I live just outside of New York City. I grew up here. As a kid, and still to this day, one of my all time favorite movies is Escape From New York. No one can deny the idea of a post apocalyptic city as being immensely fun in a game world. Ubisoft’s The Division brings a post pandemic New York City into your living room and puts you right in the action as part of the team sent in to liberate New York and take the city back after the deadly virus. Here is what we can tell you about The Division from this year's E3.
At its core, the game is very much an RPG. You can level up skills and systems. You can specialize in different weapon types and work together with your team to gear up for all different types of encounters. Whether you want to get better at shooting, tracking, or using different pulse bombs and grenades, the game has all the features to customize your character. Some of the gear in the game really stood out to us. The drones which follow you around can be controlled by other players using a their iPad or Android tablet. Yes, you read that correctly, you can help your team strategically by flying a drone on a tablet. Drones really had a lot of custom effects. Maybe you don't want to make a loud explosion, so instead you use a strobe drone which flashes lights to blind opponents and stun them. Drones can also mark targets from the sky to make them easier to hit when entering a firefight. It's these tweaks to the player experience that make The Division so innovative.
The map interface for the game is another area of advancement that surprised us during the preview. First of all, the map mirrored New York City extremely well. They got the street locations correct and even made the Post Office across from Madison Square Garden the base of operations. It was all very accurate on screen. The team making the game stressed how much of the environment was vertical in the game. New York not only has tall buildings, but a vast subway system of underground tunnels and areas to explore. So players have multiple levels to track down rival factions or even worse, infected residents.
The other thing the map does is allow a player to see what happened in the area they are exploring. With advanced technology and cameras everywhere, we were shown an example of what happened in one of the train stations when the virus broke out. Creepy looking computer enhanced digital ghosts of what happened in an area, populate the space as you run through looking for clues about the outbreak. This tool was called Echo in the game and heralds the 3D augmented reality we may have in our own world one day.
You may be geared up with amazing technology, but that does not stop the waring factions inside the city from going after you. The game has a Security meter built into it which you can check from time to time to see how your team is doing. The higher the number the more secure an area becomes. This tool helps you a lot when dealing with crazed gangs heralding the end of the world and also the virus infected areas. There is also a contagion meter which highlights how bad an area is for you to enter. Getting special gear to go into these area is all part of the challenge. Gas masks and sometime even more are needed.
Combat in the demo we saw had a third person over the shoulder view when attacking. It made sense to explore the city in third person as there is so much to see. Also, cover plays a major role in combat. So once you find a good spot to shoot from, the over the shoulder viewpoint takes effect and you can begin firing. There is also a stealth element to the game to eliminate foes. The overall map will give you alerts throughout the game to tell you where the troubled areas are. There is never a dull moment.
The Division won some high marks from us at E3 this year. We gave it Most Innovative after seeing the tablet interface, map system, UI and additions like Echo which help build the lore. The game at its core is a very solid online RPG shooter with a hell of a story. I just hope I can wear an eye patch on my character as I run down the city streets like Snake Pliskin.
Our past Division coverage can be found below: