Tom Clancy’s The Division: New Direction/Same Direction

What’s The Point?

We’ve been here before, of course. Take away the smoothness of drop-in, drop-out play, and you’re left with an MMO that is also a military shooter that also involves an America Has Fallen scenario. As one Game Front reporter quipped after the demo, it’s essentially Shooter: The Game.

That’s fine. If you’re into that kind of game, then you’ll probably be into this too. The problem I had watching the demo is that The Division, impressive in many respects, looks like it’s swimming in the cliches of the current generation, and wading in a deep-seated misanthropy. “Save what remains”, the game’s tagline says, but what remains seems only to be citizens who exist only as cannon fodder, constitution be damned.

Ubisoft has taken pains to emphasize that this game will be about more than just shooting. Images (some of which are included in this article) show the whole “defending the weak” thing, and supposedly this game will be about rebuilding infrastructure as much as it is about shooting baddies. But with the exception of getting the police station up and running again, none of this was shown off in the demo. Instead, we saw indiscriminate slaughter of the sort we’ve grown used to in shooters.

Forget any moral qualms you might have about violence, the reliance on military style shooting is horrendously boring and very over-used. So much so that games with far better premises and much more artistry have ended up being hobbled by descent into just shooting people, for no other reason, so far as we can tell, because it’s expected. But rest assured, given the setting of The Division, the violence was also disturbing, if only because it actively trades on the paranoid idea that at any moment, everyone you know could become your enemy.

We live in a complex world, the trailer tells us, and that’s accurate. So, can’t we assume the people who live in this complex world are themselves complex, and capable of handling disasters with more nuance than “kill everyone you see and sort it out later?”

All of that said, The Division looks gorgeous. Cross-platform functionality between console and tablet is a cool idea. A Tactical shooter that really appears to force players to behave cooperatively, with different skillsets supporting one another, means it will probably be very fun to play. At minimum, it will be fun shooting people amidst the architecture of the country’s largest city.

But watching the demo, I felt this creeping sensation that The Division is going to be a missed opportunity. Not as a game – no doubt it does precisely what it’s supposed to do, and makes Ubisoft a ton of money. But for gamers as an audience for the art we call gaming. The way it essentially treads the same old ground worn inches deep by countless other games, the way it only superficially upends the shooter formula, while reinforcing its most troublesome aspects. Based on what we’ve seen so far, it’s everything that has made the end of the current generation so tedious.

I’m not saying that Ubisoft has a responsibility to make Humanism: The Game out of Tom Clancy’s brand. But one would hope that taking advantage of the next generation of processors would also allow for the employment of smarter premises than the one seen here. All of that money being put to the service of so much misanthropic retreading is disappointing.

Here’s hoping Ubsoft gives us a reason to think otherwise before next year. A Q&A about the game published this week suggests they might; we’ll see.

Read more of Ross Lincoln’s work here, and follow him and Game Front on Twitter: @rossalincoln and @gamefrontcom.

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8 Comments on Tom Clancy’s The Division: New Direction/Same Direction

RoriBeedm

On June 20, 2013 at 7:58 pm

Wow….Garbage article. Try stowing the personal bias before writing again. I was looking for new information, but after that first section I can’t take anything in this article seriously without checking it against other sources. Note to self, don’t read anything else from this writer.

R-man

On June 21, 2013 at 5:44 am

Yeah, I actually do agree with RoriBeedm. I normally enjoy your articles, but all I was looking for was new info on The Division. I actually enjoy Tom Clancy games, and I think The Division looks like a great new game, and an interesting way to push for the next gen consoles, regardless of whether it’s a Tom Clancy game or not. I’m pretty sure Ubisoft will be getting a lot of my money in the next couple years with Watch Dogs and this, not including whatever else I can afford.

R-man

On June 21, 2013 at 5:45 am

Although, I guess the title does sound like an opinion article, in hindsight…

Ricardo

On June 21, 2013 at 6:00 am

Unfortunately, Ross can’t seem to work out that there’s a place for letting your personal views tinge what you’re writing and a time when it really isn’t appropriate. Some of his features – and, for that matter, quite a lot of his news articles – seem far more interested in letting everyone know what he thinks than on actually imparting information to them. There’s only so many times I can get through his sensationalist tangents and repeated attacks on anyone to the right of extreme-liberalism before I start to wonder why this site is held in a higher regard than other mainstream games sites. The irony is that the article he’s built his reputation on – and the success of which has clearly gone to his head – was the Mass Effect 3 ending analysis which was good for the very reason that it WASN’T heavily or obviously biased. It was mostly objective and impartial, which is what led me and many others to keep coming back to this site believing that they were a balanced voice in a section of journalism that’s notoriously imbalanced. And yet almost everything I’ve read from Ross since then has thrown some snide remark in or been overly keen to preach his safe middle-class western guilt agenda onto everyone regardless of what relevance it has to the subject being discussed or whether the evidence and sources being used actually support his views. Some of the other writers are no less condescending when it comes to issues they think are politically and socially fashionable even if they’re completely exaggerated and bordering on untrue – e.g. Ian Miles Chong and his “women are discriminated against for being attractive” BS that ignores the fact that many women CHOOSE to use their looks to their advantage and should be completely respected in empowering themselves to do as such – but the difference is that the other writers mostly seem able to discriminate the difference between editorial writing, feature writing and news reporting. They don’t just blend them all together and expect to be taken seriously.

Sad to say after the excellent ME3 articles but I honestly think Lincoln is becoming a liability to GameFront and thinks he’s the star of the show. He isn’t – he’s bordering on being a laughing stock.

a-brooding-mage

On June 21, 2013 at 1:19 pm

I don’t see why there is so much hate for this article. Ross was hoping that The Division would actually take the military shooter genre in a new direction, but was disappointed that it wasn’t the case. All he is doing is sharing his disappointment after playing the demo. Maybe if one of you played the game you would actually enjoy it and write about what was so great about the demo. But, for Ross it was more of the same and that is what he wrote about.

How can someone write about playing a game without the subjective bias of how it “felt?”

Ross Lincoln

On June 21, 2013 at 1:30 pm

Hey guys, thanks for the feedback. To be clear, I actually have enjoyed Clancy brand games in the past. My issue here is that the whole shooter thing is really getting stale. The themes which may have made so much more sense a decade ago don’t seem to be getting any real update, just escalation. Moreover, the promise of something new via this game hasn’t, so far, been demonstrated. Because the demo was so scripted and so little of the final content was revealed, all I had to go on is what was shown, and it’s basically the same old same old. As I said at the end of this piece, Ubisoft has, post-E3, revealed a little bit more about the game that suggests there will be more to it; I linked to that, but for this article I went solely on what I saw on the floor at E3.

That said, I don’t want to be misunderstood. I want to stir up conversation, not troll you guys, so I’ve made a couple of small edits that will hopefully clarify things without sacrificing my point. Refresh and see for yourself.

Of course, you may feel free to lay into me as you see fit. In all sincerity, I do appreciate the feedback. Cheers.

Bond

On June 22, 2013 at 9:36 am

Wow. I totally agree with this article. So far it’s just a standard 3rd person shooter haha. There’s nothing special here other than empty promises. When they show something that actually demonstrates the things they’re promising, then I’ll care. Until then, I can live without another game where you just shoot meaningless targets in the shape of humans.

Juzo

On June 23, 2013 at 3:40 pm

I can’t wait for this game. It looks immersive. Looking forward to finding a decent article that tells me more about the game – not like the tripe in this article.

You obviously took no notice of the gameplay. It’s not just a shooter for a start and the tablet gameplay looks similar to a dronecam in COD because you’re controlling a drone – go figure…

The game looks ace.

This article was crap.

I hope they do well with this game, they deserve to.