Preview: The Division

From the general chatter on the internet, it seems that anyone who watched Ubisoft’s presser was left impressed by the debut of The Division. I was fortunate enough to get a look at the gameplay they showed in person, and if anything it’s even more impressive when you see it for yourself.

The new Snowdrop engine that Ubisoft have built for next gen consoles is gorgeous, with the dynamic lighting on show looking absolutely wonderful. That graphical prowess is made only more impressive by its open world and multiplayer nature, but a good looking world isn’t all that The Division has to offer.

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You see there’s a bit of a theme with Ubisoft’s E3 titles this year – companion apps. The publisher has gone all out on adding second screen experiences to their games, and The Division has the best of the bunch.

If you saw Ubisoft’s gameplay demo, they briefly showed a drone coming in to help the soldiers on the ground, and just how that drone works was the focus of the theatre presentation that Ubisoft were giving for The Division.

As was mentioned during the press conference, you enter into the world of The Division on a tablet – the demo used an Android one – and you play as an aerial drone.

Once you’ve got the app set up you can seamlessly drop into the game and give other players some aerial assistance. They made it very clear that you don’t need to be on the same network as a console running the game, although of course you could be, but can drop in from wherever you are, assuming you’ve got a decent internet connection.

While this potentially seems like a bit of a gimmick, Ubisoft have given the drone similar progression mechanics to the console version of the game to make it clear that the app is its own fully-fledged experience. While experience levels don’t look like they’ll carry over from your soldier to your drone, and vice versa, you’ve still got scope to create a more powerful drone to support the boots on the ground.

Adding this kind of meat to the drone based gameplay feels really important, and makes it seem like a much more substantial part of the game. Of course if you don’t want to play as the drone that’s fine, but it really does look like it could expand your enjoyment of the game.

What’s really impressive is just how simple it all seems to be, and how well it works. Although the demo was obviously running over a local network, the tablet player entered pretty much instantly, and side by side video feeds showed their view of the world was synchronous with what the console players were seeing.

As for what the drone actually does, it looks like it’s got a variety of roles. Perhaps the most interesting is the support based gameplay, allowing you to spot and highlight enemies so those playing via consoles can more easily pick off their opponents. There are also group buffs to give your allies a boost when they really need it.

If you’d rather take a more attacking role, then that option exists too. One scenario had ground based allies waiting for extraction, much like at the end of the gameplay trailer, and the drone swooping in to back them up. As they came under heavy fire from enemies who’d spotted their extraction flare, the player using the drone positioned himself and unleashed a missile attack, wiping out the assault force in the blink of an eye.

More powerful effects like this won’t be available constantly though: you’ll need to level up your drone first and even then it seems that you have to wait for the weapon to charge before you can get a shot off.

This kind of interplay between portable devices and console games is really intriguing, and The Division is pushing companion apps to a new level. While the current second screen experiences we have work well to display contextual information and the like, building a whole new way to play really sets a new standard for what we should expect in future.

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20 Comments

  1. I see second screen tech as cool and useful in a limited capacity, but pretty much uneccessary at the same time.
    The game looks great though, even to someone like me who doesn’t normally play online. I thnk next gen’s online gaming is something i’m going to be giving more consideration to .. might as well if i’m going to be paying for it with plus anyway.. :)

    • Agreed. I don’t see the tablet inclusion as anything I’d ever want but if it doesn’t screw things up, no problem.

      The demo, itself, still has me shaking my head at the graphics… in disbelief! They are simply stunning.

    • Yeah, same here. I’ve got no interest in such a marketing gimmick. But if the core game is solid, I’m not against it.

      I don’t foresee a lot of people using it more than twice.

  2. I wonder if it will let use the Vita as the second screen?

    • Was just about to write this Q untill i scrolled down and saw your comment, in the words of Meatloaf ‘you took the words right out might mouth’.

      • Wow screwed that comment up, damn vita text input!

  3. Cannot wait to pick this up in 2014

    • Dont think i’ve ever been so excited for a shooter in a long time, and since it has the Tom Clancy name makes it all that much more interesting for me! :D

  4. The fact it is is an online game means I’ll almost certainly give it a miss. I far prefer offline and what multiplayer I play I prefer with everyone in the same location, it gives a different feel to mulitplayer – that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t use online it’s just I’d have multiple TV’s and console in the same room.

    When that final image come up at the end of them showing the game at the Ubisoft conference I was quite excited by it but that dropped massively when it came up as online on the screen at the end. A bit like when Final Fantasy XIV was unveiled at the Sony conference previously.

    • Jim you can still play this game in single player online.

  5. It was also the little details I loved, like when he moved along the police car providing cover, he seamlessly shut the door as he moved passed it.

  6. I was impressed by the gameplay shown for The Division. Based on that clip alone i’ll definitely buy it…which means i’ll be getting PS Plus as well by the looks of it.

    From most of the games shown at E3, it seems that open world multiplayer is the big thing for next gen.

  7. After I had seen the video for this at Sony’s conference it was on my pre-order list at Shopto within minutes. Definite day one purchase.

  8. Was amazingly impressed by this. Multiplayer looks a lot more involved in some of these new games.

  9. This was by far one of the most impressive reveals and games overall at E3. Looks like a very high level of polish going on the game. The next gen consoles seem to just be giving the developers a huge amount more creative freedom.

  10. So Killzone Shadow Fall, Destiny and The Division all have a drone in their games it seems, have I missed any others guys?

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