Tom Clancy’s The Division Hands-off Impressions

RPG Shooter Ubisoft Xbox One Previews Playstation 4 MMO News PC EB Expo 2014

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Game of Show. Without question. Those were my immediate thoughts after watching a live presentation of a brand-new Tom Clancy’s The Division demo at the EB Games Expo 2014. Other rumblings I overheard: “Does it so much better than Destiny, “Bungie is in a lot of trouble” andDestiny Shmestiny!”. Okay, that last one I made up. The Division doesn’t even have a set release date yet, only a vague 2015 release window. And why the comparisons? I mean, aren’t they entirely different titles that can co-exist with strong fan-bases for years to come? Absolutely, but they share MMO and RPG elements, and in this demonstration we got a much better look at them being fully-integrated and well-executed.

You have probably seen the most recent slice of the game Ubisoft shared online. It takes place just outside this giant museum in Midtown Manhattan, which would become a base of operations for the group of agents after clearing out some hostiles in the vicinity. Well, this new demo practically continues on from that point. Night has fallen, however, though the crew begins in the now familiar underground subway. The “Echo” mechanic is shown to us once again, although we received fresh information that the finished game will not actually feature cutscenes of any kind, with these ‘Echo’ reconstructions representing certain story beats and memories integral to the overall plot. Pulling up that awesome 3D map, the player draws out a line of way-points for the team to follow, and they soon emerge on the surface of Manhattan’s streets. Dark and foreboding, the domineering, yet awe-inspiring image of a long-deserted Madison Square Garden demands your sight. Before taking a look at the since-enhanced U.I., it should be noted that Charly, product manager over at Ivory Tower (the developers of The Crew) was aiding his extended Ubisoft family in demonstrating the companion app capabilities, which we will detail shortly.

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So, taking a look at the map again, some important information is listed on the top right: Security, Contagion and Morale. Every zone you enter has a Security level, that can be improved by clearing out enemies and generally making the area safer (duh!), a Contagion level, which indicates the threat level therein, and Morale, which pertains more so to your team if I’m not mistaken. We have fewer details on how Morale can be improved in-game. Opening up the Inventory, we see multiple tabs holding carried Weapons, Armor, and – among others – Vanity. Vanity items are how The Division allows you to personalise and customise your character. Some may be purely cosmetic, while other may have stats attributed to them, much like your usual Gear in MMOs. In examining weaponry, it is clear that upgrading and modifying said weapons is a significant part of the experience as well. The same can be said for gadgets. Modifications are made across three tiers or categories (unofficial titles): ammo types, method of delivery and supplementary elements, such as noise suppressors. In using the automated turret as an example, you can swap out the ammo type to make it a flamethrower. And in terms of the method of delivery, a mine can become a seeker mine.

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Gadgetry such as the automated turret and pulse seeker mine can be assigned to either bumpers on an Xbox controller (L1 and R1 for PlayStation) for quick deployment. Moving on to some action, the crew spot a trail of blood and decide to investigate. Eventually, they come across a high-contamination zone, requiring they put on gas masks before travelling further in. Warnings are issued to the player via the interface when they are approaching said zones, and if you don’t have a gas mask in your possession, you’re going to have to avoid it, turning back and exploring another route. In this case, the group delves into the area, discovering a gang of ‘Cleaners’ in front of a dilapidated supermarket. For those who are unaware, the Cleaners are the faction brandishing flamethrowers, who have no alliances and wish to rid the city of contamination. Admirable…unfortunately, they believe everything and everyone needs to be cleansed in order for the city to be truly “clean”. Even if you haven’t been exposed to the contagion, they give no quarter, working to dispatch you without hesitation. Better safe than sorry, I guess. In engaging the foes, we get our first clear vision of the companion app interface and abilities.

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The agents proceed to eliminate the couple weaker members of the faction, all the while Charly is offering support in the form of shield deployment and healing the wounded. When it’s down to the big, burly brutes who wield the flamethrowers, teamwork is essential. Charly drops tear gas that disorients the foes, allowing our main protagonist to unleash an onslaught of semi-automatic Shotgun shells, dealing major damage. Charly also joined in with gunfire of his own. The interface for the companion app looks like a Heli-cam, with the corner lines framing the top down view. At the bottom of the screen are the four icons representing the afore-mentioned abilities of the mobile player. After each use, there is a cooldown meter in play, ensuring you can’t spam these powerful tools. I wonder if Ubisoft Massive will consider smartening up the A.I. to actually attack the drone, which is something I haven’t seen yet (although that would be a considerable hindrance for the mobile player, as they would have nary a defensive technique). Also of note, damage totals are now visualised above the heads of the enemy taking the hits. Soon enough, the flamers fall, the Security level of the district improves, exiting the orange and entering the green.

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But what’s this? That flamer happened to drop a Legendary item. Sound familiar? After acquiring said weapon, a comrade enters the now secure Supermarket to turn on the CERA generator within, and return power to the district. This brings electricity back to light the streets and buildings, and potentially can aid in providing clean water for the crew. Doing so also unlocks extra side-missions that were not possible prior. Alas, this is when our time ends with Tom Clancy’s The Division. Hopefully, along with the interview we conducted with game director Ryan Barnard, we’ve provided a somewhat clearer idea of what The Division brings to the table. And it goes without saying that the Snowdrop engine enables absolutely stunning atmospheric effects and overall visuals. The tone is perfect for what Ubisoft Massive are trying to achieve, and I can’t wait to see more of The Division.

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I am a graduate of the Bachelor of Interactive Entertainment (w/ major in Games Design) course at Qantm College, Sydney.
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