So far the only gameplay footage released shows a cooperative team engaging enemy non-player characters in a heavily scripted encounter designed to show off the best that the game’s cooperative multiplayer has to offer. During the firefight an obviously scheduled drop-in from a teammate on a mobile device is even included in order to display the integration of third-party devices that Ubisoft has been pushing hard this announcement season with another of their upcoming releases, Watch Dogs.
E3 is notorious for making upcoming games look larger than life. This preview did its job adeptly making gamers everywhere lament its fourth-quarter 2014 release date. Ubisoft’s gameplay premiere of The Division was strategic in that its features were also coordinated to highlight the best features of the new consoles rolling out this fall.
Complete online integration, whether playing with friends across the globe or with a coworker standing in line for coffee, broadcasted that The Division is a title open to everyone. In addition, the inclusion of a female teammate in E3’s reveal squad, sometimes an overlooked consumer in the third-person shooter genre of which the game shares many characteristics, also said something about this title. Having a female player, not only along for the ride but in fact participating actively as they do in their living rooms every day, further bolsters The Division’s inclusive “for everyone” selling point.
In a massively multiplayer online situation like what has been advertised for this title, PC players know firsthand the importance of having teammates and working together. But before people start arguing that PC MMORPG’s and The Division are vastly different and cannot be compared, let it be said that while they are indeed dissimilar, the strategies necessary to coordinate buffs and equipment in order to form a successful squad are the same, as The Division is very much an RPG.
Consoles, contrary to PC’s, have historically catered to a “lone wolf” playing style with fewer MMO’s to foster guildies, further defining the line between the two gaming communities. Even when playing on a team with PC’s or NPC’s, the squad is most often only an in-game formality. Take FPS’s like Halo, Battlefield or Call of Duty for example: players spawn together and then, typically, everyone runs off in twenty different directions, a tactic that marginally works in these games, but would likely get someone killed in a team based RPG.
In addition to console gamers’ in-game playing style, the out of character (OOC) culture is not very conducive to cooperative play. To be clear, integrated voice chat, which is still absent from many PC titles, has been a huge perk for Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 gamers who play on a regular basis with friends or clans. When playing with a party of people you already know, cooperation utilizing voice chat can be seamless depending on who you are with, but voice chat with random people? A train wreck of music being blasted into headsets, screamed profanity and maybe, if you are really lucky, silence.
The streamlined gameplay shown at E3 is great for sales, but may not translate to the living room given the bad habits of a large percentage of console gamers. The Division is classified as an action role-playing game, but seeing the high level cooperative play typical of MMORPG’s on consoles is not common. A petition has even been started by gamers recognizing this fact to bring The Division to the PC and to players who may better utilize The Division’s in-game mechanics.
The unspoken announcement at E3 when Ubisoft showed only multiplayer gameplay in a firefight that likely would have taken down a lone gamer was that this is not an adventure to go on alone. In a game like this playing with a team is likely to not only be more fun, but be practically required.
The Division debuting on a new generation of consoles means that most gamers will have a host of friends who have yet to take the plunge, whether they are waiting for a price drop or still getting some play time out of their old systems. This title not seeing release until a full year after Xbox One and Playstation 4 ships opens the window for people to get a good squad together, but what if you cannot? Perhaps we will we get to see some sort of squad matching system or maybe will this be left to third party communities like those that have sprouted in concert with games full of n00bs and trolls.
The debut at E3 left a lot of questions unanswered, especially about PvP. We know from the gameplay demo that enemy players can be encountered randomly during play, but if the storyline locks players into being an agent of The Division then its unclear why they would engage in a firefight with other players.
With over a year until release, more information will likely be revealed about this title as time passes. Perhaps the developers have a mechanic in mind for those whose friends are still playing last generation’s offerings to find a squad who is not screaming profanity into the mic while they try to search for food and water. Time will tell.