Tom Clancy’s The Division preview

Everything we know so far about Ubisoft’s mega-ambitious open-world take on surviving a post-apocalyptic New York

Tom Clancy may be gone, but his legacy lives on and the latest game bearing his name is shaping up to be the most exciting yet. 

Most Clancy offerings draw on the real world and this PS4, Xbox One and PC title is no exception. The inspiration for The Division is Dark Winter, a real-life US government simulation that tested the impact a smallpox outbreak in Atlanta would have. Its terrifying conclusion was that the entire country would be in meltdown within five days as food, water and electricity ran out and everyone started shooting each other for tins of beans. Given how quickly things break down in the UK every time there's a light dusting of snow, that sounds pretty accurate.

The Division puts players into the shoes of a sleeper agent trying to deal with the chaos caused by a pandemic in a gritty recreation of New York. But it’s no solo adventure - instead The Division promises massively multiplayer action in an open-world that's more Skyrim-with-friends than World Of Warcraft-wannabe. It won't be out until the tail end of 2014, so many of the details are still to emerge, but here’s what we know so far about what should be a must-play game.

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GRAPHICS

One thing we do know already is that The Division is one hell of a good-looking game. Work on it might have started in 2008 but thanks to Snowdrop, Ubisoft’s whizzy new game engine, the crumbling New York streets shown so far are a great showcase for new generation console visuals.

The grubby streets are impressively detailed and are set to be complemented by state-of-the-art weather effects that will include snow that later melts into slush. The Hollywood-inspired lighting system promises to take the visuals even further, with some uncannily realistic sunlight and indoor lighting effects.

On top of this, reports The Examiner, developers Ubisoft Massive are adding in plenty of in-game destruction, with bullets that smash, puncture, shatter and splinter materials such as wood, glass, brick and concrete just as they would in the real world.

“Never before has a video game reached this level of detail,” reckons Ubisoft in its press release and while that’s a bold claim, based on what we’ve seen to date it’s hard to disagree.

More after the break...

SETTING

Most of us have probably spent more time roaming virtual post-apocalyptic New York than we have the real place, but The Division offers more than a chance to visit run-down recreations of the Big Apple’s tourist hotspots. The map is set to be huge, taking in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Newark and Staten Island. But it doesn’t stop there.

Play Magazine reports that the action will also take place in the forests and beaches on the edge of the city. Although full details of the map and how fully it will recreate the five boroughs haven’t been revealed, the chance to battle on Rockaway Beach, the Brooklyn Bridge and beyond is an exciting prospect.

As well as being able to explore the streets and rooftops, The Division will also let players skulk about in the tunnels beneath the city, although we’ll have to wait to see if societal breakdown makes any noticeable difference to New York’s grubby subway system. We suspect not. The icing on the cake is that the in-game map is a super-cool holo-map that you access using your agent’s smartwatch. 

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GAMEPLAY

The Division is an everything-and-the-kitchen-sink game that weaves together MMO, RPG, cover-hugging third-person shooter and survival horror. Skyrim, reports OXM, is the big influence with plenty of missions, crafting and item scavenging to get on with. What’s more, the developers have promised that it'll be a grinding-free zone. Phew. 

But while Skyrim is a solo experience, The Division is very much a multiplayer game. The emphasis is on working with others in teams to either fix or worsen the problems of New York. There will also be plenty of player-versus-player action, but these encounters will be about things that matter in the game world, like controlling territory, rather than simply chasing glory on a leaderboard. That said, it will still be possible to play solo - but you’ll have to play in a shared online world and there won’t be any AI companions covering your back.

On top of this is a strong survival element. At the start, players get a few days’ worth of supplies and after that making sure you have enough food, water and ammo will be vital to staying alive. To help you get by there will also be a black market where players can buy and sell items. Ubisoft Massive are also promising an emergent narrative that responds to the actions of players within the world. It’s not confirmed what the story entails, but the implication is that the fate of the entire city may depend on the actions of competing players.

As if all that wasn’t enough, Ubisoft Massive’s Ryan Bernard told OXM that the end of the story is not the end of the game and there will be “potentially limitless, unlimited gameplay”.

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COMPANION APP AND DLC

While most smartphone and tablet apps that act as companions to console games are gimmicks, The Division’s promises to raise the bar for second-screen gaming, and not just because of the promise of HD tablet eye candy. The app will let players take control of a drone that can help spot hidden enemies, provide health boosts and send in missile strikes, so even when you’re not at your console you can help your friends save the day.

Tom Clancy's The Division review

As well as the companion app, there will be extra downloadable content for the game too. Ubisoft’s remaining tight-lipped on what that content will be, but it has confirmed that Xbox One owners will get some exclusive content that will be available before as well as after the game comes out.

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RELEASE DATE

Tom Clancy's The Division is expected to launch in the third quarter of the year - that's autumn, in normal-person-speak - but as is always the way with these things, that release date could be pushed back. We'll update this page whenever there's new information on the game, so keep checking back here for the latest.

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Tom Clancy’s The Division

Tom Clancy's The Division review
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