One of the most impressive sights at any of this year’s E3 conferences, Tom Clancy’s The Division may have sleuthed its way onto the world stage with characteristic quiet, but now gamers everywhere are on high alert. A third-person shooter strapped to an open-world MMO merged with a skill-building RPG, The Division is equal parts apocalyptic GTA multiplayer, DayZ survivalism and CoD-inspired grinding.

Developed by Massive Entertainment, veterans of the similarly anarchic World In Conflict back in 2007, The Division takes place in an American landscape ravaged by disease, conflict and lawlessness. Introduced via a paranoia-inducing trailer, the games’ super slick demo reel ran for over 7 minutes, highlighting a player-led foray into an occupied New York City police station.

Accompanied by two friendly companions, as well as a whole host of hostile factions (both CPU and otherwise), the demo player began proceedings by checking out a Goldeneye-styled watch menu. Selecting the world-map option brought up an inventive holographic overlay designed to give the player a Godzilla-eyed view of the surrounding area.

With nearby areas of interest marked and ready to investigate, the group set off in search of loot, only to come across a pox-ridden citizen listed in critical condition. With scant supplies to spare, the group chose practicality over sentiment and opted to move on. Just what kind of risk-reward is involved in aiding these victims of the plague is unknown, though the possibility of Paragon/Renegade-type incentives shouldn’t be overlooked.

Reaching a tunnel-based construction site, the group decided to return to the suspicious area later, only for a barrage of gunfire to breakout below them. Did another group of black-ops operatives already storm the base? Did the instance play out in its entirety? Creative Director Nicklas Cedarstrom confirmed that The Division does employ a “dynamic content system,” adding “when you’re running around…each playthrough is different…you see new content everytime, you never know what’s around the next corner.” Could this system prevent tricky scenarios from being replayed altogether?

In approaching the ransacked police station, now in the hands of a gang of Russian thugs, The Division’s astounding scope and detail becomes quickly apparent. Benefitting from what Cedarstrom describes as the next generation’s more cost effective approach to raw power, everything from animation to collision detection appears in simply sumptuous form.

Doing away with the specialization and skill tress found throughout the RPG genre, The Division features a deep, though by no means linear, approach to tech upgrades. Complementing your friend’s load-outs is key to offering a multi-faceted threat in combat scenarios, as an unobtrusive on-screen HUD keeps players abreast of their cohort’s tech at all times. Early examples include flying drones, unmanned turrets and rolling smart bombs, as well as an Arkham Asylum-like enemy detector.

We’ll have much more on The Division over the coming months

Tom Clancy’s The Division storms onto PS4 & Xbox One sometime in2014