIP Bronze
On Thursday 13 Jun 2013 6:25 PM Posted by Seraphim
So many good open world titles coming out in the next year, can't wait.
Seraphim VIP VIP Bronze
On Thursday 13 Jun 2013 6:26 PM Posted by Seraphim
13 June 2013, 05:31 PM Reply to NickJacques
Wow, I can't wait for this game. Those visuals look great, can't wait to see some proper gameplay.
Well i guess it depends on what you call proper, because theres a 7 minute gameplay video?
On Thursday 13 Jun 2013 6:57 PM Posted by gh567
I shall be watching future news on this one very keenly!!
On Thursday 13 Jun 2013 7:36 PM Posted by Manoz
i just got a hard on
On Thursday 13 Jun 2013 7:43 PM Posted by trukme
im heading away for annual leave for a month so this one might be on sick leave ;)
scotteffone VIP VIP Bronze
On Thursday 13 Jun 2013 10:55 PM Posted by scotteffone
I kind of wish there were single player elements too. Not that I'm a loner but I don't always want to play co-op lol
NZBuc VIP VIP Bronze
On Thursday 13 Jun 2013 11:39 PM Posted by NZBuc
This looks awesome - GRAW for the next gen?
LoftyDog VIP VIP Bronze
On Friday 14 Jun 2013 10:41 AM Posted by LoftyDog
game of e3 for sure, but does it do solo (not offline, but alone)? Also love that ubisoft has 2 new IPs up their sleeve
On Friday 14 Jun 2013 12:07 PM Posted by skhar7
I honestly cannot wait for this game. The possibilities of just going lone wolf and taking down other teams, fighting alongside your team to take down enemies, waiting for that next epic gun... The list goes on. Can see myself spending alot more hours in this than any other game.
On Friday 14 Jun 2013 6:50 PM Posted by MA3LK
Ubisoft is coming out with straight hits, Watch_Dogs, The Crew and now this. Next gen going to be great
kiwibadboy VIP VIP Bronze
On Saturday 15 Jun 2013 9:53 AM Posted by kiwibadboy
Wow so beautiful!
On Saturday 15 Jun 2013 4:12 PM Posted by nos4r2d2
Some of the finest screen-shots I've seen.
Khaos_Kiwi VIP VIP Bronze
On Saturday 15 Jun 2013 4:54 PM Posted by Khaos_Kiwi
The Game of e3 for me. Looks very good. Interested in hearing more about this one for sure.
On Monday 17 Jun 2013 12:39 PM Posted by Maugapaia
This was by far the game I'm most excited about!!
On Monday 17 Jun 2013 4:20 PM Posted by SvenVolfeid
Id have to say its a tie between this and Destiny for game of E3 for me, cant wait to get my hands on it
On Monday 17 Jun 2013 9:31 PM Posted by imonthenet
This is an amazing concept. I felt the current generation lacked the true capability to handle a fantastic co-op experience, the closest being Borderlands and Borderlands 2. And with the tablet integration I'm going to be able to help out from everywhere. Truly amazing idea coupled with amazing graphics.
guido VIP VIP Bronze
On Monday 17 Jun 2013 10:36 PM Posted by guido
I'm loving how this gen is shaping up! Co-op online becoming a real focus, teams dropping in and out providing PvE mixed seamlessly with PvP! RPG elements everywhere. Assists / buffs from friends on tablets! Persistent worlds. Amazing stuff! I thought Borderlands was great for drop in drop out co-op play but it's becoming clear that we ain't seen nothing yet!
thegr8link VIP VIP Bronze
On Friday 21 Jun 2013 10:18 AM Posted by thegr8link
Most highly anticipated game for me from E3. If only we knew more about the game!!
Durty Driscoll VIP VIP Bronze
On Friday 21 Jun 2013 1:37 PM Posted by Durty Driscoll
The tablet support might actually give my girlfriend a reason to play videogames with me instead of sulking in another room.
Winger Gee VIP VIP Bronze
On Saturday 22 Jun 2013 9:56 AM Posted by Winger Gee
Speaking from an idiots POV I would be happy just playing the single campaign mode- so rest easy. Stupendous looking game.
reavers VIP VIP Bronze
On Sunday 13 Oct 2013 7:59 PM Posted by reavers
Hope it is coming on PC! :D