A persistent and connected shooter in a ravaged world.
By David Wildgoose on June 26, 2013 at 4:24 pm
The Division was one of a mere handful of genuine surprises at E3: a non-sequel, albeit situated in the well-worn world of Tom Clancy fiction, that was kept under wraps until its announcement at the Ubisoft press conference.
Yet, at the same time, there was nothing unexpected about its showing. As an open world, online shooter-RPG, The Division brings together a clutch of familiar elements in predictable fashion.
It’s set in a contemporary New York City ravaged by a viral outbreak. Civilisation has been brought to its knees and lawlessness abounds. You can tell, because the city streets are filled with trash and overturned cars — something you simply don’t see in New York. The titular Division is an elite group of government agents dispatched in case of such an emergency and you play as one of them.
Of course, your friends play as them, too. This is a “next-gen” game where, much like today’s PC, consoles are expected to be basically always connected to the internet, and so singleplayer and cooperative multiplayer modes can merge freely and persistently. You team up with your friends into groups and wander around the open world city completing missions together. Missions are marked on your map as “events” and you simply travel to their location to trigger them.
One mission we saw demonstrated involved rescuing a squad of police from a building where they were being held hostage. This involved rocking up to the building, ducking into sticky cover and shooting a bunch of enemies. The best bit was when one of the Division agents used a grenade to flush out an enemy hunkered down behind a car: instead of throwing the grenade, he rolled it along the ground and the “smart” grenade navigated a path between obstacles to hit its intended target.
Once the police hostages were freed, the agents gained XP and levelled up their skills and shopped for some new gear. It all looks like a gritty, urban take on Borderlands with the added feature of more players existing in the same world.
As with almost every Ubisoft title these days, The Division also integrates your tablet into the experience. Tablet players can participate from an aerial view, as if they’re piloting a drone, and in the sequence we saw were able to target enemies with airstrikes and buff their co-op partners with extra health and a damage boost. It seems unlikely this kind of tablet play will provide a satisfying experience in itself, but Ubisoft has also yet to reveal how players will access it. Will it be a bonus for anyone who buys the full game? Or will it be a separate free or paid-for app?
The Division appears to be the next logical step in the evolution of Ubisoft’s approach to open world games. And it’s indicative of the AAA game makers’ determination to eliminate the used game market through always-online play with your friends and a literal city full of mission content. It may not be terribly surprising, but it should provide sufficient co-op shooter enjoyment.