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The Division Preview – Ain’t no Love in the Heart of the City

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The Division is one of those games that didn’t exactly impress me when I first saw the initial trailer back during E3 2013. Another third person, post-apocalyptic shooter? I’d had my fill. By the following E3 however, I was a bit more receptive to the game after seeing various videos which demonstrated the impressive looking Snowdrop Engine.

After last year’s showing, I was very much looking forward to actually playing this baby and finally got my chance to do so during my time at Ubisoft’s booth this year. While the game is still somewhat intruiging, I have to admit that after having actually played it, I’m starting to feel the same way I did back in ’13.

I was paired up with two other team members (who I believe were from the same site) and given a brief tutorial on how the game’s mechanics work. Running, taking cover, shooting, vaulting, reloading… all of this was familiar ground as far as third person shooters go. Not much to really wrap your head around if you’ve played these type of games.


What made things it a bit different is that everyone had designated roles. There was a medic who used technology to heal others, and another player had the ability to send out a pulse that identified enemies and items of interest. Then there was myself who had the ability to lay down auto turrets. After the tutorial, we were sent in to play.

The objective of the match was to make it to an extraction point on the far side of the map. Along the way, we encountered some resistance from NPC enemies. These guys were fairly simple to dispatch via some well aimed headshots. Nothing challenging, but it was a good way to acclimate ourselves to the controls. While the controls and feel of the game were solid, this is when I noticed how sort of mundane the game was. However, I held out hope that it would get better when we eventually had to face off against actual people.

Things definitely got more interesting when other players got mixed into the fray. For one, they do not show up as enemies until you shoot them. Being that I shot anything that moved, I inadvertently created foes out of one team while one of my mates did the same with another. It then boiled down to three teams trying to secure the extraction point… and things got insane, with bullets flying everywhere and wounded players crawling towards team mates to revive them.

The Division streets

This is also when things fell apart. Both teams had a lot of cool gadgets to use but with the exception of one dude who laid down turrets (it wasn’t me), everyone just ran and shot at each other like in any other shooter. All of the wonderful strategy that this title potentially has was barely able to shine. I didn’t bother using my gadgets either since it seemed pointless. Even the prospect of looting fallen players for goodies didn’t seem worthwhile during the chaos. One team did have their shit together better than the others and they managed to eventually extract themselves.

I’m not usually one of those “downgraded graphics” dudes… but this game seriously looks like it’s been downgraded. This very much felt like a Watch Dogs situation where the initial trailer looked leagues better than the finished product. Don’t get me wrong, The Division still looked good and the snow covered ruined streets of New York City were rendered well, but I’d be lying to myself and you if I said it looked as amazing as it did in year’s past. I realize the game is still many months away from completion, but for it to look less impressive closer to launch than it did years before is troubling.

It’s hard to fully judge The Division based on the demo, but I have to say that I’m not nearly as impressed with it as I was before. To be fair, it is hard to properly show how customizing your characters and having them spec’ed up to your liking pans out in a short demo. Right now, I’m taking this game off the center of my game-radar and placing it somewhere on the outer rim. But, I am holding out hope that this game has more underneath the surface and that what I saw and experienced isn’t wholly indicative of the final product.

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