Whenever Ubisoft has publicly demoed Tom Clancy’s The Division over the past two years they’ve attempted to emphasize just how “tactical” the game’s gunplay is. Demonstraters onstage in front of hundreds of people, often being livestreamed as well to countless screens, were shameless in their banter: “I’m flanking! Need a heal! Anyone got a grenade? Sniper!”
All game developers hope for their players to be that engaged once a game’s actually out, but that type of onstage banter can often feel show-offy and fake. Probably the best thing I can say about The Division, then, is that during the three hours that I played it a couple of weeks ago, that’s really how my teammates and I talked to one another.
Maybe I was simply parroting what I’d seen of the game previously, but I think it’s more likely that the game really is more tactical than, say, Call of Duty: Black Ops 3, or most Destiny content. That proved especially true when we entered the Dark Zone, The Division’s high-level, high-stakes multiplayer area.
The Dark Zone is “the jewel in the crown of the experience,” Julian Gerighty, the game’s associate creative director, told me in between sessions with the game. It’s an area where, unlike in the rest of The Division’s accurate recreation of a snowy Midtown Manhattan, you can actually shoot the other players you see and steal some of their loot and experience. When you do, you and any teammates with you are marked as “rogue,” with a bounty placed on your heads and a timer ticking down the seconds until you can escape with the goods—provided you survive that long.
Gerighty revealed to me that this is all so crucial to The Division as an experience that the whole project was code-named “Rogue” early in its development. Their goal was to make it “an emotional experience that’s completely different from anything else out there,” he said.
Watch the video above to see my adventures in The Division inside and out of the Dark Zone, shooting my friends in the back whenever possible and ultimately getting completely destroyed with nowhere left to run.
Mike Rougeau is Playboy.com’s Gaming Editor, in charge of all things video games. He was made to enter the Dark Zone. Follow him on Twitter @RogueCheddar.