Tom Clancy's The Division Preview
“Freedom” may be the central theme of the new generation. As developers create bigger and more elaborate worlds, the very definition of interactive freedom will be redefined. Ubisoft Massive is cranking away on an extremely ambitious project that may break boundaries in the world of online entertainment, and its engaging, post-apocalyptic atmosphere will impart a sense of urgency. Although the developer is hesitant to label this game an “MMO” (they’d prefer to call it a role-playing game), we’re going to compromise and call it both.
The government has dissipated and anarchy reigns. All around you are the remains of what was once a prosperous New York City. These remains should appear extraordinarily detailed and authentic thanks to the powerful new Snowdrop engine, and don’t forget that we’ll get the enhanced power of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. This third-person multiplayer-oriented shooter combines the concepts of raw survival and tactical combat into a really diverse package. Your task isn’t an easy one: You must attempt to locate as many survivors as possible, and see if you can restore some semblance of order amid the chaos. Uncertainty lies around every corner.
You can search for new objectives at any time by using a map on your nifty VR wristwatch. This will give you some direction in the sprawling, crumbling city, and you’re allowed to tackle anything you wish, any time you wish. The designers aren’t big on restrictions, because even though your character will progress through skill trees, you’re never locked into one particular avenue. You can reassign abilities at any time or even on the fly, and you can even custom-build classes if you so desire. In short, you needn’t sit in front of the screen for eons, attempting to make a difficult decision that will forever alter your character’s path. Remember— freedom.
It’s the combination of role-playing and survival elements that makes this particular title so enticing. For instance, when you begin, you’ll only have three days of food, water and general supplies. You’ll need to forage for more supplies, as well as weapons, ammunition and other necessary equipment. This requires a tactical and logical approach: If you require food, check an old grocery store. If you need ammunition, see if you can find an abandoned police station or barracks of some kind. The only problem is that you’re hardly the only person looking for the same necessities. This means that encounters with gangs and other unsavory types is inevitable.
The situation is even more desperate because there’s some sort of man-made pandemic that’s sweeping the already-ravaged landscape. We don’t have exact details but it’s supposed to have a “very, very sinister” impact on the story. Based on all this information, it becomes clear that fear is going to be a primary hurdle; innocent civilians just trying to survive come into the picture, but so do civilians-turned-animals. It reminds me a little of I Am Alive coupled with DayZ or The Last Of Us, with an additional infusion of depth and customization. Running around shooting anything that moves probably won’t work out too well.
Ubisoft is preparing a companion app for the game, too. From their mobile devices, players can control drones that spot enemies from afar. Even the drone has its own upgrade system, so you’ll have dive into the nuts and bolts of everything. The idea is to explore and survive; maybe we’ll experience moral dilemmas, maybe we’ll be more interested in food than bullets, maybe we’ll be forced to adapt to a chaotic, undisciplined combat situation. The Division is slated to arrive later this year but recently, we’ve heard that in fact, the game is farther off. We can be patient, though.
1/21/2014 Ben Dutka