E3 2015 - It Looks Damned Good & Highly Addictive
The Division has been one of my most anticipated games for quite some time. It feels like years really. That's why I I started foaming at the mouth when Ubisoft asked if I wanted to get some hands-on time with the game. I'm pretty sure I had to be resuscitated.
But there was really no time to waste. My session was a scenario involving three teams of three (for those of you bad at math, that's 9 players) duking it out for control over precious resources. Each team had one set of resources, yet there was only one extraction point. The goal: Extract your resources and stop the enemy teams from extracting theirs. You could also KILL the enemy teams, steal their resources, and extract even more! I did not get a chance to talk to the devs to find out how this type of scenario would play out in the actual game, perhaps this occurs in the open world perhaps this was simply a "PvP arena" that would be available in some kind of multiplayer only mode. I have no idea and any guess would be pure speculation, so I just won't guess at all.
As we were introduced to the game, the devs stressed that team cooperation was extremely important. Each member of the team had different weapons and skills. While these were set for us in our demo, in the live game, you can choose whichever ones you would like to help define your playstyle. I was playing a female Ass-Kicker (that's what I decided to call my "class") with an SMG for close range combat, a rifle for long ranged encounters, some grenades, and a few self healing medpacks. This of course was just my core equipment. The skills are what really set you apart. My first skill was a few sticky grenades. These could be either placed like a mine, thrown like a grenade, or shot out my rifle like a grenade launcher. I then was able to detonate the grenade at will. My second was the smart grenade. This could be set down next my character where it would then follow me like an extremely combustible puppy, or it could be thrown like a grenade, but would not detonate immediately. Instead, it would simply wait for an enemy to be close enough, would roll to the enemy, and THEN explode. Smart grenade indeed.
My teammates skills differed, and of course I didn't get direct hands-on with those skills, but I know generally how they worked. Both of them had the ability to scan the area, allowing them to see outlines of enemies through any object. One teammate had the ever popular walking turret, which is simply an assault rifle with spider legs. Terrifyingly effective. And the other teammate had a healing skill, allowing him to instantly heal us of our wounds.
The combat played a lot like most other cover based shooters. I played on the XBOX One, so the controls were a lot like this: Left Trigger would aim down the sight, Right Trigger would fire your weapon, Y would switch between weapons, X to reload and interact with objects, B to climb over walls or obsticles, and A to take cover. So what made this truly stand out from other games that play almost exactly the same? Well, all of this is personal opinion, so your mileage may vary, but here is what I noticed. Firstly, moving in and out of cover was extremely simple. It's hard to qualify or properly explain, but I've always felt that getting OUT of cover is hit or miss for most cover based shooters. The Division pulls it off nicely, allowing you most seamlessly between cover and easily pull away from it as well. Second was the atmosphere. I think the graphics of The Division are simply gorgeous. The broken down city provides for some creative uses for cover, such as broken down cars, slabs of concrete, and empty boxes that once held supplies. And lastly, the coordination between players. I don't know whether it was because this was a demo, but my teammates and I were truly using our skills to help one another defeat our opponents. Scanning, setting stick grenade traps, healing, creepy spider guns. All of it came together in a lovely symphony of death.
As you may have guessed from the mention of a healing skill and medpacks, health does not automatically regenerate, so you will have to pay attention. Should you happen to lose all of your health, you will be incapacitated, leaving you crawling along waiting for a teammate to resurrect you. However, should the enemy decide they don't want you crwaling along, they can put you out of your misery and outright kill you. However, this will cause you to respawn after a short respawn timer.
Sadly, this was all I got to experience from The Division. But after what has been an extremely long development cycle, this demo gave me hope. I am still not quite sure what The Division will end up being in terms of a genre, but what I saw was damned good and highly addictive. It may have also helped that my team won the battle, rewarding me with some stylish gloves and a snowglobe!
...Who the hell still has snowglobes anymore?!