Pub­lisher/de­vel­oper Ubisoft (Mas­sive) For­mat PC, PS4, Xbox One Re­lease 2015

Mas­sive is in a con­fi­dent mood. When we bump into MD David Polfeldt at Ubisoft’s E3 booth and say we’re off to in­ter­view The Di­vi­sion game di­rec­tor Ryan

Barnard, he smiles. “Ask him about graph­i­cal down­grades,” he says, ref­er­enc­ing the furore over the dif­fer­ence be­tween the

Watch Dogs an­nounced two years ago and the one that shipped. So, will The Di­vi­sion end up match­ing the stan­dard set by its an­nounce­ment footage? “Set­ting a graph­i­cal bar for this gen­er­a­tion has been one of the pil­lars of the game,” Barnard says. “The new demo is that bar. It will ac­tu­ally get a lit­tle bet­ter than that. We’re not cre­at­ing fairy­tales: of course there’s go­ing to be spec­u­la­tion, but all we can do is take care of our own busi­ness. What you saw on stage is ab­so­lutely what we will hit graph­i­cally on all plat­forms we have for the game.”

The be­hind-closed-doors demo seems de­signed to make that point. First, we have a sec­ond view­ing of the Mi­crosoft stage demo; then one of the dev team sits next to us on a sofa and re­turns to the same area at night. The two are in­dis­tin­guish­able. Res­o­lu­tion doesn’t mat­ter when there is so much else go­ing on – global il­lu­mi­na­tion, lit smoke, a Per­spex in­for­ma­tion booth shat­ter­ing un­der en­emy gun­fire. We see new fac­tions – the Clean­ers, with their haz­mat suits and flamethrow­ers, de­stroy­ing po­ten­tially valu­able sup­plies in a con­ta­gion-zone con­ve­nience store – and game­play sys­tems, too. An echo formed from CCTV footage and smart­phone data pro­vides in­tel with an AR glimpse of the past. We see a skill tree that es­chews a tra­di­tional class sys­tem and al­lows for abil­i­ties to be switched on the fly. Gear can be tweaked too: with a few but­ton presses, a seeker mine is turned into a flash­bang, and a re­con drone mod­ded to strobe and stun an en­emy. We’re shown the com­pan­ion app, in which the tablet player con­trols a sup­port drone. The team is de­bat­ing whether or not en­e­mies should be able to shoot it down, an­other de­sign chal­lenge in a game full of the things.

But it’s the look of it that sticks in the mind. “I’m an eye­candy guy, a graph­ics whore, so it’s im­por­tant,” Barnard says. “Of course we want the game to be beau­ti­ful, but it’s about im­mer­sion. The less dis­tracted I am by how some­thing looks, be­cause it looks real, the more im­mersed I am in the game. Games are about trans­port­ing you into a sit­u­a­tion, and ev­ery el­e­ment that pulls you out of it de­tracts from it.” There’s lit­tle of that in The

Di­vi­sion. Mas­sive has the am­bi­tion and the tech to pull it off. On this ev­i­dence, the stu­dio has ev­ery right to be bullish.

Watch­Dogs has shaken play­ers’ faith in Ubisoft’s trail­ers, but The Di­vi­sion’s new Snow­drop en­gine might sur­prise ev­ery­one

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