Tom Clancy’s: The Divsion Will Revolutionise Next-Gen Console And Mobile Interaction Via Smartphones & Tablets
There was plenty of interesting stuff coming out of E3 2013 earlier this year, with the usual crop of titles showcasing the sheer power of new-generation consoles and PC hardware, not least their capabilities for near photo-realistic visuals. However, something which really caught my attention was a handful of nods to more creative implementation of mobile devices as cross-platform additions to mainstream games.
One title in particular really seems to have grabbed the bull by the horns. Tom Clancy’s: The Division is being developed by big-name publisher Ubisoft’s in-house studio Massive Entertainment. It’s coming to next-gen consoles – the Sony PlayStation 4 and Microsoft’s Xbox One – but it also has a really inspired method of interaction for mobile users.
The game itself is what’s referred to as a massively multiplayer online game (an MMO or MMOG) in which larger numbers of players inhabit the same world space simultaneously via an internet connection.
Players can work together or go head-to-head against each other, but much of this interaction evolves organically as they are more-or-less left to explore the world as they wish. You may already be familiar with this kind of approach which has arguably been most successful in Blizzard’s World of Warcraft, although that was a role-playing-game (RPG) with a slightly different approach.
In terms of the setting, The Division is a near-future post-apocalyptic scenario, where a man made virus has ravaged New York. The players take on the roles of government agents as part of The Division, whose members have, up until the disaster, led apparently normal lives as civilians, but were then activated to combat the emergency. You can protect civilians, uncover the source of the virus and take on looters and other would-be opportunists looking to exploit the chaos.
The action then, is very much based around near-future soldiering, as the Tom Clancy gaming license has specialised in repeatedly with its most recent releases. The game looks and plays like your typical shooter with fast paced action from a third-person perspective. The fact that the gameplay is real-time shooting is a bit unusual for a persistent MMO, but essentially think Medal of Honor or Call of Duty meets World of Warcraft.
But what about that mobile component? Well the bulk of the action is handled via your console, whether it’s a PS4 or an Xbox One, so if you want to run around on foot with a rifle you’re going to need to be in your living room. However, if you find yourself away for a spell, say, at a relative’s house with only your tablet, or on the bus with your smartphone and a good data connection, you can drop into the game and help your buddies.
These drop-in sessions don’t allow you to slog it as a footsoldier, which is good because with on-screen touch controls you’d be at a distinct disadvantage to console controller-wielding opponents. Instead you fulfill a supportive role. The main example demonstrated so far is control of a drone, which can fulfill a number of different functions. Most immediately obvious is it’s got a ruddy great gun on it, meaning you’re not left out of all the shooty fun just because you’re on a mobile device. You can still rain down merry death on enemies who are pinning your mates down from your tactically superior position as a floating weapons platform.
Other more indirect abilities include the option to tag enemies or points of interest for your friends on the ground – which will then show up in their map and heads-up display. Some characters in the game will have abilities which can benefit their nearby comrades, such as restoring lost health or boosting fighting effectiveness and it appears similar capabilities will extend to the drones, so expect to be able to ‘buff’ your allies as a drone too.
Ubisoft’s official blurb on the game suggests that the mobile component will feature ‘exclusive characters’, implying that there will be more than one way to interact via tablets and smartphones. It could mean that there are different types of specialised drones, but equally there’s scope for a number of other completely different features too.