Tom Clancy’s The Division is as divisive as its title suggests. The original footage shown upon its announcement had many in a state of disbelief. How could a game look so visually arresting? Would the storyline be better than The Last of Us? Will Ubisoft finally be able to deliver upon their promises?
Then we were shown gameplay.
It was bland and generic and I’ll happily admit that the appeal started to wane. You see, no matter how good the tech is behind the game – and the dev vlogs detailing weathering effects upon the environment are brilliant – gameplay will always be king. I didn’t want *another* third person shooting game. I wanted a unique experience.
With the seeds of doubt sewed into my mind I knew the only way to settle my angst would be to play the game myself. So on the first day of EGX Rob and I trekked into the Mature Zone and joined what looked like a pretty average length queue.
It didn’t seem to be moving very quickly though, and soon enough a stand attendee told us that the queue was about two and a half hours from the point at which we had joined. Now when it comes to queues like this at conventions you have to weigh up the value of that time. Two and a half hours in a single queue could easily equate to ten other games, and while we were desperate to try out The Division it would have been foolish to spend a quarter of our day in a single queue.
Luckily I was back for more days, and on the Saturday I headed straight for the stand to be told that the queue was three hours long.
Sunday, I had to make it to the stand on the Sunday. After an eventful night I got to the venue early, argued with NEC staff who wouldn’t let me use the press entrance and then joined the mass of folk already in line. Pretending I had a friend a few rows forward I was able to navigate my way into the first third of the crowd, and with prior knowledge of the layout I cut every corner to get to the Division stand five minutes after the show opened. There was a two hour queue.
It seems that the queue never got ‘too’ long. Instead the demo was a solid fifteen-eighteen minutes in length and this is where things slowed down. Knowing that the demo would be meaty I decided to show resolve and I stood in the queue with no friend or support at all. In front of me were four laddish gamers who were flirting with zero success with two girls ahead of them. Behind me were two Canadians who hated queues. It was torturous as they helped each other out – fetching food, taking toilet breaks – but my seething patience paid off as the organisers needed someone on their own to fill an empty seat. My hand shot up, with sly confidence, and I was waved forwards. I must have skipped over an hour of queuing and I could feel the daggers of everyone I passed stabbing me in the back/arse/nipples. Didn’t bother me. I imagined I was a WWF wrestler, striding towards a cage match against Jake Roberts. I was in my element, and then I was told to sit down and put some headphones on. They were Astros, really good ones. A voice called across the headset connection, our ‘host/guide’ was talking us through basic controls and what to expect.
This is the point that the experience started to fall flat on its face.
Now I don’t know about you, dear reader, but I want a certain amount of decision to be involved when I demo a game. When I played Rise of the Tomb Raider – as linear as the experience was – I felt in control of *my* experience. With The Division this could not have been further from the truth. We were guided by the hand for the whole experience pretty much. This is a transcript of the experience early on:
“So guys, you’ll notice that if you hit (this) then (that) will happen. Now, go around the corner and you’ll meet some enemies. Oh and there’s a sniper up on that roof. Now there will be a loot chest there. Yep, press (that) button to open it…”
This was my whole experience pretty much.
The issue was, that the demo took place outside of any tutorial section, and as such the team had obviously decided that it would make for a frustrating experience if gamers could not work out what to do. I get this. I applaud their consideration, but they have smothered the experience.
The final rush to extract the gathered loot resulted in a cross over with other player controlled teams, with the game shifting to a PvP mode. It was solid, the combat was good and frenetic. It wasn’t fresh and new though. Nothing about the experience felt new in fact.
Visually it is a massive drop from the original footage shown and the gameplay was mediocre.
Despite this I am actually more excited for the full game.
Which is madness, I know.
Let me explain.
The demo, as I see it, had ZERO STORY within it. This is a deliberate choice and I feel one that will pay off when the game is experienced as a whole. I am more excited for the game now, because I haven’t really played it at all. I’ve seen a segment, sure, but it was little more than a collection of small moments that would probably have gone down well with more competitive gamers. I care about the story, I want to explore the world of The Division, and while the demo may have been a disappointment I am confident that the final product will deliver.
If you want to order Tom Clancy’s The Division (and you probably should, because it should still be pretty great) you can find it here via our affiliate link.