It’s been a long time coming, but Ubisoft’s tactical third-person shooter The Division is close to launching early next year. With the release not so far away, I was finally able to get my hands on the game at PAX Australia and get an idea of how it’s going to pan out.
What did I learn? Clarity will be key.
The brief demo took place in the eerily quiet, snowy city-scape featured in a lot of trailers, with myself and two other expo-goers microphoned up and gradually approaching an objective marker. Our objective, according to the Ubisoft rep, was to collect some tech in the city. What the tech was? Who knows!
Anyway, we started to get a feel for the controls and for the most part they are fluid. Standard third-person-shooter stuff: triggers to aim/shoot, joystick camera/movement and face buttons to crouch/jump/select cover.
And speaking of selecting cover, this was probably the biggest gameplay issue for me. When you’re in cover, nearby cover spots can be highlighted by looking in their direction and there’s a prompt to press A (was playing on Xbox One) above it. That implied to me that by pressing A I would automatically peel off from the cover I was currently behind and dash over to that new spot. Sounds reasonable right?
Instead, my character just stepped out of cover and stood there like a mad fool, yearned for the sweet taste of digital lead to penetrate their brain. You have no idea how many times I blew my surprise flanking this way.
The way in which our team interacted with a rival team was also unclear. We came across others from the PAX floor, and they immediately opened fire upon us, so things turned into a skirmish really quickly. However, later during the fight I saw one the opposing players, having just respawned, marked as “non-hostile”, and when I asked about this I was told that we were all labeled as such until the bullets start flying. We weren’t supposed to necessarily kill each other, just to get what we came for and extract it out.
What all this means is that competitive deathmatch isn’t the objective of the game, just completing an operation and keeping your squad alive. Once we all realised this, the game became much more fun and my squad banded together and managed to extract the package.
This also reminded me that playing with a group of friends on voice chat, like how I always do in Battlefield 4, will be key to this game’s success, as without it there is no way the tactical gameplay will work. And once we’ve had more experience with how to use the various other weapons and gear, our calculated decisions will be much more informed.
Getting the proper clarity and understanding of how a game is meant to be played in these expo environments is always hard. It’s loud, with quick turn over and we need to be thrown right into the deep end. But I took away the feeling that this will be a great “mates game”, the one you boot up on a Friday night to catch up with some friends online.
…or is that just what I do?