Obviously, every time we see Ubisoft starting to roll out a new Tom Clancy game there is cause for hopeful anticipation. One of the most anticipated additions to come along from that particular crowd, The Division, has already made waves in conventions such as E3, where its demo caused quite a stir among gamers and critics alike. Essentially, it puts yet another, perhaps more realistic spin on the ever-present apocalypse-driven themes which everyone should be pretty familiar with at this point. The main opposition within the game itself is domestic in nature, sort of painting members of the “Strategic Homeland Division (SHD)” as stalwart heroes in a nation (the U.S.) that’s falling apart because of disease and economic shortfalls. Of course, that’s just the surface story, as with many other TC titles, there’s always a conspiracy lurking around in there somewhere…
But before we engage in plot speculations here, let’s examine some of the more technical, gameplay-related aspects of “The Division”. As far as visuals go, this is shaping up to be a really great-looking game, if you dig the depressive atmosphere, that is. Yes, it is most definitely a recreation of a more or less hellish police state scenario, where violence is around every corner. Of course, the way that multiplayer elements tie into the plot and A.I. driven combat is where things start to get interesting.
This could very well be one of the first games to really nail down a system for combining various elements inside of a contiguous, dynamic world. For example, Destiny has been criticized for its repetition and how this links back to the unfolding narrative. The Division on the other hand, seeks to achieve cohesion in more subtle, but altogether identifiable and realistic ways. There aren’t going to be ravenous undead zombies, for example, and combat is much more methodical and cover-based in nature as well. In fact, it is the more measured approach to gun battles and realistic damage that has always attracted people to the Clancy crew’s creations. For this game we find no less than three development crews on board too: Ubisoft Massive, Ubisoft Reflections, and Ubisoft Red Storm. In other words – this is a very personnel intensive and serious venture that oodles of resources are being poured into. Normally, that ends up translating into massive benefits in the end.
On the other hand though, one could argue that it all seems to be a bit lackluster. With many franchises we find lots of flash and bang, almost instantly envisioning the settings and characters, etc. In this sense, The Division is more like an open book without a real “title”, as it were. Basically, someone could argue that it is an open platform which acts as a backdrop for a loose, worst-case scenario apocalypse where heavily militarized crews roam around like mechanized fungi-, wreaking havoc. That’s only one way of viewing the situation, of course, and again, the true measure of the game will be in the way its story actually unfolds.
Speaking of the plot… There seems to be a slightly hidden yet obvious indication that the mysterious outbreak featured in the title itself (which is unleashed on Black Friday), might be linked to internal government agencies, and perhaps even those operating in the shadows, unbeknownst to normal folks. Clearly the words “worldwide conspiracy” clearly indicates some type of larger stratagem at work, which is a captivating proposition to say the least. Likewise, various political and social themes will no doubt be explored, either directly or in an abstract manner. The fact that the virus itself is released on one of the busiest shopping holidays is a pretty obvious and bold indication of the developers’ and writers’ intentions and implications.
None of this really helps to answer the question of whether or not The Division will actually be “good” though. Ultimately, it all depends on whether or not Ubisoft and crew find ways to solve various common gameplay challenges whilst also expanding outward to incorporate new ideas. Given their reputation within the industry, it is likely that they’ll deliver great gaming in spades. By and large, The Division seems to be in top form in the two most important categories: graphics and gameplay, and that definitely goes far toward painting things in a more positive light. Again, it all boils down to how well the environment allows for dynamic action, whether against other people or the A.I. In other words, if the maps / levels / areas are up to par, it will likely be a huge hit. Lots of gamers who love more strategic-based combat have been dying for a title like this; its success depends entirely on how well it caters to the interests of that particular gaming crowd.