02/02/2016

Dividing the Division



So I had the opportunity to take a look at Ubisofts now shooter franchise called the Division as they did a stress test this weekend. The game is a third person shooter, which is to say that the camera in the game is placed slightly above and behind the player character. So you will always see the world as a little drone flying behind your in-game avatar. Beyond that you pretty much just use a variety of guns and shoot at a variety of humans that for some reason seem to have a disagreement with you. You find new stuff and level up in classic role-playing fashion as you follow a set story. That is the short of it.

Now if one where to flesh things out a bit more one would start with talking about the story, what little we know about it. Basically some form of bio weapon goes off in New York on black Friday in a not too far future. As panic and pandemonium rise “the Division” springs in to action. A covert agency with sleeper agents formed in to small cells their mission is to secure the city and restore order by any means possible. You are one such agent. This is about all we know right now but as we get closer to the release I guess more info will be made available.

So you start out as a newly activated agent, given some basic equipment and told to secure a foothold on Manhattan. The stress test was limited to a small section around Chelsea Pier and up to Madison Square Garden. But the full game will include a slightly scaled down version of the island of Manhattan. Once you get the HQ up and running it will be your hub for missions, upgrades and all the cozy home improvement an agent could need. The game more or less have two modes. The first you encounter is a single player instance that let you and some of your friends work through the story. This thing is instanced and no random players will show up. The other part are what is called the Dark Zones. These areas have much higher levels of contamination and act as player against player areas as well as regular computer controlled opposition. Going in here ill-prepared will lead to a quick and merciless death. But this is also the place to get the best gear and other rewards.

Now as I mentioned the game takes place in Manhattan for now (no word on when or if other parts of New York will be added.) and this is not some random jumble of buildings with a few landmarks thrown in to sell the illusion. No this is sometimes an eerily close recreation of the areas in the beta. Sure we still see most work go I to the landmark areas and they are a picture perfect recreation. But the rest of the map seem to be close enough that you could use visual confirmation and google street view to navigate. The rest of the visuals are as impressive. The weather look good from the sunny days to the full on snowstorms that set your vision to about a few meters. Now my computer does not have the power needed to render this in it´s full glory but i´l provide a small clip here to show you what it might look like.


The game also has some really impressive AI that act much like a player would, trying to avoid your attacks and flank you. They also tend to look for better cover when you move on them and should you overpower them sometimes they turn tail and run. Another really impressive thing I how your bullet interacts with the many cars that are spread over the maps. I did at one point manage ti line up a shot through three cars and in to the tire of a truck, not only did the tire pop but I could trace the patch of the bullet through the windows of the cars. These small details does a lot to immerse you in the environment


Now it is hard to tell if the game will become repetitive and how well the story pans out but so far I have seen a good variety of side missions ranging from repairing antennas to tracking down a missing person. As far as gar goes the game so far have done a good job at making the guns and equipment not only feel useful hut also unique. There is a distinct difference between the m-4 and the ak-47 beyond the visuals. Same goes for the skills and gadgets you pick up along the way, they all have their use and promote one type of gameplay or another. This way your character plays different and customization goes more than skin deep.
Now that bring me to the skin you inhabit in the game. I did not play around very much with the physical editor to much as I was short on time but once in-game there is a slew of modern clothing to make your avatar stand out from all the other backpack tooting gun nuts trying to retake the city. These are cosmetic and have no impact on your stats so you never have to give up that awesome beanie you just found because that headband had +2 killing on it.


So to sum it up, the Division seems to be a solid game and while some cuts had to be done since the first reveal such as tablet controlled drone strikes and the slight downscaling of Manhattan it is massive step forward for games published by Ubisoft. So I simply tip my hat to Ubisoft Massive and wish them the best.