Tom Clancy's The Division, Ubisoft's answer to Destiny, hasn't had an easy development. Surprising, considering when it was first shown off in 2013 it looked impressively polished, if not darn near finished. Now, just two months away from launch, watching the latest gameplay footage brings on a slightly sinking feeling that what was promised three years ago isn't quite being delivered. Either something went very wrong in the interim, or that initial demo involved a lot more smoke and mirrors than advertised.
Granted, it's reasonable to expect a game to change throughout the development process, but compare The Division's announcement trailer with current gameplay and you'll find discrepancies that are by no means insignificant.
The fine folks at Eurogamer dissected some footage captured during a recent pre-release event, discovering that Ubisoft may have – and not for the first time – been guilty of a misleading reveal back at E3 2013. You be the judge...
Remember, this initial reveal purported to be recorded in real-time and in-engine. I remember being flabbergasted by the graphical fidelity of this sequence: the snow sweeping through the air, the dense environmental design, the life-like reflections in the puddles. Flash forward three years – plenty of time to improve on the foundation they'd built – and you have this:
The real-time reflections are still there, but they're much muddier. By no means is the game a graphical slouch. The street scene still looks impressive, but it's not the too-good-to-be-true scene promised above. Moving on to features...
This novel, in-world implementation of the map was one of the most striking aspects of the original demo, and while the feature still remains the map itself looks far less cool. The colors are washed out, the detail dramatically diminished. It's far from the end of the world, just a shame that the developers couldn't quite deliver on that awesome first pitch.
The demo also shows a player scanning their surroundings, picking up information from contextual locations like this map. This feature has seemingly been cut, not visibly present in the current build. The game isn't out, it could still be in the final version, but that doesn't seem too likely.
Second Screen Functionality
In this part of the original demo Ubisoft showed off the game's second screen functionality, having a player join the session seamlessly on their tablet to take control of a remote drone. All talk around this feature has since ceased, meaning it's probable that the developers opted to scrap it. Not exactly surprising, since 2013 was the year everyone decided to stuff second screen capability into their titles for no good reason, before we all realized the gimmick kinda sucked. Maybe this change was for the best.
It may seem harsh, criticizing differences that some will find to be inconsequential, but these nifty touches – the inventiveness of the interface and the game's all-round slick presentation – are what set The Division apart from other rote military shooters. It seems unfair for the game to benefit from the marketing's initial excitement, only for it to curtail or flat out remove its best aspects come release day. We all remember Watch Dogs too well:
When a pre-release version of a game looks significantly better than the finished playable product, us gamers are left feeling cheated and more than a little misled. Trailers need to stop writing checks that the game simply can't cash.
Check out Eurogamer's full comparison video below: