Investigating “Tom Clancy’s: The Division”

by Brooks Weaver. 0 Comments

Comic Con 2013 is now over. With all of the new gameplay that has been featured for the titles that are coming out later this year and early next year, I still can’t get something out of my head: the announcement and gameplay demo of Ubisoftand Massive Entertainment’s new IP: Tom Clancy’s The Division - which was the “surprise” game that Yves Guillemot unveiled at the end of the Ubisoft’s E3 2013 Press Conference on June 10th.

Leading up to the Press Conference, it was recently posted on YouTube just what Massive Entertainment went through in the final days before the gameplay demo premiered for this new “ONLINE, OPEN-WORLD, RPG” game. For your viewing pleasure, here is that video:

 

Celebrating aside from what was accomplished by the highly skilled teams at Massive and Ubisoft, there is still a lot of time between now and when the game is set to come out in 2014. Between now and then (pending any new gameplay videos that come out before the game’s official launch), I know that I’m going to be watching the full gameplay demo (see below) over and over again in order to pick apart every last detail that I can so that my head will be in the right place when I fire up the game on my PlayStation 4 next year.

 

In the meantime, I’ve already started my review of the gameplay demo so that you can check out some of the features that set this game apart from a lot of other titles out there. So let’s start the investigation, shall we?

NEW GAME ENGINE

First and foremost, after seeing the Tom Clancy and Ubisoft logos appear and then quickly fade to black, I noticed one, very important feature to this game: it is powered by a new Game Engine called Snow Drop.

Unlike Assassin’s Creed 3 with the “ANVIL NEXT” game engine and WATCH_DOGS with the “Disrupt” game engine, The Division is powered by something new called the “Snow Drop” engine. Like the Disrupt engine, I can imagine that this engine has something to do with being able to process a lot of data in a short period of time (cutting down on lag / latency with gameplay), as well as, provide a seamless, mobile aspect (iOS, Android, etc.) to the game making it a next-gen title that, like WATCH_DOGS, will help to define the next generation of gaming. ONLINE, OPEN-WORLD, RPG? Yep, it starts with the Snow Drop.

 

(Snow Drop game engine logo)

HOLOGRAPHIC TECHNOLOGY

Besides knowing what new, real-world technology is driving this game, what caught my eye next, beside the incredible graphics and amount of detail that made up the devastated intersection where the gameplay begins at is the technology that is provided to the small team of Division agents that proceed from objective to objective throughout the demo.

Take a few moments to review the screenshots below to see what I mean:

 

(Holographic inventory available via wrist interface)

 

(Real-time map that literally surrounds the player with geographic, mission-based data)

 

(Automatic scanning of locations for alternate routes of travel and side-missions)

 

(Automatic scanning of people, objects (maps / supplies) and even weapons in order to provide intel on how to approach or not approach a situation)

 

I don’t know about you, but if I had this type of technology available to me (minus the military aspects of it, of course), I know that I wouldn’t have to carry around a smartphone, tablet or the like because of how well-informed I would be of my surroundings.

INTERACTIVE ENVIRONMENT

Along with the technology that we will eventually be able to utilize in our efforts to “save what remains” (as the premise for the game reads), the gameplay demo also dove into team-based combat. Shooting through glass, closing car doors to clear a path and even utilizing advanced weaponry to eliminate targets that are not in the player’s immediate line of sight all added up to an experience that was both fluid and deadly:

 

(Nick closes a door to reposition himself behind cover as bullets fly through the glass windows overhead)

 

(Nick prepares and deploys a Seeker Mine to take down his target)

On a personal note: I really enjoyed watching the Seeker Mine as it was set down on the ground and seeked out it’s target all in one motion by Nick (see above). I almost felt sorry for his target...almost.

SOCIAL TEAMWORK

Another aspect to the game that was showcased during the demo was something that was also demonstrated during the E3 2013 play through of WATCH_DOGS: the incorporation of real-time, mobile (tablet) gameplay.

As opposed to the computer “hacking” ability of the tablet user in WATCH_DOGS, The Division’s mobile component provided a much more intimate approach to mobile gameplay in that the fourth member of the team was controlling a small drone that provided (1) additional shielding (buffer) to the team and (2) a birds-eye vantage point to the battlefield that resulted in the team being able to mark and execute their target before moving on to their next objective.

 

(Megan provides a quick health restore to Nick and Branson) 

 

(Chris provides a buffer to the team via a mobile / tablet interface)

 

(Chris marks an elite target to enable the team to know it’s location)

What I enjoyed most about this part of the demo was that Chris, who was playing alongside the team via tablet, was in-and-out of the battle before anyone had time to really think about it. His actions complimented the team and then he was gone - only to get back to whatever else he was doing before he entered the battle. Seamless mobile integration. Perfect.

THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT

One, final aspect of the demo that I need to highlight here is the fact that the team behind The Division is so detail-oriented that they actually took the time to put in subtle transitions to the characters that make them and the game seem that much more real.

Two examples (see screenshots below) that I can give you are: (1) when you pick up supplies, the character that you control really does “grab” the object and (2) when you move into a building, your character actually steps on every step before proceeding inside.

 

(Nick grabs a bottle of water before adding it to his backpack)

 

(Nick carefully makes his way inside the police station by stepping on each step)

Now I know that these details may seem trivial, but with the potential that next-gen consoles have with their processing power and social, play-anywhere characteristics, making each character seem that much more real will really come into play as our expectations change with the next way of gaming consoles.

Four years in the making, Tom Clancy’s The Division is set to come out in 2014 for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Are you ready to save what remains?

Thank you for reading.

Follow Brooks on Twitter: @BPWeaver.

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