The Division Preview
We are looking at yet another Ubisoft release and for anyone in doubt how much they publish or how full the winter release schedule is just the amount of games I played at EGX from the huge French company is a very telling indeed. With it not releasing until early 2016 players will have a chance to sample this from a Beta on XboxOne in December that I will cover in detail.
But here I managed to play the XboxOne version first hand and enjoy its apocalyptic gameplay.First thing is the demo was almost certainly running a sub native resolution and as such did suffer from some heavy aliasing and IQ issues, some of this was due to it not seemingly running a Temporal AA pass at present that both Ubisoft’s other games have, with Rainbow Six and Syndicate having a cleaner display on the XboxOne and PS4 even when running at the same 900p. Without the ability to take direct capture I cannot confirm what the resolution is, but judging it from its display and IQ issues which included much Alpha test textures highlighting this further I would not be shocked to learn it may have been even lower than that. But this was a public show and much more important was performance within an online based tactical cover shooter and I can report this was far more impressive and solid. With the game having a very dense urban environment and AI controlled enemies that battle against your Human team, the game I played in had 4 players in the Dark Zone as we battled through the same snow covered city streets you see here. When struck with flame grenades, flamethrowers it held its 30 tick rate well and with some very minor top 3rd tearing happening on occasion as per my E3 look this is pretty much impossible to spot and most would never notice in play. To learn more about the game and its story theme please check out my preview from last year as the entire premise has not changed from then till now.
We do know more about the game now with its squad based action laying wake to tight buddie co-op or just plain old selfish greed double cross. Going rogue puts a bounty on your head which other players can claim but taking you down. Luckily I was saved from this betrayal for ill gotten gains but it stands as a possible issue to handle and a choice you can take. The demo consisted of working through the streets with my fellow group of 3 and taking down the AI combatants within the streets and grabbing...well killing and stealing really any fallen loot and equipment, as this is a quarantined zone it all needs to be extracted via a flare call and chopper collection before it can be used in the game. This went well and playing with the group and headsets we all played very close and tactical with covering fire, flanking and team action not only working very well with decent AI bots that reacted well falling back and moving to flank themselves. Lone wolfs need not apply here as you can very quickly be caught in fire and get taken down, allowing you to resurrect a fallen comrade or them to repay the favour does force you to play tight and cover each other and it works great, controls felt good with some adjustments to the speed and hopefully the choice to turn auto-aim off really helps. You can use the D-pad to heal yourself when needed and also pulse the area to show up nearby enemies for yourself and crew, it all feels solid and cover is plentiful so you can work your way through the zones and as call in the helicopter. This obviously sends an alarm to all others including other teams as you dig in and wait for your collection which requires you to attach to the helicopter for save retrieval. This can then create even more firefights and gives the game a flow between attack and defence within the one game style as you work in and then take down teams including the much tougher burners and when secured your gear have to hold station and run the risk of the same thing happening to you including from your own teammates.
But some of this good team play and solid action was lowered by the relevant bullet sponge enemies in the game, even none juggernaut foes can take a full clip to down, headshots help but many are needed and this does make some of the battles grindy as you have to cover, run and reload more than feels necessary to take them down. The burners are even tougher and take far more damage but this is mitigated and well with the ability to turn them and shoot and rupture the fuel tank on their backs for a much faster and more dramatic takedown, just make sure you are not in the blast radius.
Sound is great with enemies yells and banter along with bullet ricochet’s and impact all sounding good and impactful. Visually it now comes across as a mixed bag partially due to its long development cycle in the public eye which will be near 2 years from announcement till release next year. This means that the original demo that was a full development slice of the planned game which at that point was not in full development. We have seen more demo’s since and running on the XboxOne which have come close enough to that reveal and demonstrate a very attractive game and impressive engine. But this latest demo is not the best showing of either IMOP as it is locked to the one Zone and has a very similar look and feel throughout. Cubemap’s are used in abundance with some SSR work also being deployed, as seen here on the building side. This will be where the GI bounce will be worked into the game but the demo with its static environments, lack of procedural destruction does not highlight the engine or game in the same light as these previous showings. At this point the panic bell can be left of the table as the game is around 6 months from its release and with this being a full online demo most likely similar to what the beta will ship. With that the case performance is key here so we can see how its next showing delivers on its visual suite and implementation. But based on the current demo it did not deliver the same visual appeal as before, much of this is due to its settings being a far more baron and desolate zone along with its lack of any controlled and set-up showpiece’s, this was a gameplay demo not a trailer. The Snowdrop engine is early in its existence and sits alongside Ubisoft’s other core game engine AnvilNext, but they always cross pollinate and integrate features into other games and engines so I would anticipate that we may yet see the engine used elsewhere if it succeeds at launch from its creators over at Massive Entertainment.As this game has been the cause for much outcry, downgrade controversy and such I feel it will and should deserve a full in-depth look at what and how but at this point we have a game that has gone through its development in bi-monthly public displays and a game like any development can and does change for various reasons and I feel that the biggest issue here is having a game develop from such an infant state has shown some of these changes all to close under scrutiny rather than let an Alpha state game hit. Judging the game’s final visual display and features at this point is not only unfair but would be an inaccurate stance to take as I felt this demo was far more geared to showing a solid performing game than a visually splendid one.
That said Ubisoft does need to bring something more impressive and akin to earlier showings soon as it does not have the best reputation for these issues and more positive than negative would do no harm. Be assured I will cover this game very closely when I have direct access to it and very In-depth ( The recent XboxOne closed Beta was a good sample for those that had a chance to enjoy it)..
As it stands the game plays well and is an enjoyable Team based shooter, but the demo shown here does not highlight the entire options and choice in the game, with drop in an out co-op, more open and free roaming environments with an online persistent world having the scope to really deliver a new and exciting game, sadly this demo showed a more standard arena based action game, albeit a very large and open arena it did not capture my interest as much as the reveal and earlier showings of the game. And this lack of consistency in both its game world, PR message and visual display could lead to a game that does not get a fair crack of the whip come launch day. But I will be on its case before and during that to make sure I do give it just that with a fair trial and detailed analysis.