It’s been a little while since we last saw The Division in action – the amazing looking E3 2013 trailer is the one that sticks in mind most – and now that the beta is nearly here and people are getting hands on with new code, we’re starting to get a picture of what we could be in for from the much talked about, much delayed Tom Clancy title from Ubisoft. It’s a shame that the hype train might be about to derail itself then.
Set in a virus stricken New York that’s been built 1:1 scale, your objective is to team up with other survivors in this open-world RPG to investigate and combat the threats from the virus and whoever set it loose on the US. What caused the game to pique most people’s interest was how good the game environments looked, the integral co-op play, and the level of environmental destruction on offer. Who wouldn’t be interested in a photo quality co-op focussed survival adventure game where realistic damage can be inflicted on everything you can see? We are for sure!
However, Ubisoft has form for not releasing what it shows at press events… think back to Watch_Dogs and the original footage of Rainbow Six: Patriots (which became Siege). Both underwent severe downgrades to visuals, which we can live with in favour of smooth gameplay, but both also lost features that would have made the games stand out from the crowd. The Division has had both these impacts, losing the tablet/phone remote controlled UAV player as well as some of the areas of New York we were expecting to see (namely The Bronx which was in the E3 2013 trailer and no longer in the launch game). Sure, a reduction in play area might not turn out to be a bad thing because we’re being promised large recreations of mid-town Manhattan complete with interiors. The game itself is still looking very pretty even if the sheen has been scrubbed off, but taking features away might well be the thing that niggles even if it doesn’t affect the gameplay.
Over the last few months we’ve been worried that The Division might turn out to be the biggest disappointment in recent times because it looked so promising two years ago. Dropping content, downgrading the looks and delaying the game aren’t good indicators that all is sweet. What might redeem this though is the beta that’s coming up soon on all platforms. Without a beta, I’d never have picked up Rainbow Six Siege and be enjoying the blend of tactical plans and improvised action that you get with that game, so maybe this will work to sell the game not only to me, but to the wider audience too. That starts up on 28th January for Xbox One pre-orders, then over the following two days for PS4 and PC (you can register interest if you’ve not pre-ordered too).
Is it going to be any good? That’s the real question here and one I can’t answer yet. I hope it is because it ticks all the boxes for an intriguing and immersive experience. Plus, we’ve had one excellent Tom Clancy game recently, even if this one is set in his universe rather than based on an actual novel.
The Division will be released on 8th March 2016 on PC, Xbox One and PS4 by Ubisoft, and the inevitable season pass will probably come at the same time.