The next installment in the Tom Clancy franchise is The Division. It’s being described as an ‘online multiplayer third-person tactical shooter action role-playing game’ (Try saying that twice as fast after five hours of gaming. Or try saying it at all, it’s really difficult.) Powered by the Snowdrop Next-Gen Engine, it promises an immersive, beautiful environment fraught with armed civilians, attack dogs, cinematic’s the likes of which you’ve never seen and a mountain of garbage. Seriously, there is trash everywhere.
The game is set in New York and is inspired by Operation Dark Winter and Directive 51, real-world scenarios that have been planned for in which a deadly virus or disease is spread through an urban population and devastates life. In-game, it’s a strain of smallpox that spreads on Black Friday and causes the collapse of the United States in just five days. You play a member of the group called the Strategic Homeland Division (SHD for short) which was put together to combat any threat and save what is left of humanity. Pretty scary stuff right?
I first heard about this game through a friend about two months ago and somehow, it slipped under my radar. The Tom Clancy franchise has always delivered fantastic games and innovative ideas but with this, they take a step in another direction and provide us with something truly unique. The hilariously long game description is very telling of the game itself. It is a combination of so many features in such an interesting way that I genuinely feel it could open a new way of gaming. They’re interactive, social, impossibly large and they draw you in. Imagine Fallout 3 with an MMO element and more interactive features. So far this MMO style of play has been talked about a lot for the Next-Gen consoles in terms of bridging the gap between multiplayer and single player games with the likes of Destiny and Titanfall all trying to combine elements of both into , previously, single player games which might signal a movement away from the traditional separate campaigns for single and multiplayer.
The Division, however, offers us something of a marvel. The Snowdrop engine has allowed for the creation of one of the most interactive and astonishingly beautiful environments I have ever seen. If you haven’t seen the trailer for it already, I highly suggest you do.
I know it’s nothing important in the grand scheme of things but, you can shoot actual holes in things. Blow up tires, precisely and shoot out chunks of glass. That level of detail is astounding and so awesome! The dynamic lighting is beautiful as well. True shading and shadow movement creates such a tense atmosphere that I didn’t even know I was missing out on. Snowdrop is a true Next-Gen engine and I can’t wait to see what comes next from it.
The level of detail they’ve put into the multiplayer aspects is really something else. It allows a seamless transition from PvP battles to large skirmishes and even allows trading between players. Unlike many other games where the multiplayer elements are triggered by ‘events’ the scenes in The Division seem to unfold around you. That, in a way, feels more like an addition from single player games, where it flows more freely. Your team could be wistfully strolling down a street, talking about your real-world girlfriends or how that guy you hate is doing something else you don’t like and suddenly, there’s a firefight two blocks away. It’s as close to real life action as most of us will get.
Another fantastic feature is the customizable load-out. You have infinite possibilities with this, and for once that’s not an exaggeration. You can choose from thousands of weapons, skill combinations and gear. There isn’t too much information floating around right now but with the level of technology available so far, including the auto-turret and tracking mines, I imagine there will be some seriously hi-tech gear to come. You are given a Smart Watch which is your means of communication and GPS. It projects a huge 3D map of the city with highlighted areas of conflict, nearby friends and other locations available to you. This also allows for route plotting and better scouting of areas.
The sheer level of detail that has been put into this game is truly astounding. The unique combination of game types, massive multiplayer elements and level of immersion created with the use of micro features makes an inspiring game. Even without much in the way of information on the actual gameplay itself, there is already a large gathering, eagerly waiting for the game. Eyes fixed to screens, sifting through pages and pages of screenshots, just waiting for the release date to finally arrive. I think this might be the first true test for Next-Gen consoles and games with little being released so far in the way of boundary pushing games, Tom Clancy’s: The Division may just be the first game to step up and take the helm in the race for Next-Gen gaming.
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