The Division imagines a future where the human population has been depleted by a rapidly spreading virus. Some unknown entity releases the virus onto the population by contaminating a small amount of currency and distributing it during Black Friday – mankind’s reliance on money does the rest.

The eponymous Division is a classified group brought in under Directive 51 to keep the US population safe while it struggles to recover from this massive pandemic. The player, along with thousands of other players online, will work to achieve specific objectives in rundown, almost post-apocalyptic New York.

The most striking thing about The Division, aside from its unique story conceit, is its visuals. It should go without saying that The Division is a next-gen game – most likely on Xbox One, PS4, and PC – and it certainly looks the part. Dynamic lighting and procedural destruction were among the game’s chief highlights. For example, bullets were ripping through car windshields in a very realistic fashion, leaving familiar-looking bullet holes behind.

At its core, however, The Division is still a third person, cover-based shooter. It may sport the visuals and destruction of a next-gen game, but players will still be popping up from behind cover and shooting at enemies. The game does structure missions into an open-world context, though, with players acquiring new points of interest by scanning maps tacked to walls.

The Division PreviewAside from very familiar gunplay, there was a brief moment where the player character emitted a large sonic blast, knocking an enemy backwards, but the action came and went without any explanation. There’s also a distinctly high-tech design to the HUD and various visual elements (waypoint indicators, street overlays, etc.) that looks cool, but needs further clarification. With this being a classified government outfit, it seems likely that the tech comes from sophisticated government programs, but we’ll wait to deliver full details when Ubisoft provides them.

When playing with friends the game will become more tactical, allowing one person to draw aggro or flank enemies. The developers wouldn’t say how exactly playing online changes the gameplay, but it sounds and looks intriguing nonetheless. And The Division’s gameplay only starts with the console.

What makes The Division’s experience unique is its companion app, which lets players interact with each other while offline. With the app, players can take control of a drone hovering above a team of players, providing assistance whenever needed. The drone can buff friendly players – healing them or increasing their bullet resistance – or debuff enemy players by weakening their armor or sending missiles their way.
The Division CompanionIt’s evident from games like Watch_Dogs, The Crew, and now The Division that Ubisoft is pushing forward an initiative that puts companion apps as a main pillar of the experience. Obviously, the drone gameplay experience is something players can ignore altogether if they wanted to, but it seemed like a fun time-killer with some important in-game impacts.

Much like with our limited preview of Watch_Dogs last year, there isn’t much we can say about The Division, and even less we can say with certainty. Ubisoft Massive evidently wants to create a specific world state, generate interactive experiences for the player, and see what happens, but how that will inevitably work and in what context is still a mystery.

But from a visual standpoint the game looks phenomenal and has some unique multiplayer trappings. For a brief teaser as to what The Division is all about, make sure to check out the game’s first trailer below:

What do you think of The Division? Does it sound like a new IP you would be interested in seeing become a franchise?

Tom Clancy’s The Division is targeting a 2014 release date on the Xbox One and PS4. No confirmations regarding the PC.

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