Last year, the big shock was Ubisoft unveiling Watch Dogs to much fan fare and accolades. Ubisoft did it again at E3 2013, this time revealing a game that no one had any inkling about. The publisher saved the bombshell announcement of Tom Clancy’s The Division for the end of a media briefing that, unlike Microsoft and EA, was only available to watch via a livestream. The Division is an open world, online RPG with tactical combat developed by Massive Entertainment for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4.
Before Ubisoft premiered the gameplay footage of The Division, the company played a short cinematic film to set up the concept and context of the game. The video began with information about an exercise performed in 2001 to test the emergency response to a bio-terror attack in the U.S. The label for the emergency operation was DARK WINTER.
During the simulation, events spiraled into chaos predicting that such an attack would lead to a breakdown in essential institutions, civil disorder and tremendous loss of civilian life. As an operation, DARK WINTER revealed the specific vulnerabilities of the U.S. to a targeted bio-terror attack. The quality of life citizens of the United States enjoy is incredibly reliant on a delicate and unstable economy resulting in a system too complex to understand and easily thrown into anarchy. The growing complexity of the economy causes it to become more fragile and susceptible for an attack. Disrupting the intricate global supply chain that powers that system will lead to madness. The underlying element of all this complexity is currency.
Americans spend $90 billion in a single day of shopping on the day known as Black Friday. Viruses and diseases can survive on currency for 17 days. The Division focuses on a bio-terror attack that occurs on Black Friday, transmitting disease through the fast change of currency. The disease will pass from money to everything else, rapidly causing a breakdown. In a matter of five days, society will crumble and everyone will be an enemy.
In 2007, Directive 51 quietly passed into law as a means of dealing with a DARK WINTER scenario. As a member of The Division, a highly classified team of well-trained operatives, it is up to the player to bring order back to the collapsed and ruinous U.S. Not only will the squad bring back some sense of normality, but they must also stop the spread of the disease.
During E3, members of Massive Entertainment showed gamplay footage similar to the media briefing trailer with commentary revealing some additional details about gameplay behind closed doors. While the footage at the media briefing began with a cinematic opening to set up the destruction of New York, the footage at Ubisoft’s booth began with viewers watching the beanie-wearing character from the game’s third-person camera open up his map to check where his three person team needs to go. There was little time wasted getting things moving as the team knew the objective, which was to head to the police station and liberate it. While moving toward the objective, the detailed New York only recently changed by the upheaval of order is impressive. As a mid-crisis game, The Division can show off a still slightly functional United States before everything goes completely to hell.
As the players moved toward the police station, they encountered events not shown on the map. The Division features open-world emergent events that can be tackled at any time. Some of these events are only available to players who stumble across them while exploring the open-world terrain.
Gameplay featured three players and one more on a tablet teaming up to liberate the police station. Everything ran incredibly smooth. Massive Entertainment designed the game from the ground up to be played online, although it can be experienced solo. The Snowdrop engine allows the game to play with dynamic globalization. The integration between consoles and tablets in online play is promising, and Massive Entertainment has some interesting plans with the free-to-play app that will act as a companion to the game (Read more about it in our preview on the tablet app and our interview with Ryan Bernard and Fred Rundqvist).
While seeing an event that might require some investigation, the third team member meets up with the others. As they discuss the side quest, gun shots are heard from down the block and they run over to find ruined NYPD cars in front of the police station. Heading over to the police station, the future tech the main player uses identifies items of interest like a body in front of burning cop car and reveals specific information about it. Using more of this future tech, the player scans and see enemy placements. As the party scopes out the police station, they can learn what type of enemies they are dealing with.
To free the police station, one of the players lured the enemies out of the police station and gives the combat a chance to shine. The Division will utilize tactical combat as a core component and players will use cover and strategy to take out enemies. Combat seems pretty intense with enemies using flanking strategies and various weapons to keep players on their toes. Environments are destructible, so when using a car for cover, keeping away from windows is a good idea. Damage is variable, meaning that shooting the arm will not be as powerful as a headshot, making the combat similar to a mix between XCOM: Enemy Unknown and Borderlands 2. When in trouble, the companion drone comes in handy lending some extra support for a tough fight. During the game, players can trade or upgrade skills, giving the game RPG elements.
Once the enemies are taken out, the players liberate the police station. Liberating the police station allows players to access the armory. Not only are there simple loot rewards for freeing up the police station, but it will allow the police to get back to work. Part of the goal in The Division to to chain certain events that will help restore the infrastructure in the cities and bring society back little by little. This also helps when moving through the open world.
After completing an event, players can call an extraction, which alerts a helicopter to come pick them up. The extraction will alert enemies and make them vulnerable to attack, but it allows the chance to go try other events and equip new items.
There are events happening in The Division on a huge scale and that is revealed as the team attempts an extraction. Despite only a short bit of gameplay being shown, all of what Massive Entertainment revealed is extremely exciting.
The debut trailer for The Division can be viewed below.