Initially announced two years ago, The Division introduced us to a United States gripped with fear and despair as a pandemic swept through the country, leaving places like New York City desolate and crawling with various factions, all trying to survive.
At Ubisoft's press event this year, we saw yet another trailer from the game, this time detailing a new area in the concrete jungle called the Dark Zone. At the height of the chaos surrounding the pandemic, the Dark Zone was a large quarantine area set up by the military. However, a blackout made it a living nightmare, and the place went out of control, with military forces abandoning their posts in the area, leaving its most powerful weapons and gear inside the dangerous zone.
We've all seen trailers of the game from time to time, but it's not enough. We needed a little more time with the game by way of a gameplay demo. Fortunately, Ubisoft had a few stations ready at its booth at E3 for us to experience the Dark Zone firsthand.
The demo area had nine games set up so that three teams of three can take on the Dark Zone from multiple angles simultaneously. Each team also consisted of a developer, participating as one of the three players to walk us through the demo. My character was Megan from earlier gameplay trailers. Aside from a sniper rifle and a submachine gun, she also has two unique weapons at her disposal: a seeker mine, which looks like a small orb that detonates near enemies, and a sticky bomb that she can throw a certain distance and detonate at will.
This was also a good time for players to get acquainted with the controls and the environment. Movement is what you would expect from a third-person shooter. You can climb obstacles and hide behind cover. You can also easily move forward from cover to cover by simply targeting a certain area in the distance and then pressing a button to automatically move towards it.
Some parts of the world are destructible. Windows can be shattered; tires can be easily deflated with bullets; and cars, which litter the streets, can be destroyed after a certain amount of damage is inflicted. You can't exactly take down a whole building, but at least it's good to know that you can interact with some elements of the world around you.
Searching For Something
When the demo began, we weren't in the Dark Zone yet. A quick stroll through a few city blocks allowed us to get the bearings on our location. We even glimpsed a deserted Times Square from a distance.
The entrance to the Dark Zone is always the same, no matter which street or avenue is used to approach it. It's a tall, black wall with biohazard warnings erected a few feet before the entrance. You actually have to scale the wall and climb over it to finally enter the notorious area.
Within a few seconds, we encountered our first piece of enemy AI, the Rikers, a group of prisoners who escaped from Rikers Island and are looking for ways to take out the competition. After a quick discussion with my teammates about how to take out the small group, we set up the plan. I threw a sticky bomb where two enemies were huddled together and set it off. My teammates quickly took care of the remaining men from different vantage points.
It's at this point when we also saw our objective: a cache containing some of the best weapons and gear that the game had to offer. The downside was that it was all contaminated, so we had to go to a nearby park, launch a flare to call a helicopter, and have it extract our loot so it could be cleaned and decontaminated for us to use.
Jockeying For Position
On the way to the park we encountered another group of enemy AI, the Cleaners. Former city sanitation workers, this group believes in rooting out the plague and everything it touches by setting everything on fire.
Fortunately, another team of three players were already engaging the Cleaners, so we initially tried to sneak around the conflict and get a head start on calling in the extraction. However, one of the Cleaners saw my teammate and started to attack him with a flamethrower, forcing us to work with the other team to eliminate the threat.
But once that was over, the two remaining teams quickly turned on each other. Cooperation can only go so far, especially in the Dark Zone where there's a lot of valuable resources up for grabs. For the next few minutes, we struggled to gain an advantage over the other team. I died a few times and then respawned outside the park, so I had to run in and use my abilities to get the drop on the opposing team.
Eventually, we got our flare up, and with our helicopter on the way, we had to hold our ground for 90 seconds. This is when the third team showed up. At this point, each team fought for control against the other two teams. Through sheer luck (and some perfectly timed abilities), my team eventually saw our helicopter arrive on the scene. We loaded our bounty on the rope dropped by the helicopter, and then it took off with our package safe and sound inside.
Fun, But All Too Familiar
Two years after the game was announced at E3, I finally had to chance to play The Division first hand. In the past, I was really excited about the game, and the demo I played was thrilling at times. I'm not one for competitive multiplayer, instead preferring the safe confines of single-player gameplay or even cooperative multiplayer (which is essential in this game). However, I've seen this kind of game before, with titles such as Destiny and Ghost Recon: Future Soldier.
I thoroughly enjoyed Destiny, especially after I played the beta last summer, and I later played the game extensively when it came out. To me, The Division seemed to have similar traits of cooperative gameplay to complete an objective as well as combining elements of Player versus Player and Player versus Environment, etc. Additionally, the visual style and somewhat-futuristic combat was reminiscent of Ghost Recon: Future Soldier, which I didn't enjoy all that much.
I'm a little burnt out with the formula, and the entire experience seemed all too generic for me. Maybe it's because I haven't seen the big picture of the game yet, or more features have yet to be announced that might pull me in. But as of this moment, my excitement for The Division has waned because I don't see exactly how it stands out from other games.