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'The Division': No downgrading here, just gorgeous, smash-mouth gameplay

Tom Clancy’s The Division was one of the most intriguing, gorgeous games we saw last year at E3 2013. As we get into the holiday season of 2014, The Division is still one of the best looking games we've ever seen.

Ready for The Division?
Ready for The Division?
Permission given to use photo by Ubisoft
Ready for The Division?
Permission to use photo given by Ubisoft

Ubisoft’s Massive Entertainment has been very committed to keeping a tight-lid on the game’s most important information when it comes to The Division. Often times these days, we see just about every detail about a game shared prior to its launch, and in fairness to games that have gone that route, it’s not a bad thing at all to let consumers know what the game is about and how it’s played beforehand.

With that said, Massive Entertainment is looking at this approach from the perspective of keeping things new for players. They believe that going this route will help keep a lot of The Division’s secret and nuances unknown for players to explore, helping keep the sense of discovery at a very high degree.

One of the biggest points that Massive wants to remain quiet about is the game’s plot. They’ve already shared big points about the game’s setting and starting point, but from there players will need to uncover things for themselves.

In this year’s E3 2014 demo, we were given another glimpse into the world of Tom Clancy’s The Division. While most of the missions and gameplay we saw this year were largely the same, it all still left us wanting more. This year we were given a chance to check out a few areas of Manhattan.

There was the first area was that was shown during the Xbox briefing, but once that part of the demo was completed, Massive took us through another part of New York City that was not shown during the presser. This particular section was a darker part of the city and saw players take on some tougher foes.

These particular enemies are located in parts of the city where the contagion levels are higher. In order to enter these parts, players need to find appropriate gas masks to be able to survive. As we saw at the end of this mission, completing various quests will help players unlock new items that allow them to access more parts of the city.

After another battle, similar to the one you may have seen during the Xbox briefing, took place between players and their AI foes, they were able to turn on power to a nearby building that was on fire. Once the generator had been restored, it allowed the building’s sprinkler system to be triggered, putting out the fire and improving the stability in the area. The power of one fire.

Another aspect of The Division that we were shown was how a player's actions and successes will help improve and restore New York City. Specifically, the aforementioned mission helped bring some stability to that particular region of NYC. More missions that are completed within the area will help that continuous cause of “saving what remains.”

One of the subtle changes we noticed that was different from the E3 2014 demos versus last year’s is the UI. The skill tree that players will go through is more circular than what we saw last year at the show. The game’s map is largely the same as is the always-displayed UI showing player health and ammo.

The in-game map was shown during the Xbox briefing, but we bring it up since it’s an interesting example of the some of the side content that players will find while exploring New York City. Color us intrigued to find out more about the game’s side content and how it will be discovered.

Speaking of UI, during the demo we were given a glimpse into the menus of The Division. Players of the game look like they will be faced with a fair amount of menus. Expectedly, the players were able to navigate them easily and quickly, but it could be something players will need to become familiar with before using it effectively.

For all of those who may be concerned with the game’s visuals, the game still looks absolutely stunning. There hardly is any graphical difference between this year’s E3 demos and last year’s. The world of New York City remains one of the best looking games we’ve ever seen. The level of detail and realism is staggering. It’s never been so enjoyable to watch players walk past steam than it is now.

2015 is still the year when we’ll see Tom Clancy’s The Division launch and it seems like a ways away. This is undoubtedly something we can’t wait to go hands-on with in a big way, as well as see some of the game’s other missions and PvP.

Ubisoft is scheduled to bring us Tom Clancy’s The Division sometime during 2015 and it is slated to debut on the PS4, Xbox One and PC.