An Exercise in Trusting No One
Suppose you been following the development of Tom Clancy’s The Division for the last two years and been wondering something along the lines of “where do the massively multiplayer aspects of this MMO-like shooter come into play?”
Well then, you’ve come to the right place, for the answer lies deep in the heart of the game’s snowy and pandemic-stricken version of New York City, a place my relatively recent trip to E3 gave me an opportunity to explore.
For the times when future players will get hungry for a break from story-based missions, a different sense of danger and, of course, sweet loot, Ubisoft subsidiary Massive Entertainment has created the Dark Zone, an area where players will be able to mingle with one another outside the confines of their narrative progress, provided they don’t kill each other first.
My demo started me and two other press folks, guided by an Ubisoft representative, off with a foreboding indicator of why its name is what it is, placing us before a huge and imposing quarantine barrier blocking off the most virus-y section of in-game NYC. The ominous vibe continued upon entering the Dark Zone (done via a load screen-less scaling of the barrier), as we were greeted by the sight of abandoned military blockades and frozen corpses. It was suitably grim.
But we braved on, driven by the promise of some of the best gear and weapons in The Division. And it wasn’t long before we found some of this loot, but not before a quick firefight with AI-controlled prison escapees that gave me a chance to get a feel for the cover-based combat. My small shooter experience aside, I found it easy to hold my own thanks to easy-to-grasp controls, a nifty special ability that highlights enemy positions for a brief time and smooth navigation options that made changing cover and scaling obstacles a snap. Early kudos for that, Ubisoft.
That takes care of detailing combat. Back to the loot…
…which, unfortunately, proved to be too contaminated to use, as all loot in the Dark Zone is when collected. In order to make it usable, we had to get it to where it could be carried out by helicopter. And so we headed to the extraction point, taking down some higher-tier, flamethrower-toting baddies as we got closer. It’s here that we finally came across other player-controlled characters, who were also there to get their own loot extracted, and that’s when things started getting tense.
Such is the interesting dynamic of the Zone. You’re never sure what other people’s intentions are, whether they’re friendly and willing to respect your space (or even help you out against enemies) or eyeing your loot and waiting for you to lower your guard. And it’s not just the other guys you have to worry about, as paranoia and loot-lust are just as likely to tempt you or one of your team members to break the uneasy silent truce.
There is an unnerving risk/reward tension at play here. Play it safe and friendly or risk going rogue –a temporary status that highlights one’s crookedness to everyone nearby– in the hope of quickly acquiring potentially epic gear? It’s a choice that looms over all who partake of The Division’s PvP, and things can get messy without warning.
That’s what happened for my teammates and I. Just a few seconds after starting the extraction countdown, that silent truce I mentioned fell to pieces amid a sudden frenzy of bullets and people scrambling for cover. Several intense minutes shot by as we tried to push them back, revive downed teammates crawling on all fours and just survive until the 90-second countdown finished. We ultimately failed, dying a demo-ending death, sad to say.
But just like with the other upcoming Tom Clancy title that I got killed in, dying left a lasting impression. The Dark Zone is a scary place, a place of frosty streets and frostier motives. It’s a place that captures the overall vibe of The Division well, where one is never far from being shot in the back for the sake of possibly landing a sweet score, or being tempted to become the one that shoots out of fear of that happening to you.
And judging from my time with it, it stands to be a solid addition to the game when it arrives early next year for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC. March 8, 2016, to be exact.
A writer, journalist, and aspiring storyteller, Peter Grimm has been gaming since the days of the Nintendo 64, and reporting on the goings-on in the World of Gaming since late 2011. His base of writing operations is located within the void between Here and There, or so he would have you think.
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